Industry stakeholders highlight logistics and supply chain impacts of Russia-Ukraine conflict

While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine goes on, the subsequent logistics- and supply chain-related impacts continue to evolve in lockstep.

Over the past several days since Russia moved forward into Ukraine, there have been myriad impacts on logistics and supply chain operations, in the form: of rapidly increasing oil and gas prices, shippers and carriers implementing contingency plans; a ceasing of port operations in Ukraine, which the Wall Street Journal said could disrupt vital shipping routes that carry much of the world’s wheat and other agricultural products; and several global logistics and freight transportation services providers halting service into and out of both Russia and Ukraine.

Given the fluidity, uncertainty, and unrest this situation has created, things are anything but predictable, at this point in time, save for a healthy dose of speculation and forecasting, as to how things may play out in the short-term and also how long this conflict could last and continue to foster the unknown in a sense.

Simon Geale, executive vice president for procurement, for Proxima, a supply chain consultancy, observed that supply chains are volatile and logistics providers were unprepared for the impact of the conflict in Ukraine as it far outweighs other predicted risk factors in 2022.

“The pandemic, extreme weather, and price instability were all on the agenda but now all eyes are on Ukraine as the Russian invasion wreaks havoc on already strained supply chains,” observed Geale. “It is now imperative that the world plans for both the short-and long-term consequences as the situation develops.

In the short-term, Geale explained that the exodus from Russian investments and SWIFT legislation is severely complicating payments. And he added that prices across the board are soaring, from energy to transport and manufactured goods.

“For instance, Russia and Ukraine produce 29% of global wheat supplies and Russia alone accounts for 40% of palladium, which is used for car and electronics production. Several car factories have shut down in Germany as semiconductor shortages are exacerbated further,” said Geale. This is likely just the beginning of the disruption. The world’s reliance on Russia for certain commodities such as wheat and sunflower oil is being exposed and goods which are transported through the Black Sea will face significant difficulties. Shipping from Ukrainian ports has practically ceased and as airlines warn of Russian airspace closures, transportation costs will soar making some routes unusable.”

What’s more, Geale noted that businesses must now consider how the sanctions placed on Russia might have a long-term impact.

“With sales and trading with Russia increasingly ceasing, procurement leaders must create lasting solutions should the sanctions become permanent and ultimately isolate the Russian market from global business,” he said. “Increased production from other countries will mitigate the impact of the crisis, though it will be a few months before the effects of this are felt. Fuel production in countries such as Saudi Arabia can increase whilst nuclear is also a mid-term power option. Other commodities can be sourced from South Africa (Palladium) or notably the US and Canada (wheat/ gas). However, many markets are operating at capacity and such shifts will take time and push up costs.”

Logistically, Geale stressed there is a need to consider how businesses can create routes which avoid the area, stating that supply chains can no longer ignore geo-political risks in Europe as the conflict must become a fundamental pillar of procurement strategies.

Data provided to LM by Chicago-based FourKites, a provider of real-time tracking and visibility solutions across transportation modes and digital platforms, showed significant declines in Russian-bound imports, for the week of February 28, when the invasion of Ukraine began.

FourKites’ data pointed to Russian import volumes seeing a 28% decline, from the week of February 21 to the week of February 28, with oil and gas down 12%. And it also noted that manufacturing and retail sectors were the most affected, down 56% and 28%, respectively, for the same period.

FourKites also made the following observations:

  • FourKites continues to see an increase in delayed shipments in the region. Among LTL loads traveling into Eastern Europe, delayed loads have increased by 20% since before the invasion began; 
  • As of March 2, export dwell times for all European ports have increased by 25% since February 17; Transshipment dwell times for European ports have increased by 43% over the same period;
  • FourKites has seen the largest increases in ocean dwell time in Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) and Food & Beverage (F&B), where dwell times in Europe have increased by 55% for FourKites customers between February 17 and March 2; 
  • Dwell times have been impacted across Europe, with dwell times up 41% in Western Europe, 6% in Eastern Europe, 26% in Southern Europe, and 17% in Northern Europe between February 17 and March 2; and
  • Ocean freight rates are skyrocketing past their already record highs. FourKites anticipates as much as a 20 to 40-fold increase in ocean freight rates. This is already happening – where shipments from Shanghai to Rotterdam were less than $2,000 two years ago, some freight forwarders showed rates at $54,000 for a single container immediately after the invasion. Air freight prices are likewise increasing.

“As it pertains to Imports into Russia, the volume of shipments into Russia has plummeted – already down 17% week-over-week as of March 2nd compared to February 17,” it said. “This is due to several factors, from sanctions to treacherous routes. Many shippers have pulled out after facing dangerous conditions at the ports including incidences of friendly fire. And as popular opinion against the violent incursion crystalizes, Individual retailers and major brands are also choosing to no longer do business with Russia.” 

A research note written by Eric Oak, research director for global trade intelligence firm Panjiva pointed out that the fallout from the conflict is likely to spread into global supply chains and impact economies in Eastern Europe and beyond.

“The first-order effects may come from the mounting economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and other countries on Russia, and widespread disruptions in Ukraine,” wrote Oak. “From a U.S. economic perspective, imports from Ukraine rose 28.7% year over year in the fourth quarter of 2021. Disruptions are likely to be felt across all industries, but the majority of U.S. imports from the country are in the metals category: 59.7% in 2021. This increased 61.8% year over year in the fourth quarter; February data will likely indicate a fall in growth. Companies that import metals, mostly pig iron, from Ukraine include Nucor Corp., Eusider SpA and Steel Dynamics Inc., the imports of which rose 68.1%, 66.0% and 16.0% year over year in 2021, respectively. Those sources will likely be disrupted in some way if the conflict continues.”

Reactions to the conflict from Tim Fiore, Chair of the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, and Tony Nieves, of ISM’s Management Services Business Survey Committee, were somewhat tempered, given the uneven and changing state of affairs, at the moment.

“I don’t know that the situation in Ukraine is going to impact us too much,” said Fiore. “It is too early to tell. I don’t think any nation has ever been cut off from the international banking system like Russia has and by extension Ukraine, too. They are not big trading partners with the U.S. Even with Europe, outside of energy and aluminum, and some corn and wheat and some specialty minerals like titanium. There is generally a lot of inventory in other parts of the world for that anyway. The biggest headwind here is driving oil over $100 per barrel…that could actually be good because it could drive reinvestment in the U.S. and could drive 13 million barrels of day worth of oil refining again.

Nieves commented that any challenges stemming from the conflict for the services-based economy pale compared to the manufacturing sector, which he said is on the forefront of what is happening.

“The resources coming through Russia and Ukraine are barrels of oil, things needed for chip manufacturing like steel, natural gas, and other things,” he said. “Things like that will come through the supply chain and eventually hit us for things like fuel prices, which we are already seeing, as well as any petroleum-based products, as well as steel, chips, and it will also affect the production of cars. It really is more of a trickle-down to services after hitting manufacturing first.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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