As sea containers started to pile up in their markets and with exports to China impacted, shipping lines cut sailings from schedules, which saw sea freight prices spike by up to 50%.
Uncertainty in sea freight and air freight availability saw pharma companies initially ship everything they could, by any mode of transport available, to get it out to the markets.
Following months of disruption passenger airlines eventually started flying passenger air craft with cargo in the lower decks and loose load cargo on the upper decks.
We are now back in the situation where that back haul from the US and Europe, following seasonal shipments for Christmas retail demands, China now has availability issues again with reduced sailings, so there will not be any kind of normal flows until March 2021, at the very earliest. However as the UK is currently back in another national lockdown, with all non-essential retail effectively closed and production effected and if this trend spreads further into Europe and possibly the US, then that will further affect the back haul. So whereas I was hoping things might be back to some kind of normality in March, I am now inclined to add another quarter to that. So, I now think there will be exacerbated sea freight and sea container availability issues throughout the first half of 2021.
Given the sea freight situation we will continue to see the utilisation of air freight to transport pandemic payloads. When it comes to economics, without the passengers on the main deck it is a much more expensive operational option, however pharma customers are prepared to pay those premiums to move their product.
The volumetric efficiency on air craft is critical at the moment because it is such a scarce resource we need to ensure the best use is made of it. With air freight capacity a dwindling resource, it is even more important to have the very efficient packing density of temperature controlled product on such limited air freight resource.
Vaccines vs. Virus – Rapid Response
As the development of successful COVID-19 vaccines continues at a rapid rate, the world’s first approved vaccines are already being administered as part of ongoing mass vaccination programmes worldwide.