Beyond the basics: mastering the art of supply chain resilience

Beyond the basics: mastering the art of supply chain resilience

In the unpredictable world of global trade, risk management remains a cornerstone of a robust business strategy.

Recent events have propelled the Red Sea crisis into the limelight, with profound implications for international commerce. The crisis underscores the delicate balance of geopolitical forces and their capacity to disrupt the intricate web of global supply chains.

We explore the escalation of tensions in this region as they become so critical to maritime commerce and become the catalyst for a domino effect: surging operational costs and elongated lead times are now stark realities businesses must navigate. 

The disruption extends far beyond immediate trade routes, compelling a re-evaluation of supply chain robustness. This analysis delves into the repercussions of such geopolitical disturbances, emphasising the newfound premium on resilient suppliers and the urgent necessity for businesses to cultivate supply chains that can withstand the tremors of unforeseen global events.

The ripple effects of geopolitical strife

Attacks on shipping in the Red Sea threaten to create a 'chaotic' period for Europe’s manufacturers and retailers as supply chains are disrupted, logistics experts have warned. As nearly all container ships have been rerouted away from the Suez Canal towards the longer route around the Cape of Good Hope, the repercussions are multifaceted. Mainly affecting sailings between Asia and Europe, the detour is extending delivery timelines by up to two weeks, heightening operational costs and causing long gaps in arrivals of vessels in European ports.

Simon Heaney, senior manager in container research at London-based Drewry Shipping Consultants, said there was “definitely pain” for shipping companies’ customers as a result. “In this interim period, it looks a little chaotic,” he said, although he expected shipping lines to establish a “new, more reliable network” in “fairly short order”.

A test of resilience

Businesses now face the test of maintaining resilience. As the crisis continues, organisations must pivot quickly, adopting strategies to mitigate the delays that threaten their operations. 

Container lines, which handle movements of manufactured goods and components, mostly offer one service a week on their most popular routes. Delayed arrivals of components have brought some car manufacturers’ production lines to a halt. 

Retailers are bracing for depleted inventories, and companies shipping goods face surcharges as shipping lines try to recoup the costs of diversions.

Adapting to new realities

ERA Freight Specialist, Alan Birse, draws a comparison between the current hike in sea freight rates and the pandemic-induced spike. 

Birse says: “The current issues with the attacks in the Red Sea, and carriers’ understandable reluctance to transit the Suez Canal, are significantly different. Similarly, the options to address this are different.”

While there are issues with container availability, the other causes of the increase during Covid-19 do not apply today. Demand has not increased due to consumer demand, and port capacity has not been hit due to working practices as it did during the pandemic. 

In reality, consumer demand is lower due to inflation and the threat of a global recession.

The carriers have been blanking sailings to limit capacity and keep rates at an acceptable level, although arguably this has not been a success. Rates are expected to soften from their current high of $5K as carriers settle into the reality of the longer transit times. 

Harnessing emerging opportunities

Despite the turmoil, businesses can navigate these challenges by reassessing their logistics strategies and exploring innovative solutions. This is not just a moment to endure, but to evolve and turn potential weaknesses into strengths.

The Red Sea crisis serves as a reminder of the vulnerabilities of global trade to geopolitical events and highlights the need for adaptable, resilient strategies that manage risk.

ERA Group can help you explore alternative solutions, especially if you have urgent shipping requirements. 

Options include air and rail freight, or a combination of sea and air freight. 

Air freight, although an obvious solution, can be costly. Whereas a mix of sea and air works well when speed is necessary but can be up to 30% cheaper than air freight alone. Typically, the cargo travels by sea to a suitable transit destination where it then transfers to air freight. Dubai is one such location for shipments from Asia to Europe.

In this environment, the concept of near-shoring emerges as a strategic alternative, offering a pathway to strengthen supply chain resilience by reducing dependency on distant markets. This shift towards closer geographical sourcing can mitigate risks associated with lengthy supply routes, such as those highlighted by the Red Sea crisis, and enable businesses to respond more swiftly to market changes and disruptions.

As we continue to monitor the situation, the business community must remain vigilant, proactive, and resourceful. The challenge is considerable, but so is the potential for those ready to navigate through these turbulent times. 

We can’t predict the future; however, our team of ERA specialists can help you create a truly resilient supply chain. 

We can provide updates on price developments to ensure pricing remains competitive, continually negotiate to ensure competitive market rates, and assist with forward planning strategies to remove uncertainty. 

Contact us today, and ERA can help your business thrive.


ERA Group partners with businesses to tackle their most important challenges and illuminate their greatest opportunities. 

ERA has been a pioneer in business strategy and cost optimisation since 1992. Today, we help clients validate, improve processes, and turn insights into opportunities – enabling organisations to grow, build competitive advantage, and drive bottom-line impact.

 As a global team of thinkers and doers, ERA brings deep industry and functional expertise and a range of perspectives to spark change. We’re the resource today’s modern leaders need as they navigate a new horizon, face unforeseen challenges, and seek new opportunities.

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