Bosses of airlines, shipping and trucking joined union leaders in calling on governments around the world to ease coronavirus restrictions on transportation workers to avert a supply chain crisis from Xmas.
Industry representatives around the world on Wednesday issued a joint call for coordinated action by national governments to simplify border restrictions.
The cost of moving goods around the world had become almost negligible in recent decades, but the pandemic disruption of factories, shipping and customer demand has caused chronic delays in cross-border deliveries and led to high prices. records for sea containers.
Willie Walsh, the former boss of British Airways, who is now managing director of the International Air Transport Association (Iata), called for an easing of government restrictions to avoid disruption over Christmas and warned that further increases in transportation costs were likely.
“There is definitely a risk,” Walsh said. “What we are facing is a crisis of restrictions, not of the virus itself.
“The demand is very high, but the supply is very disrupted. Without a doubt, there is a risk of disruption as demand increases. “
The Iata was joined by the International Chamber of Shipping, the International Road Transport Union (IRU) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation in asserting that the reduction and harmonization of restrictions such as paperwork relating to vaccines and testing requirements for transport workers could help ease the pressure on Christmas. The huge variation in restrictions between neighboring countries causes delays and contradicts scientific advice, they said.
Shipping routes are particularly strained between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies, while air cargo in the wider Asia-Pacific region has also been hit hard by travel restrictions.
In the UK, the lack of qualified truck drivers has exacerbated the fuel crisis. The British government on Wednesday deployed its fleet of standby tankers to try to supply gas stations across the country, amid shortages that have led to panic buying.
Umberto de Pretto, IRU General Secretary, said there would be “absolutely” problems at Christmas, as companies already face problems with their transport plans for the crucial period for retailers and producers consumer goods, food and drink.
“There will be disruption, there will be problems, because nobody is tackling the problems,” he said. “How can you drive recovery without drivers?” “
Walsh of Iata said the continued travel restrictions were “unnecessary, completely out of proportion to the risk involved”, citing the 36 questions on the UK’s passenger tracking form. “I doubt anyone reads the answer to these questions,” he said.
Lobby groups and unions have said the World Health Organization should prioritize transport workers for Covid-19 vaccinations. However, they said they were against compulsory vaccines for workers for now due to uneven access to vaccines in different countries.
Chicago-based United Airlines said on Wednesday it would lay off 600 workers who have not taken mandatory vaccines, but the policy is unlikely to be introduced in some countries like the UK.