Inbound Logistics | June 2021

F rom a pandemic and natural disasters to a driver shortage and cyberattacks— the chemical logistics industry confronted numerous challenges over the past year. To continue to serve their clients, logistics providers pivoted, adjusted, invested, and dug deep. Early in the pandemic, demand for cleaning and sanitizing products prompted both price increases and supply shortages. For example, the price for isopropyl alcohol—a component in many sanitizers—more than tripled between March 10 and March 20, 2020, jumping from about $880 to $3,160 per metric ton. “The pandemic created a volatile and vulnerable supply chain that turned inventory levels upside down,” says Curt Gonya, senior vice president, chemicals and specialty products with KAG Logistics. “The surges in some industries and the devastation in others was very real.”

Overcoming capacity constraints, severe

weather, and cyberattacks, chemical logistics service providers combine expertise and dedication to keep shipments moving safely and efficiently.

CAPACITY CONSTRAINED Along with price jumps and commodity

shortages, transportation capacity was strained. The limited availability of cylinders and cryogenic storage tanks made it difficult to ship supplies. The container shortage was largely due to uneven trade fluctuations. “If the rising water had lifted all boats at the same time, we would have been in better shape,” notes Jade Rodysill, Americas chemicals and advanced materials industry leader with EY. In ground transportation, the driver shortage impacted many shipments, including fuel supplies, as not enough drivers were available to transport petroleum, says Chris Wright, senior vice president of operations with Rinchem Company, Inc., a chemical logistics provider. The capacity challenges extended to the ports, where some ships waited weeks to discharge their loads. Several factors drove the delays, including the need to comply with social distancing requirements and use fewer employees, as well as absences due to workers who either needed to quarantine or became sick, says Scott Buber, director of chemical operations with WSI, a logistics provider based in Appleton, Wisconsin. While port congestion is nothing new, most previous instances were isolated and short term, and often caused by regional weather events or specific geopolitical challenges, says Dustin Miles, director of global transportation, Rinchem. During the pandemic, congestion and disruption were global, and they continue to present challenges. Managing these hurdles requires a lot of thought and planning.

A WSI worker verifies labels on rolls of resin sheets before shipping.

June 2021 • Inbound Logistics 69

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