nCoV: Considerations for transport operators

According to WHO’s latest Situation Report, published 9th February 2020 and covering the last 24 hours, there were 37,558 confirmed cases globally (of which 2,676 were new). Of these, China accounted for 37,251 confirmed cases (2,657 new) 6,188 severe cases (87 new) and 812 deaths (89 new). On the 8th, there had been 3,401 new confirmed cases, 3151 on the 7th and 3,697 on the 6th.

Outside of China there were 307 confirmed cases (19 new) across 24 countries, and one death. On the 8th, there had been 18 new confirmed cases, 54 on the 7th and 25 on the 6th.

It may be too soon to draw conclusions from this data as to whether the situation is worsening or improving, but certainly disruption resulting from the outbreak is ongoing, and will be for some time.

In addition to the challenges of moving customer goods to and from China, TT Club is warning that, while key concerns will distil to delays and potentially cargo deterioration, freight operators face numerous additional risks, amongst them restrictions due to labour shortages at ports and cancellations of inland transport links within China, and constraints in the supply of goods due to factory closures and reduced schedules of air, ocean and rail carriers, which may expose forwarders to claims arising from delivery delays and cargo deterioration.

With the assistance of specialist international lawyers, HFW, the Club outlines how freight forwarders, logistics service providers and other intermediaries can protect themselves legally and minimise their liabilities, while still giving a quality service to their customers.

“Physical cargo packing operations inherently involve human interaction. Similarly, clerical and data entry processes are normally executed in the offices of a range of supply chain stakeholders, including forwarders, ships agents, terminals, banks and customs authorities,” it states in its briefing note. “Apart from data entry and validation activities, and despite increasing levels of digitisation, the industry continues to have moderate reliance on transferring and dealing with physical documentation.

“Currently, many businesses in China have implemented ‘working from home’ procedures. Despite IT functionality, where offices remain closed for protracted periods, it is likely that customs and transport documentation will be disrupted, potentially leading to problems delivering cargo at destination.”

TT Club's briefing explains these risks and the steps that can be taken to keep them to a minimum.

“Up-to-date status reports on their cargo’s progress, or lack of it, are vital to shippers,” emphasises TT Club’s Risk Management Director, Peregrine Storrs-Fox. “Forwarders and logistics operators will certainly prove their mettle if they can consistently make customers aware of the ongoing attempts to problem-solve. Careful recording of communication trails detailing such actions will also help in any disputes in the future.”

TT Club's briefing note can be viewed here

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