Supply lines are working as normal at the Port of Cork

There are no supply issues in the Port of Cork, with safety measures helping to keep imports and exports flowing through the busy facility.
Supply lines are working as normal at the Port of Cork

There are no supply issues in the Port of Cork, with safety measures helping to keep imports and exports flowing through the busy facility.

Port of Cork chairman John Mullins says that, despite the coronavirus crisis, “there isn’t an issue with supply chains”, particularly since Chinese ports opened up again recently to resolve the container backlog around the world.

“Since the Chinese ports started to move again, the boxes [containers] have started to move. We’ve been very busy in that regard — extremely busy.

“In the last two or three weeks we’ve been going gangbusters, absolutely.

“There was a build-up of boxes because, if I wanted to get a box to China I couldn’t send it as there was no space in China to store it — and because none of the boxes in China were coming out, there was a backlog.

“The pieces in the jigsaw have to move for everything to start moving, so when the Chinese ports began to move, everything else started to move.

Those ports are a crucial link in the chain.

“When China started to move, then Rotterdam started to move, then Antwerp started to move ... so we’re busier than normal clearing a backlog at both ends — stuff in the port to get out, and stuff that’s been in other ports trying to get in,” he said.

As a result, Mullins says the “potential issue in terms of inventory” of non-perishables has been resolved.

“There isn’t an issue on supply chains. We’re not talking about perishable goods here, but in terms of non-perishables.

“There were potential issues in terms of inventory, with ports having backlogs, but now those ports are

moving.

“The boxes [containers] market is back to normal, and there aren’t health issues because, for instance, it takes six weeks for a shipment to come from China to Rotterdam, and then up to us, and the virus won’t last on anything for that length of time.”

However, the outlook is grim for the cruise industry, which has been of such value to the Cork area in recent years, he added.

“Right now, the future for the cruise industry looks very precarious. People looking at the stock prices of Royal Caribbean or Carnival — they’re all restructuring their balance sheets already, and you’re talking about millions of people in this area not working.

“There are no cruise calls to Cobh, so while the plans for a second cruise terminal there continue to be looked at, that’s not a strategic priority now.

“I think confidence in cruises is going to be an issue, and we’d need to have full confidence in public health before we see confidence in travel generally.

We’re of a view that we may not see any more cruises coming in for the rest of the year, or maybe some in the late autumn.

“Straight away, that’s a hole in the port’s coffers but also in tourism generally. It’s another economic

impact.”

To ensure the supply chain is maintained, the Port of Cork is enforcing new working methods — stringent measures, but necessary.

“If our ports broke down we’d have serious issues, but the message from us is we’re working as normally as we can,” said Mr Mullins.

“We can’t afford to have people sick in the port, so real precautions are being taken in terms of social distancing, sanitisers and so on. Many of the workers are essential workers, but office staff are working from home.

“There’s a health concern in terms of the handling of boxes, but the straddle carriers [dockside machines which pick up and move shipping containers] in Tivoli are working well,” he said.

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