For what seemed like an eternity for those of us in the supply chain world, the MV Ever Given, en route to the Netherlands, was grounded in the Suez Canal for 6 days back in March of this year. This situation exacerbated an already volatile global shipping environment right in the midst of a global pandemic, capacity crunches, and stretched too thin resources. The Ever Given created a backlog of hundreds of containers, in one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. But while the grounded ship crippled supply chains, leaving many long-lasting effects (some of which, we are still feeling), it also presented a learning opportunity, especially with the heightened importance of on-time delivery and meeting the increased customer service demands of today’s world.
A single chokepoint, or failure, can have a catastrophic effect, leaving many shippers scrambling as their supply chains are left vulnerable, just as we witnessed back in March. This heightened the need for access to visibility tools and alerts so that shippers could proactively (and reactively) seek alternative shipping methods by gaining a real-time view of their current cargo and minimizing the risk of late delivery to their end customers. While there were no environmental occurrences or injuries to any of the crew members or cargo on board, the Ever Given crisis was a clear reminder to shippers that goods can be involved in an incident at any point during a supply chain journey, thereby stressing the importance of proper classification and placement of cargo, especially for DG shipments. Shippers should take extra precautions to ensure the partners and carriers they select are adhering to all regulations in place, whether the cargo is DG or not. It would have been an entirely different conversation altogether had chemicals leaked, or reacted to the grounding, etc.
When supply chain “incidents” occur, and they surely will, make sure your team has the right people in the right place to properly address and handle the situation. Ensure proper training, safety planning, and continuity plans are in place so that during a crisis, the team can make an informed decision that mitigates risk and addresses the concerns of customers. Building a resilient supply chain requires an understanding of supply chain vulnerabilities, consequences, mitigation, and recovery strategies. Collaboration and communication are key, especially in times of crisis.
When taking a close examination of the Ever Given incident, companies can look to this as a learning example to improve preparedness, enhance business continuity, and prioritize future research and policy decisions. While we certainly hope this is the last incident of its kind, our better judgment tells us that it certainly won’t be – make sure your business is taking the proper steps to avoid the fallout.