Recent stresses on the global supply chain have resulted in unprecedented ocean freight congestion, equipment shortages, and off-kilter demand cycles. However, these interruptions may not compare to what may happen when a COVID-19 vaccine is ready for global distribution.
The disruption to the supply chain may be significant and long-lasting – especially with air freight because it is the only reasonable way to ship vaccines around the world due to their short shelf-life and urgent need. According to the International Air Transport Association, it will take at least 18-months and 8,000 Boeing 747s to distribute enough vaccines to everyone in the world.
That presents a rare, very “2020” problem. In any other year, around 45% - 50% of all air cargo piggybacks on passenger flights, packed carefully amongst vacationers’ luggage. However, this option is nearly non-existent because of the lack of passenger flights and even if there is a significant uptick in recreational air travel, logistics experts know that will not be enough.
One idea to boost capacity is to resurrect grounded freighters and reconfigure passenger aircraft into cargo planes to carry vaccines and add necessary lift around the world. While the process is expensive and time consuming, it will significantly expand transportation capabilities and help keep the supply chain moving with minimal interruption.
However, until that plan comes to fruition OEC is looking for ways to avoid disruptions for their clients. The company plans to leverage its buying power to secure carrier space months in advance of the vaccine frenzy. Additionally, OEC will secure long-term capacity on strategic flight routes to guarantee its client’s needs are met.
“It’s doubtful that air travel will go back to normal before a vaccine is introduced to the public, and that will severely handcuff global air cargo capacity,” said Peter Hsieh, Regional Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “The only way to make sure our clients don’t fall behind is to look ahead.”