Efficient freight transport is fundamental to the economy of the world and brings significant benefits to the overall welfare of society. The recent experience of the ban on European flying caused by the Icelandic volcano, and the consequential ripples of disruption which it generated, remind us that national economies in different continents are inter-dependent and rely on a complex network of mutually beneficial transport movements.
Steve Agg, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), said ‘The ban on flights across Europe resulted in major problems for companies from all over the world endeavouring to deliver to the prohibited destinations. Cut flowers and fresh produce, pharmaceuticals, electronics, high value products and parcels were all delayed, and quantities of flowers, fruit and vegetables were spoiled and perished.
‘However, the experience has served to emphasise the value to us of the sophisticated twenty-first century supply chains we have constructed resulting in economic, environmental and consumer benefits. For example, we are now able to connect the availability of the ideal sunny growing climate for flowers and fresh produce in Africa, with the consumer market for them in Europe, thus bringing enormous advantages to African economies, and simultaneously saving energy and carbon emissions in Europe.
‘Cut flowers represent 20 per cent of all exports from Kenya, but the local growing conditions, together with the air freight to Europe, consume less energy and carbon output than if they were to be force grown in European greenhouses. The ability of freight transport to move the flowers and offer them fresh in Europe, is beneficial for the Kenyan economy, is environmentally and carbon efficient, and is welcome to European consumers. That experience is replicated across many situations and products and benefits us all.’
Mr Agg said that although flexible and innovative logistical arrangements had quickly been put in place in order to circumvent the flight ban, nevertheless some significant losses had occurred. The smart utilisation of rail, sea and road facilities had kept losses to a minimum and, under the circumstances; service levels had remained reasonably high.
He said ‘This experience reminds us of just how sophisticated our supply chains have become. Transport and the timely positioning of thousands of components and products is the life blood of the world’s economy. The effect on world trade caused by the recent disruption to flights has illustrated very clearly to all of us how reliant we are on international trade and just how interdependent we citizens of the world are’.