Ports remain open for business

Ports remain open for business  

ARTICLE · By Timber Trade Federation · 19 March 2020

While the coronavirus may have scared markets and disrupted the global timber supply chain, ports have emphasised their resilience and that they remain open for business.  

We have already seen the effect on global economies, with recent reports showing the outbreak of Covid-19 in Hubei, China, triggered their export market to contract by 17% in January and Februarydue to fewer working days and production suspension under quarantine restrictions.

Now the virus has ramped up in the rest of the world, spreading to Europe and the US. How each country is responding to the virus is varying country by country, with some calling for social distancing, while others such as Italy enter full lockdown.

The virus was already affecting the global supply of softwoods in Q1 as the slowdown in production in China interrupting the global movement of containers. Our members had also reported plywood orders to the UK, while still being delivered, were delayed by up to a month. 

Since then, China reports they have successfully managed to control the virus, and for the second day in a row only one new person reportedly infected. This has led to Beijing encouraging a return to normal for business as workers return. 

In the UK we are still building our response and understanding of the virus. However, the ports have reached out to the Timber Trade Federation to let us know that they remain open for business, and are ensuring supply to the UK remains strong. 

The Port of Felixstowe state “the port is fully operational and we will do everything to ensure it remains open throughout the crisis… There are currently no delays for cargo moving through the port and we will continue to work with our partners and the relevant agencies to ensure the continuity of service.

Paul Snape, Office Manager of WS Logistics, commented that “everything is still working as usual and we are still able to collect containers from the ports without too many issues. At present there are no issues with foreign vehicles arriving at ports like Dover and there is still free movement of goods.”

Andrew Byrne, Managing Director of DFDS Seaways shared a similar sentiment declaring that they are “business as usual” and “will continue to do everything that is practical and responsible to operate normally.”

RMS Ports said the port remains fully operational and all our terminals are open for business,” while, Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive of the British Ports Association said “our ports are currently open and facilitating imports of food, supplies and resources.  

“It will be important that Government staff at the frontline look to support this effort as best they can. We have been speaking with our counterparts in Italy where the ports have remained open and we are learning from their experiences to keep our gateways operational.” 

Cindy Crancher, Sales Director of Scotline Ltd echos the same positive and measured response; The Management and team at Scotline Terminals Rochester are taking action to limit and avoid exposure to the Coronavirus.  We are confident that with the measures in hand we will be able to maintain our service levels from Sweden and Latvia. 

Tim Morris, CEO of UK Major Ports Group, commented that the Government must recognise the port sector’s “critical role in essential supply chains” and that they will work with banks to maintain cash flow throughout the supply chain.

With the situation rapidly evolving, we are advising suppliers check carefully with buyers rather than loading goods automatically. This will help protect both from any logistical issues which would lead to additional demurrage or storage costs. Maintaining open and constanct communication across the supply chain is important.

At the TTF we will be doing everything we can to help our members through this situation. 

We have set up a COVID-19 page on our website with the latest information, and a LinkedIn groupfor members to stay up to date, share issues and advice.

Complete our survey on how Covid-19 is affecting your business to ensure we can provide you with the best support possible at this time.