The Indian logistics ecosystem came under tremendous pressure due to the nationwide lockdown implemented to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Supply chains started slowing down despite logistics and shipping being deemed as ‘essential services’ which were exempt from all lockdown measures. One of the key factors affecting the supply chains was the severely impacted trucking ecosystem. Trucks were abandoned by their drivers who rushed back to their home towns; dwindling away the movement of cargo.
Several Indian industries that needed to be kept running owing to their continuous production processes or which opened up after some relaxations in the lockdown were announced, started facing troubles on two fronts: their domestic demand plummeted as their customers had stopped operations and they faced a herculean task of finding trucks to move their goods to ports.
Rail to the rescue
Given the circumstances, Maersk decided to ramp up its rail solutions for its customers including some of India’s largest petrochemical companies and automotive manufacturers to help them move their cargo to ports for export. Maersk’s solution included moving goods straight from the exporters’ manufacturing facilities on rail to the required port or moving the cargo first to the closest Inland Container Depot by road and then loading it on to rail.
During the lockdown, Maersk has experienced up to 30% increase in movement on rail as compared to times prior to lockdown. Clearance of import cargo on rail from ports has also helped in releasing a lot of pressure that was building up on the overall logistics infrastructure.
The advantages of moving cargo on rail have been more than just overcoming the unavailability of road transport. To start with, the movement on rail is quicker. The reliability offered by rail transport is also higher. From the perspective of the customers, they get most of their logistics needs fulfilled at the one-stop-shop that Maersk is offering by combining ocean and landside transportation and offering integrated logistics solutions. Moreover, in the times of pandemic, it ensures lesser human interference as a single train carries multiple containers as against one container per truck and thus per truck driver.
“At Maersk, we want to go all the way in ensuring that our customers have access to products and solutions that meet their end-to-end supply chains. What we have offered to our customers is an integrated solution that spans over landside and ocean logistics,” said Steve Felder – Managing Director Maersk South Asia. He further added, “At times when customers are hitting a road block, we are reaching out to them to offer wide range of solutions that go beyond the primaries of moving cargo, and also offering other services such as booking management and customs house brokerage.”
Apart from offering solutions for landside movement of cargo, Maersk has rolled out various digital measures that have helped its customers release payments electronically and undertake digital documentation. Maersk has also offered its customers storage options for slowing down their supply chains wherever necessary.