Recent weeks has seen much comment, particularly in the media, about the challenges faced by supply chains and logistics operations in the United Kingdom but also potentially much further afield. But what is the real picture and what does the future hold. Responding to some of the immediate issues and taking a slightly longer term view, Mersey Maritime Chief Executive, Chris Shirling-Rooke, writes:
Our ports and the wider supply chain have been extremely busy over the last 12 months. Massive change as a result of the United Kingdom withdrawal from the European Union and the impact of the unprecedented challenge in recent times that the Covid-19 pandemic has represented, are bound to have had an impact. But not all of this has been negative. We know that consumer spending remains high and as we enter a period of significant economic recovery, with the likelihood that it will be very robust and strong, people are investing in their homes and businesses which has resulted in unique impact on the construction market as an example. Colleagues across the sector have responded with their customary dedication, hard work and delivery of the extra capacity we need to ensure the country remains fed, fuelled and supplied.
This isn’t to say that the picture is entirely satisfactory at present and we know there is concern, particularly when it comes to supply chains across the UK landside or in other words that around HGVs. We are in close contact with our longstanding members and colleagues with direct experience of the logistics sector which is so closely and inextricably linked to the maritime industry. There are some keen pinch points, some of which have been strongly highlighted in the media this week, perhaps too strongly highlighted. But what is absolutely clear is that we aren’t facing an Armageddon like logistics and supply chain breakdown; far from it. Colleagues right across every aspect of the industry will do what they always do to keep the country supplied, fuelled and fed – working around the clock is nothing new for our sector and its partners.
In the run up to COP26 the theme of modal shift in logistics and the maritime industry more generally is going to be high on the agenda. We know that doing things as they have always been done isn’t an option. But neither does the industry have its head buried in the sand on such matters. We will need to see a much greater emphasis on road to rail for the transport of goods around the country and for an organisation like Mersey Maritime and its members, that also means the imperative of addressing longstanding challenges like east-west connectivity come into sharp focus. There’s more to be done on that subject alone. We look forward to working with our many partners to explore these issues, including how we maximise the opportunity of short and coastal shipping in the movement of freight. Let’s be ambitious as we embrace these long term challenges as well as weathering the short term difficulties we might face in the coming months.