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Supply Chain On Brink Of Overload Says National Road Carriers

The New Zealand supply chain is on the brink of overload and it looks like the upcoming peak imports season may push it over the edge says National Road Carriers Association (NRC) CEO David Aitken.

“Worldwide supply chains are in disarray,” says Mr Aitken. “The current pandemic affects everything, and the transport and logistics sector is in the thick of it. Bigger and better resourced countries have higher levels of critical infrastructure to cope with this, but it does not take much to bring New Zealand Inc. to its knees. Shipping companies and ports across the country are already struggling to keep up with consumer demand and the worst is yet to come.”

Mr Aitken says the problems have been brought about by a combination of factors including booming exports from North Asia and not enough vessels, industrial action across the Tasman causing shipping delays of up to eight weeks, COVID-19 and Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga facing some major challenges of their own. With berth schedules currently suspended at Ports of Auckland, not to mention the introduction of automation and staff shortages, and more vessels docking at Ports of Tauranga, receival and delivery times are constantly changing at both ports with little or no notice.

Mr Aitken also says airfreight schedules are not what they once were. “There are few passenger planes arriving with freight in their holds. The airfreight that does arrive is much more expensive. That urgent part you needed from the warehouse in Singapore is not available now. It will be shipped by sea and arrive in six weeks. If you need it in a hurry for Christmas, then you should have ordered it in October.

“Consumers and producers cannot count on getting what they want when they were used to having it. Not planning ahead will have consequences because the stock not ordered early will not be available on time.”

He says the transport sector is bearing the brunt of these issues and is facing big challenges. Road transport is the one thing that binds the whole machine together but operators are struggling with lost capacity, poor productivity and combined truck and administration costs.

“If it were not for the trucking industry, the Ports would close within days. By association, so would rail, and container depots because with no throughput the shipping lines would soon bypass New Zealand altogether. Importers and exporters would suffer terribly and so would the economy.

“The road transport industry is carrying and supporting the whole supply chain and working alongside sea, air and rail freight to keep the country moving. If you’ve got it, a truck delivered it.”

Mr Aitken says the supply chain industry – the Ports, the empty container yards and the freight industry – need to work together to understand each other’s issues and communicate better.

“There needs to be clarity around roles and responsibilities and we need to stop blaming each other, which brings about the increased costs to the carrier when it’s no one sector’s fault. Communication needs to improve and, when there is an issue, we need to identify it quickly and talk to the people who know how to fix it. Better alert systems need to be put in place.

“Unfortunately instead of working in with the road transport industry, the Ports and empty container yards are adding costs and constraints like reducing the free time for containers in their yards, adding penalties for non-delivery and increasing vehicle booking system (VBS) costs all when we need to reduce the pressure on the supply-chain. These network providers need to talk to the carriers who keep them afloat and engage some very simple but very effective measures.

“Currently all the costs fall on the carriers and that will filter down to the consumer because the carrier cannot wear those mounting costs any longer. This will make New Zealand less competitive on a global scale and, with failing imports on the horizon, a lack of co-operation between supply chain sector parties will be to blame when the system overloads and stops completely.”

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