Supply Chain as strong as its weakest links: Transparency is needed to resolve this crisis of confidence

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On August 20th, the Montreal Port Authority announced a truce between the Maritime Employers Association and the Longshoremen’s Union at the Port of Montreal. This ended a 12-day strike, which followed earlier targeted closures of Terminal operations. The deal encompassed a seven-month period where talks will continue without a threat of work stoppage.

For some stakeholders and government officials, this matter is now resolved. But is it? Unfortunately, for all others engaged in the supply chain, challenges continue to mount.

Following the “resolution” of labor issues at the Port of Montreal, several thousand containers were left untouched on the docks, on hold. Tens of thousands more were on vessels diverted to alternate ports, and the fallout from this has left our forwarding community scrambling for answers on when their containers will be released, now numerous weeks after the “resolution”.

CIFFA has started to receive a swell of queries from frustrated forwarders and importers, some of which have cancelled orders due to delays, and the Secretariat is being asked, what is CIFFA doing to get cargo moving?

As excellent and warranted question indeed. What can we do in a system that proves itself to be, time and again, only as strong as its most fragile links? What are stakeholders and policy makers doing to strengthen those links?

CIFFA’s position is to foster strong relationships and work collaboratively with many of the stakeholders who are putting forth their best efforts to clear this unprecedented backlog.

And yet, containers are slow to move from several of the ports called upon to handle diversions. Why is this?

What was the process to determine diversions and committing to servicing the number of containers and volumes these diversions would create? Who made the decision not to practice FIFO best practice methods to keep cargo flowing? What, if any, were the plans and processes committing to handling the numbers, to communicating around expectations for the huge shift in volumes?

Agreed, the situation is larger than just one port or one stakeholder, but industry requires transparency to those who most need the required information.

Supply chain congestion and rail capacity issues are being felt across the country and in the U.S. There are myriad reasons compounding the issue, but CIFFA continues to experience “supply chain in a silo” despite protestations that stakeholders work together transparently.

Customers have struggled enough to manage their businesses under this Covid-19 situation and lack of urgency in resolving, handling, or communicating the issues is crippling Canadian supply chains and the ultimate consumer.