The stop in the Suez Canal could delay covid equipment

Gloves, aprons and other medical equipment, we import most from Asia with shiploads via the Suez Canal. The vessel that stopped the canal could mean that vital medical material is delayed in corona times.

Anna Lefevre Skjöldebrand, CEO of the medical technology companies’ industry organization Swedish Medtech, states that the industry is very dependent on imports from Asia, and that most things go by boat via the Suez Canal.

In ordinary cases, that is. Right now it is almost at a standstill, as a ship has blocked the arteries of world trade for several days. The ship is now loose but hundreds of other queues to be able to go through the canal.

– Some products are manufactured in Europe, but we are still dependent on parts from Asia, she says.

So far, the companies have not alerted about disruptions or shortages, she says.

– But this will affect regions, municipalities and private individuals, says Anna Lefevre Skjöldebrand.

Prolonged delays

The CEO of the Port of Gothenburg, Elvir Dzanic, has previously told TT that it will take weeks, or even months, before everything is as usual again. When disruptions occur, the consequences are great in the pressured logistics chains. Anna Lefevre Skjöldebrand is in the same line.

– It is partly about boats that are in line, but also about boats in the wrong place, as well as containers that are not where they are needed. This takes time.

However, she cannot say now how much the stop will affect. The industry already understood last year, when we had such a shortage of important protective equipment, that stock was important.

– My picture is that care and nursing have better stocks than a year ago. But it is not that we will not be affected.

The company Onemed, which distributes medical equipment and medical supplies to regions, municipalities and private individuals, has worked hard since last week to review and reduce the consequences of the stop, says Peter Nilsson, logistics manager at Onemed.

– It has consequences, first and foremost a delay of seven to eight days, but also consequences such as domino effects, he says.

Onemed’s main warehouse receives about 50 twenty-foot containers of material every week, he says. Most are transported by boat.

Larger stock now

He says that both the pandemic, with potential new waves of infection, and the Chinese New Year have led the company to increase its stocks.

– We have prepared our safety stocks with higher stock levels. There will be individual products with shortages. In total, we stock about 15,000 products, he says.

Protective equipment, which was such a shortage last year, is, for example, plentiful in stock at Onemed.

– We also managed to redirect some vaccination-related products last week. We started at once when it happened, says Peter Nilsson.

Ship across

The 400-meter-long container ship Ever Given, loaded with approximately 200,000 tonnes of goods, was towed away on Monday afternoon. By then, the ship had blocked the Suez Canal since Tuesday last week. The canal is one of the world’s most important waterways for sea freight.

During a sandstorm, the ship got stuck in the sandy beach along the canal.

The Suez Canal is a sea route that connects the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, and makes it possible to travel between Europe and Asia without rounding Africa.

On average, 1,550 vessels pass through the canal each month (in 2020, a total of 18,597 vessels).

Bulk vessels account for about 30 percent of transports, followed by container vessels, which account for 25 percent. Oil tankers account for 15 percent.

According to the Port of Gothenburg, it will take weeks, and even months, before the consequences of the stop can be taken again.

Source: Reuters, AFP, Port of Gothenburg


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