How has the global pandemic affected international shipping

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The sudden onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic resulted in a worldwide crisis. Few anticipated the social and economic devastation it caused. As countries enforced nationwide lockdowns, many industries came to a standstill.

The supply chain and logistics industry took a heavy hit due to the pandemic. However, it had to continue transporting food, medical supplies, and other resources across the world to meet essential needs. In this article, we discuss the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the transport and logistics industry, and the measures that were taken to effectively navigate these uncharted waters.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the transport sector

After the outbreak of the pandemic disease in China, strict restrictions and lockdowns were imposed worldwide. This led to supply chain disruptions, port delays, and container shortages. Moreover, consumer demands changed drastically. International trade, shipping, and supply chains were affected in various ways.

1. Supply chain disruptions

As countries began to close their borders and impose strict lockdowns, the distribution of raw materials was severely impeded. Moreover, social distancing measures resulted in smaller workforces. With fewer raw materials and a decreased workforce, the volume of manufactured goods plummeted.

Furthermore, as nations closed their borders, international shipping services faced disruptions — containers were stuck at borders, unable to continue the journey to their destinations. When borders began to open again, the backlog caused serious problems. Increases in demand compounded these issues, the result being massive delays at ports, container shortages, and skyrocketing freight charges.

2. Changes in demand

During its initial wave, the pandemic resulted in increased demand for groceries as people resorted to panic buying and stock-piling. On the other hand, demand for air transportation and tourism decreased drastically. Demand for medical supplies and equipment, hand sanitisers, personal hygiene products, and personal protective equipment (PPEs) also rose. Shipping carriers had to keep up with these changing trends, which meant adapting and creating contingency plans.

3. Demand and supply imbalances

As the aftershocks of these imbalances continued, global exports plummeted. According to a UN International Trade Report, international trade fell by more than 20% year on year in the second quarter of 2020. These effects were felt by India as well, as the country experienced a massive GDP loss in the third quarter of 2020, as found by Statista.

To tackle these unprecedented challenges, countries around the world implemented a range of strategies. Shipping and logistics carriers also had to transform their operations.

Measures taken to navigate the situation

To mitigate the pandemic’s effects on transportation, shipping companies and carriers took several measures. As the world slowly recovers, these measures helped to strengthen the future of logistics and be prepared for potential crises.

1. Keeping up with the rise of e-commerce

The global pandemic caused an unprecedented growth in e-commerce. As more consumers shifted to online retail shopping amid lockdowns and social distancing restrictions, e-commerce sales grew 50%, amounting to US$870 billion during the pandemic. 

As a result, shipping companies had to shift their operations online to provide customers with a transparent and seamless experience. Through track and trace services, interactive shipping tools, and one-stop solutions, DHL Express pioneered the evolution of the logistics industry, providing transparency and ease of use amidst the impact of COVID-19 on global shipping.

2. Supply chain diversification

To deal with the shipping delays and disruptions caused by the pandemic, carriers had to diversify their operations. Businesses also had to diversify their supply chains to respond to disruptions that may arise in the future. This includes contingency plans for the supply of raw materials and stocking goods in warehouses. It also entails partnering with independent logistics carriers with highly responsive and adaptive operations.

3. Sustainable operations

A crucial consequence of the pandemic was that it increased consumers’ awareness of their carbon footprint. As restrictions were imposed, people saw a considerable improvement in air quality due to a decrease in CO2 emissions. This led consumers to become more aware of their day-to-day decisions and their implications. The majority of consumers now prefer products and brands that make a conscious effort to reduce their carbon footprint.

Naturally, businesses and logistics companies had to adapt to this trend and adopt sustainable practices to remain competitive. Businesses adopted eco-friendly practices and began to partner with carriers like DHL Express, which strives to significantly reduce its carbon emissions. Services like Green Logistics – which use biodegradable aviation and marine fuels – and the introduction of e-vehicles for last-mile deliveries attest to DHL Express’ goal of zero emissions by 2050.

DHL Express’ role in shipping internationally

DHL Express is a trusted shipping carrier that diversified its operations to meet the unprecedented demands wrought by COVID-19 on transportation. Though the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on shipping cannot be understated, DHL Express has helped businesses regain access to the global market through its customised solutions and streamlined services. Register for an account today and start shipping overseas.