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Lessons from the Past Helped OEC Prepare for the Current Health Scare

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

OEC Group’s experience with the SARS epidemic in 2003 pushed the company to create more responsive procedures and strategies on how to deal with unplanned and potentially prolonged disruptions in trans-Pacific trade.

The SARS outbreak in Hong Kong and South China during 2003 deeply impacted China’s production and trade, causing months of declines in retail spending in Hong Kong and cut China’s GDP growth by nearly 20% in the second quarter of 2003. At the height of the outbreak, Asia Pacific travel fell 35% from pre-crisis levels. It took months for trade to recover and to understand and create an appropriate response for future pandemics.

When the 2003 outbreak occurred OEC Group drew on its past contingency planning experience and conducted an in-depth supply chain analysis to identify vulnerable areas. The analysis showed the company how shipments would be impacted in the supply chain, allowing OEC to create a back-up strategy to ensure that delays would be minimalized.

This preparation helped during the recent Coronavirus outbreak because OEC knew that there would be a likelihood of quarantines, restrictions of movement, and work stoppages and could ascertain how these restrictions would affect clients. The company immediately began to pull on its experience with emergencies to advise tailored response plans for each client based on their individual needs, helping them cope with their situations and tackle immediate problems. One element of OEC’s contingency plan was to mobilize its workforce to operate remotely in order to provide essential services, which remained uninterrupted.

“OEC was very proactive in following our customers throughout the world, providing true global services and looking for new sourcing opportunities to overcome current congestion to service interruptions in the Far East,” says Frank Costa, VP of Sales here at OEC Group.

The company’s ability to address issues with its contacts throughout the globe ensured that problems were minimized. OEC Group was easily able to help its clients seamlessly accomplish everything it reasonably could, which in most cases was more than enough. Additionally, the company is currently preparing strategies for its clients when everything begins to be fully operational, as they expect competition for available capacity to be fierce.

“OEC is fully focused on preparing for the upcoming space crunch,” said Anthony Fullbrook, President of OEC Group. “We have anticipated this event and are ramping up efforts to make sure that we are ready to help every client with its freight needs once China is operating at full capacity.”

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