Logistics crisis…what logistics crisis?

Earlier this month, Helen Kelly, Europe editor at Lloyd’s List chaired a panel of supply chain experts from across the UK at an event sponsored by Peel Ports in Liverpool to discuss how the shipping industry could come together to solve the logistics crisis. Here Helen explains exactly what this crisis is, and how the industry can go about fixing it.

Almost 100 guests from shipping lines, cargo owners and freight forwarders attended our panel event in the quintessential shipping city of Liverpool and in one of the city’s most iconic landmarks – the Royal Liver Building - to hear whether or not the shipping industry alone could save the UK logistics crisis.

Many might wonder which crisis we’re referring to. After all, export and import goods are still flowing through British ports with no restriction. Indeed, the May government has even given its backing to an export-led economy, and started to put in place a modern industrial strategy, thus changing years of government policy. So what’s the problem?

At the beginning of October, Barclays Bank and Moore Stephens published the 10th edition of its UK Logistics Confidence Index. It identified that by far the biggest concern for UK logistics companies is customer price pressures. Some 42% said they expect to continue to be squeezed on pricing and that there was simply too much capacity chasing too little freight.

The second the biggest concern was a Lack of skilled drivers and staff – with 26% of respondents flagging that as a problem. Shortage of warehouse capacity is another issue. The supply of warehousing in the UK has fallen by 72% since 2009, which is a simply incredible statistic.

And then there is the giant elephant in the room: you know what I’m going to say, Brexit. I travel around the world, and I speak with people from all over the global supply chain, and they are all wondering what will be the impact of Brexit on the economy? 

Many here in the UK fear the introduction of delays and additional costs from routine customs checks at ports as part of any transitional customs arrangement. With updates to port technology needed, alongside infrastructure upgrades to road and rail, there are clear challenges ahead.

Engaging the entire supply chain in debates like this is key to finding a solution to this problem. While we won’t crack it in one fell swoop, exploring the ways which the shipping industry can help fix this crisis is as good a place as any to start.

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