As the “Coronavirus Curve” is flattening the Freight Transport Association Ireland (FTAI) insist that we all must continue to adhere to the Government guidelines. However, hope is on the horizon as the recently established “National Logistics Forum” gets into action, planning away out of this crisis.
Commentary and opinion from Aidan Flynn, General Manager, FTAI: “As we move into the sixth week of mobility restrictions, we are buoyed that the measures introduced seem to have been effective. The curve is flattening but we are reminded by the Chief Medical Officer Dr. Holahan and the Minister for Health Simon Harris TD., that we must continue to adhere to the guidelines and to ‘Stay home’ to ‘Stay safe’. The next benchmarked review date for the current restrictions is the 5 May, and we are now beginning to consider how life can get back to normal. Our reference for this will come from the health experts and political guidance that will present a roadmap to recovery.
The Freight Transport Association Ireland (FTAI) was invited to participate in the recently established ‘National Logistics Forum’ whose purpose is to facilitate structured discussion regarding Logistics and Transport issues resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. This Forum brings together key stakeholders, industry representatives and experts in logistics to develop a collaborative perspective on the issues facing the mobility of goods and services but also a medium to develop a road map to recovery. Forums like this need to remain focused and clear objectives need to be defined. Chaired by the Charted Institute of Transport & Logistics (CILT) this Forum offers a great opportunity to demonstrate industry collaboration that puts forward the interests of the logistics sector (across all modes) in a co-ordinated and meaningful way. For our part we expect the following:
- Identify critical issues impacting on the sustainability of all businesses in the freight distribution and logistics sector during this crisis.
- Supports required in short to medium term.
- Identify issues impacting international transport and import and export activity.
- Contribute and influence the road map to opening the market
- Develop trust within the group that can ensure the longevity of the Forum to deal with other issues such as Brexit in the future
The Irish people have been incredible in our dedication to supporting the advice to stay at home. Information and how it is communicated is going to be important in our understanding and compliance with the next phase(s) of the crisis. It is expected that when the country starts getting back to normal it will be on a phased basis. The European Union Commission in consultation with the European Council has put forward a European roadmap towards lifting coronavirus containment measures. The Irish authorities will be looking to guidance like this when determining the approach Ireland is to take. The key points from the European roadmap are:
- Timing is essential: A gradual rollback of confinement measures will unavoidably lead to an increase in new cases of infection with the coronavirus.
- A European approach based on common principles. Even though the situation differs drastically between Member States, it is essential to operate under a common approach.
- Accompanying measures to phase-out confinement. Successfully lifting confinement measures requires a policy-mix of accompanying measures that are relevant for all Member States. The EU is taking steps to support all of them.
- Next Steps – Action will be gradual; General measures should progressively become targeted; The most vulnerable groups should be protected for a longer time; Safe, targeted alternatives should replace existing general prohibitive measures; The lifting of measures should start with those with a local impact and gradually extended to measures with a broader geographic coverage, taking into account national specificities; A phased approach to opening internal and external borders to allow for the flow of essential workers and goods.
Because of the situation we find ourselves in and as the demand for international trade wanes we must therefore ensure that the infrastructure and the services normally so important to support the logistics industry remain in place, that they remain healthy and survive this crisis. As an island we must have the routes to market necessary to support our rehabilitation. The FTAI is looking for Government to support the freight distribution and logistics sustainability. If one link in the supply chain is compromised it will create an additional burden when we are looking to restart the economy. There must be viable haulage businesses, shipping companies with links to Britain and continental Europe and beyond to support import and export activity, that can facilitate the free flow of food, agricultural products, component parts and other essential goods that our economy is reliant on. We are faced with a changing Supply Chain environment that will have a direct impact on the just in time model of logistics and it is imperative that we support our most vulnerable businesses in this time of need.
On a final point, Brexit has not gone away! We will be in recovery from COVID-19 when we will immediately have to deal with a new trading environment with the UK. Moving from the current crisis to a potential ‘No Deal Brexit’ would be like jumping from the ‘pan into the fire’. We need an extension to the current Brexit transition and this needs to be agreed by the UK and the EU as soon as possible to provide some certainty to industry. The freight distribution and logistics sector is resilient, but we need Government support with a clear roadmap to recovery.”