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aws试用账号(www.2km.me)_Insight - More shipping chaos as Omicron forces workers to quit

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Logistics issue: A driver preparing to fill his haulage truck with fuel at a service station near Thurrock, UK. Covid-19 and Brexit have created a perfect storm of unemployment and skills shortages. — Bloomberg

FROM seafarers refusing to get back on ships to truck drivers whose concern over Covid-related border closures trumps the lure of higher pay, the transport industry is bracing for another roller coaster year of supply-chain disruptions.

As Omicron infections surge and governments tighten restrictions, logistics companies around the world, from global giants to small businesses, can’t find enough employees.

According to the International Road Transport Union, around one-fifth of all professional truck driving jobs are unfilled, despite many employers offering increased wages. Some pockets of shipping are also sounding the warning bell about future hiring prospects.

“Next year is shaping up to be another one of severe disruption, under supply and extreme cost for cargo owners,” said Simon Heaney, an analyst at maritime research consultancy Drewry.

“The virus is once again showing it’s in charge,” he said, predicting another 12 months of stretched labour and healthcare-related red tape.

As the mutated Omicron variant takes hold, workers who deliver goods on ships and trucks are shouldering the brunt of a supply chain infrastructure still mired in chaos.

Faced with long weeks of quarantine combined with the precarious nature of crossing borders and fears of getting sick, some people are refusing contracts while others are looking for work elsewhere, companies say.

In Romania, many truck drivers don’t want to accept long-haul jobs into other parts of Europe, stung by last year’s 48km traffic jams and waits of up to 18 hours at European Union borders.

Countries where infections are surging are particularly problematic, according to Alex Constantinescu, CEO of Alex International Transport 94 SRL, which operates 130 trucks that deliver pharmaceutical and food products throughout the continent.

Already faced with a driver shortage before the pandemic, the trucking industry’s labour crisis has become more acute, he said.

The company has had to raise wages by about 30% over the past three years.

“Long hours on the road, sleeping in the cab and now not knowing if the people you interact with have the virus – truck driving isn’t very attractive anymore,” said Constantinescu, who founded the company 27 years ago.

“I look behind me and I can’t see any new generation of drivers. The pandemic has made this work very unattractive.”

In the UK, the ranks of heavy goods vehicle drivers slumped by 23%, or around 72,000 people, in the second quarter compared to 2019, according to data from Logistics UK.

In China, it’s the fear of draconian quarantines due to the government’s Covid-zero strategy keeping drivers away. Just last week the entire western city of Xi’an, population 13 million, went into a snap lockdown after 127 cases.

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