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The Need for Increased Visibility Across Global Shippers: A Study on the Suez Canal

We all heard about it. It was breaking news in every country around the world; The Great Blockage in the Suez Canal. In March of this year, the Ever Given, a 20,000 TEU container ship, blocked one of the most important global supply chain routes in the world — the Suez Canal. One of the main arteries to the global supply chain thread, it not only is the connecting point and distribution of all goods from Asia and the Middle East to Europe, but it also serves as a significant route for key industries: energy, commodities, consumer goods, and componentry. It is also a prime location for regional hubs supplying shipping oils and hydrocarbons.   

With real-time visibility and risk management solutions, how could organizations have mitigated extensive risk across their global cargo distribution? Let’s explore.  

Having the ability to track shipments across multiple modes and countries for real-time visibility and predictive ETA’s for end-to-end freight tracking and management is crucial to an organizations’ success today and in the future. A comprehensive platform can help provide insights into the integrity, security, and visibility of their products.  

Visibility: 

At a time when the global supply chain is already at its most vulnerable with the impact of COVID-19, clogged ports within the United States, Winter and Spring weather events, and not to mention the shortage of labor across various parts of the supply chain – the Suez Canal blockage, unfortunately, happened during the ‘perfect storm’. It took days for organizations to understand and estimate the impact the blockage would have on their cargo distribution – nonetheless, figure out what to do next without the right level of visibility. For some, it took weeks. Not having full transparency to your supply chain can create more issues than initially thought of. Take, for example, the impact to the end consumer, bottom line profits, brand reputation, investor relations, stock prices, and much more.  

The Ever Given held up cargo worth close to $10 billion across the nearly 370 ships waiting in queue to pass through the canal. Cargo included cars, oil, livestock, laptops, sneakers, electronics, toilet paper, and more. Companies delivering goods may have to pay customers for missed deadlines and if there were any agricultural goods that went bad, producers may look to recoup lost revenue. 

With real-time visibility and a risk management platform, organizations could work quicker and faster to help resolve the issues on their end in hopes to avoid major disruption and loss of revenue across their organization. They could stay ahead of the curve with real-time alerts and notifications enabling the team to have clear and transparent communication to their distributors and end consumers, setting expectations with internal team members, and finding alternative routes of distribution — together, the time to the solution could have been a lot sooner with a lot smaller of a financial impact.  

Integrity: 

Integrity. It’s the thing of the 2000s in more ways than one. In the supply chain, integrity is crucial to the global thread every minute of every day. From data integrity all the way down to product integrity — having a single unified view of all your shipments and ensuring the time and temperature integrity of your product is not only crucial to your organization, but it can create a stronger, more viable supply chain.  

With unreliable, error-ridden data, organizations can spend an astronomical amount of time scratching for information and redoing data analyses. This is an expensive task within itself and a drain on overall team productivity. Disparate data can also lead to vulnerability with the supply chain, leading to bad decisions that can create delays and lose customers. 

Perishable goods and medications are crucial human necessities that rely on quality control measures. Product integrity and compliance are driven by every governmental agency around the world and impact nearly every industry. The FDA mentions that “prolonged exposure of food to the temperature danger zone will accelerate the rate of bacterial growth and quicken the food spoilage process.” The food and beverage industry has a finite number of days to turn around their distribution of goods, which is why it’s important to ensure stringent time-temperature control along the supply chain to preserve the quality of the food and ensure food safety — not putting consumers in danger.  

Healthcare, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology have the same regulations. For example, COVID-19 distributions were at the forefront of product integrity and supply chain this past year. Having similar time and temperature sensitivities, manufacturers needed to figure out how to quickly distribute the vaccine without compromising the integrity of the product – keeping it viable for days at a certain temperature prior to dose usage.  

With goods being trapped on the Ever Given for months, the integrity of products within each container was completely compromised and millions, if not billions, of dollars, were gone within a day of being trapped. Real-time alerts and notifications can enable supply chain teams to find alternative solutions to ensure the cargo is protected and intact – saving dollars and lives.  

Security: 

As the pandemic has continued to rage since March 2020, the increase in cargo theft across the globe has become center stage. The Suez Canal left many organizations vulnerable and fully exposed. Insurance companies around the world stated cargo theft to be the number one loss of goods, second to time and temperature products. With not only the Ever Given being delayed for an unknown amount of time, so were the 370+ ships behind it – along with all of its cargo – waiting for the blockage to be removed.  

Criminals around the world were receiving intel, live, as news fronts reported on the issue showcasing the exact location of 30% of the world’s global supply chain across many industries. With the massive delay, the cargo was left vulnerable at ports and freight depots as it moved to overspill holdings or storage areas. Simply put, wherever cargo isn’t moving, it leaves a greater risk for it to be stolen.  

With the right intel and insights into criminal activity around the world, especially in high-stress locations, organizations can ensure their cargo safety by putting people and processes in place for its protection.  

The Suez Canal blockage has impacted each of our lives on a granular level, but most importantly, it has put supply chain processes at the forefront of our everyday lives. The event has exposed organizations in many ways and has forced them to create tighter, more resilient supply chains – creating a need for real-time visibility and risk management platforms.  

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