Given the succession of unforeseen events in recent years, from the blockage of the Suez Canal by the Ever Given ship to the supply crisis during the pandemic, Lisa Anderson, president of supply chain consultancy LMA Consulting Group, believes that companies must be more proactive and take the initiative instead of simply reacting when something happens and it’s too late. “That means establishing alliances and regional supply sources, better planning inventories and being at the forefront of technological advances.”

Lisa Anderson was quoted in EL PAÍS.


This is how companies deal with the Red Sea crisis: planes, storage, and closest suppliers

The impact on inflation still seems limited, and major stock outages are not expected, but experts and those affected agree that the key will be the duration of the conflict.

The rain of drones loaded with explosives and Houthi missiles on merchant ships in the Red Sea has turned the once boring and reliable maritime industry into a focus of uncertainty and negative surprises , with unexpected delays due to route changes, cost overruns due to the increase in the cost of freight, and sky-high insurance against the possibility that the cargo never reaches its destination. It is exactly the opposite of what companies intend in this way, which place their orders months in advance so that they can be delivered on time by heavy container ships, slower but cheaper and with more cargo capacity than airplanes.

As the crisis becomes more chronic, the list of those affected continues to grow. The sources consulted point out that despite the magnitude of the detour of the ships, forced to avoid the Suez Canal and make a detour around the Cape of Good Hope that implies at least nine more days of travel, the impact is not yet dramatic or for global economic growth or inflation. “The first estimates suggest for now that the impact of the Red Sea crisis on inflation will be moderate, with an additional rise of a few tenths this year and an impact mainly focused on imported goods,” explains Ángel Talavera, chief economist for Europe at Oxford Economics. The Bank of Spain also lowers the volume of the shock: it believes that fragile global demand and the absence of congestion in the logistics industry will prevent the traffic jams of yesteryear.

The key word, however, is that still : if the US and EU military missions do not achieve their objective of returning security to the area, the consequences could be very costly. At the moment, they already involve uncomfortable surcharges and hasty adaptations. This is the case of automobile companies, with a supply chain based on the just-in-time model , and less accustomed to storage. “Some automotive suppliers installed in Spain are being affected by delays in the components or raw materials necessary to manufacture them, as well as an increase in costs by having to resort to air transport instead,” the employers say Sernauto.

The crisis cabinets have not stopped meeting to minimize the blow. “Being a tremendously flexible and resilient industry, they are already adopting measures such as increasing stocks , readjusting transit times, advancing orders to suppliers and contingency plans,” adds Sernauto. Companies such as Tesla, Volvo and Michelin have already announced temporary stoppages in some of their production plants in Europe due to not having the materials they need on time. This will translate into thousands of fewer cars manufactured, between 5,000 and 7,000 in the case of Tesla and the pause of one of its factories in Germany.

“Non-urgent orders are being postponed, the key variable is the duration,” say sources from the business association CEOE. Talavera agrees. “The precedent of 2021-22 tells us that there are risks of an exponentially higher impact if the crisis is sustained over time and the blockade begins to create disruptions in supply chains. “Europe imports liquefied gas from Qatar, which crosses through the Suez Canal, and a significant part of oil traffic could also be affected.”

More expensive freight and insurance

The large consumer association Aecoc warns that the impact is already significant in sectors such as food, textiles and fashion, hardware and DIY or technological consumer goods, with freight rates that in some cases have become “300%” more expensive. which adds to the higher premiums requested by insurers, who sometimes even refuse to cover the risk of shipments.

Even so, the employers assure that for now there will be no shortage of stocks , that is, that shortages will be avoided. “In recent weeks, companies have focused their efforts on anticipating purchases of raw materials, looking for new suppliers in closer geographic areas and managing their supply through new routes and other means of transportation as an alternative to maritime transportation,” they point out.

From the Spanish Federation of Food and Beverage Industries (FIAB), they detect that warnings are growing for companies that import to increase their safety stock due to expected delays, and they perceive that the merchandise in warehouse is expanding due to the greater transit times. As more time is spent at sea and less available, the difficulties in obtaining space also increase, despite the fact that the number of new boats sailing has grown in recent months. “The direct impact is on the routes with Asia and the Middle East, but there is also an indirect impact on the route between Europe and America due to the shortage of containers and ships,” FIAB sources say.

The perfect storm is completed by the celebration of the Chinese New Year in February, a period that historically involves a slowdown in production, limited transportation operations and supply chain disruptions. And with the problems in another key artery, the Panama Canal, which has limited the passage of ships due to a severe drought. “Container ships are also diverting to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and transporting those shipments across the US to the East Coast. Air freight is increasing for urgent shipments and manufacturers are experiencing delays,” explains Lisa Anderson, president of supply chain consultancy LMA Consulting Group.

Given the succession of unforeseen events in recent years, from the blockage of the Suez Canal by the Ever Given ship to the supply crisis during the pandemic, Anderson believes that companies must be more proactive and take the initiative instead of simply reacting when something happens and it’s too late. “That means establishing alliances and regional supply sources, better planning inventories and being at the forefront of technological advances.”

Minor impact to the pandemic

The investment manager Federated Hermes expects that the economic impact of the interruptions will be accentuated in the first two months of the year because cheaper trips contracted before the attacks in Israel are replaced by current ones at higher rates. In context, the cost overruns are even lower than those of the supply crisis closest in time. “The recent increases in container shipping rates are significant, but do not come close to the sharp increases in 2020 and 2021 during the covid-19 pandemic.”

Then, as now, shipping companies were the big beneficiaries , multiplying their income and reaping increases in profits accompanied by strong increases in the stock market. On the losing side of the Red Sea crisis, the insurer Crédito y Caución places European manufacturers in first place. “They import a wide range of intermediate goods from Asia-Pacific, such as electrical equipment, high-tech goods, rubber and plastics, chemicals and machinery. If the crisis continues, waiting times, prices and congestion at ports are likely to increase. This may accelerate the return to a greater willingness to maintain higher inventory levels out of an abundance of caution,” they note.

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