Since man first built ships, hurricanes and typhoons have still proven to be the toughest challenges for sailing vessels (even to the point of inspiring myth). Even today, despite all our technological advances, our steel-clad cargo ships continue to be no match when hurled smack dab into these serial killer storms. The danger they pose can result in losses surmounting to billions of dollars worth of property, life and reconstruction.
It is imperative for every logistics and supply chain organization to acknowledge these dangers as present-day realities. So far, the only advantage we have really obtained in the recent years is the vast amounts of information we can use to forecast storms and take emergency precautions.
Today, let’s review some of the most basic yet life-saving tactics that we must deploy in order to avert delays in our supply chains while also ensuring the safety of our fleets and vessels above all else.
#1. Require ship masters to treat vessel and cargo safety as top priority.
A true test of any ship master is the ability to make the speedy decision that prioritizes their vessel’s safety. That includes not only the tough choice of creating possible delays via changing routes but also getting accurate weather data to observe the proper distance from storms.
Shipping organizations must ensure that they are using only the fastest, up-to-date information resources for weather forecasting. Timing the departure from port will be critical when news of a storm comes in. It can mean the difference between sailing past a zone before the storm hits or being too late to turn around. It can also mean the difference between your cargo sliding off the deck or not!
#2. Minimize delays via alternative ports
Asides from weather data, your supply chain and logistics technology should also enable you to identify the safest alternative ports if a ship is directly in a storm’s path. Given the sheer alarm that storms generate, you can expect data on port congestion to be critical.
The information must also enable you to make decisions such as whether to discharge cargo at the alternative ports or (worst case scenario) require the ship to dock and ensuring the cargo remains secure until the storm passes.
#3. Ensure emergency action includes notifying customers and port authorities.
No matter how minimal you can make a delay, we believe informing customers is only common courtesy. News of a major storm fly fast and you would want to be the first to call customers before they call you.
Don’t spare critical details either. You should also inform them about how you intend to safeguard their cargo, whether it’s via changing to a different port or even holding them further inland to keep them as far away from the storm as possible.
The same applies when dealing with port authorities. There’s no doubt that they have their own protocols in place when news of a storm comes in. Detail your own organization’s process for coordinating with them and what specific rules need to be followed.
4. Have back-ups upon back-ups.
Naturally, even logistics offices themselves can be vulnerable if you have decided to locate them in storm-prone regions. Make sure that your headquarters have their own backup offices in some place secure.
Similarly, any land transport should have specific guidelines in securing cargo (especially if the cargo belongs to customers who have particular instructions on maintaining their integrity). Storms can easily bring heavy rains and floods. It can also make certain areas vulnerable to landslides and accidental roadblocks. Make sure your drivers have a go-to process for ensuring cargo safety and making the most immediate stops that will keep them out of harm’s way.
Despite the increasing globalisation of our world, it has only increased the responsibility of logistics and supply chain organizations to be vigilant against the age-old threat of natural disasters. Let us utilize all tools and information we have today to minimize delays and maximize safety for all.