Only 185 days until Christmas

It would be a huge relief for me to be able to report that the ongoing disruption in the global shipping industry had stabilised or even eased, and that we would soon be able to report shorter lead times and even an end to the freight surcharges that Mila had to introduce back in March.

Sadly, that’s not the case. As this piece on the BBC news website makes clear, the disruption in container shipping that has already had such an impact on this industry shows no sign of being resolved, and there are now warnings that things are unlikely to improve before Christmas.

The Containers Editor at the shipping industry publication Lloyds List has even suggested that people should start thinking about ordering their presents now, because 2021 has effectively become permanent peak season and there could easily be shortages by the time we get to August or September.

With all the media attention currently on the impact of Covid on India, you might have missed the fact that cases of the virus are actually rising again in parts of China and there’s now an outbreak in the Guangdong province in the south. This has effectively closed down Yantian, one of the biggest ports in the region, for several weeks and caused yet another spike in container port congestion and all the follow-on implications of that.

When I look online, I see a good deal of understanding from those at the sharp end of the industry for the situation which really is outside of the control of suppliers like Mila, but also constant appeals for better communication about delivery times and upcoming price rises.

That’s the reason why I’ve been honest throughout the crisis about the reality of the situation facing us here, and tried to give Mila customers plenty of warning about the delays and surcharges which have been an inevitable consequence (have a look at some of my previous posts here and here).

Sadly, May saw container prices from China to Europe hit another record high, so I think it is very likely that we will have to continue imposing freight surcharges on deliveries for quite some time yet and maintain the system of stock allocation which has so far enabled us to keep the vast majority of loyal Mila customers supplied with essential goods in as fair a way as possible.

I know that price rises are never welcome, but it’s a burden which ideally needs to be shared more evenly across the whole market. I’d like to think that installation businesses which are seeing unprecedented levels of demand have more leeway than normal to pass on increased costs to consumers and, if the situation really is going to go on until Christmas, then the sooner they act, the better.

Richard

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