The spread of the coronavirus puts a. hartrodt's worldwide network on high alert. "For the first time, all modes of transport are affected by this crisis. Switching to another mode of transport is no solution," says Willem van der Schalk, Managing Director of a. hartrodt in Hamburg, outlining the exceptional situation. Both Chinese exports and imports are affected. "Customers must be prepared for massive disruptions well into February and March, even if the virus should then no longer spread," warns van der Schalk.
Hong Kong office remains open
Many factories in China, for example for car production, have extended their New Year holidays. At a. hartrodt, too, eleven of 14 Chinese offices will remain closed until February 10, possibly longer in Wuhan. "The colleagues work in the home office to protect themselves from infection," explains van der Schalk. Two locations are already reopening on February 3: Chengdu and Tianjin. In Hong Kong, operations are not interrupted. "There we are now also handle the southern Chinese provinces," explains van der Schalk.
Additional costs for air and sea freight
Air freight has been particularly affected since major airlines such as Lufthansa temporarily suspended or reduced all passenger flights to and from mainland China. Due to the lack of belly-hold cargo capacity, Lufthansa Cargo, for example, has released a special flight schedule for freighters. Not only storage costs arise: "Rates will go up massively in the near future," expects van der Schalk.
Even with sea freight, backlog causes bottlenecks or even downtime. In the Chinese ports additional costs arise. These include container demurrage, container detention and port storage. "There is a lack of cargo and truck drivers to transport the goods. Nor is it certain whether transports from the Chinese hinterland will make it to the ports or be stopped on the way," warns Alf Hörnig, General Manager Seafreight Import and Customs Service at a. hartrodt in Hamburg. Train connections are also interrupted.
"We haven't had such a situation yet, unfortunately we can't speed it up," says van der Schalk. In some countries such as Germany and China, a. hartrodt employees are currently working overtime to cope with the extremely high administrative workload.