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Global logistics leaders are working with government to keep freight moving in air, sea and on the roads amid widespread Covid-19 disruption.

In the UK, the Chief Executive of the British Ports Association, Richard Ballantyne, said he hopes UK ports will only be closed in “extreme circumstances” and said ports are working with government to ensure ports remain open to facilitate imports of food, supplies and resources.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has issued new guidelines to member states to ensure freight movements continue - particularly for crucial goods such as food supplies, medical supplies and protective equipment.

It has asked that “member states should designate priority lines for freight transport (for example, via ‘green lanes’)”.

Makeshift freighters

Many airlines are resorting to using passenger aircraft as makeshift freighters, including Cathay Pacific, Scoot, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Qantas and Delta Cargo, according to Loadstar.

The European Union has relaxed slot rules to stop ‘ghost flights’ – those being run with nothing on board except flight crews for the purpose of retaining slots.

Road freight decline

The moves come as the global road freight industry has seen a 20% decline in activity and is facing accumulated losses of $1tn, according to the International Road Transport Union.

The 0.7% growth of global container volumes from 2019 has already been erased this year due to the virus, with estimated losses of $350m per week, according to Baker McKenzie.

Global snapshot:

  • Reports of an 80km tailback of goods traffic in the Brenner Pass between Italy and Austria (Source: Press Herald)
  • Reports of a 20-mile line of trucks on the border between Poland and Lithuania (Source: Press Herald)
  • Rotterdam, the EU’s largest port, has seen traffic from China fall by 20 per cent year on year (Source: The Financial Times)
  • Dublin port has reported not receiving the majority of goods imports from China – it usually receives 1,000 a week (Source: UK Ports)
  • Several EU countries have closed their land borders including the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Spain (Sources: BBC and EU Observer)
  • 80% of US importers have reported lower inventories as China-US West Coast freight prices drop 10 per cent (Source: Freightos)
  • Los Angeles’ ports have seen 50 “blank sailings” – ships that arrive at port having not completed their journeys (source: The Financial Times)

‘Coordination on a European level’

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said:

“Our measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak will be effective only if we coordinate on the European level. We have to take exceptional measures to protect the health of our citizens.

“But let’s make sure goods and essential services continue to flow in our internal market. This is the only way to prevent shortages of medical equipment or food. It’s not only an economic issue, our single market is a key instrument of European solidarity.”