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Covid restrictions causing bottlenecks, but some air cargo carriers carry on

A new Covid-driven bottleneck has hit the supply chain out of China: a severe shortage of truck drivers and air routes disrupted by crew restrictions.

Quarantine laws mean that yesterday was the last day to work and be out of quarantine by the Chinese New Year’s Eve on 11 February.

The result is that truck drivers are now self-isolating, and not working, before going to be with their families.

“The toughest thing now is finding trucks and drivers, it’s even harder than finding containers,” said one forwarder. “Effectively, new year has started much earlier than in any previous years.”

The situation in China also depends on the region: people wanting to leave mid-risk areas need to have had a negative Covid test within seven days in order to travel. No one can leave high-risk areas.

Covid restrictions are continuing to bite into air transport in particular. KLM appears to have stopped flights into China following new crew restrictions, although the carrier said it would confirm later today.

And all direct passenger flights from the UAE to the UK have been cancelled, causing concern among forwarders trying to avoid routing cargo through the EU.

One said: “Emirates via Dubai is a lifeline, especially for exports from Bangladesh and South-east Asia. It won’t affect sea/air through Dubai – that market is primarily used by retailers, and shops are shut in much of Europe. But it’s a concern.”

However, Emirates appears to be continuing 28 flights a week on freighters and passenger freighters, into Heathrow and Manchester. One source said IAG Cargo still has a strong network and that Virgin Atlantic “seems to be expanding its network”.

Virgin today announced it would be operating its first flight from Evenes in Norway, with seafood destined for the US, on a 787. It claimed the service would allow fish to reach its destination up to 72 hours faster than current connections through Oslo.

Virgin noted a few “key challenges” in operating a widebody into Harstad/Narvik Airport of limited daylight hours and a very cold climate. The service marks Virgin’s 11th new cargo destination in the past year.

MD Dominic Kennedy said the launch was a “testament to the innovative spirit of our business”.

Dennis Verkooy, global head perishables & carrier management air logistics at Kuehne + Nagel, added: “What sounded impossible has quickly developed into an innovative solution. With our partner Virgin Atlantic Cargo, we are now able to provide our customers in northern Norway a service that is not only reliable and secure, but also gives them the fastest possible access to their markets.”

By Alex Lennane from The Loadstar

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