Supply Lines: Shipping crisis

Supply Lines

The Covid-19 pandemic has upended life as we knew it for the past 8 months — but one thing that's remained uninterrupted is the flow of goods transported by ships. Cargo containers, bulkers and other merchant vessels have continued to transport everything from medicines to electronics to oils. The vessels rely on more than 1.6 million seafarers globally to operate the ships — the pandemic has stranded nearly 20% of seafarers, due to closed ports and borders and cut air flights.

In conversations with Bloomberg reporters, more than 40 active seafarers on nearly as many ships described deteriorating conditions. Nearly half didn't have current contracts and some said they hadn't been paid in more than two months. Overtime pay was inconsistent, if extra hours were logged at all, according to the crew. Most haven't left their ships in months after outbreaks tied to cruise liners and merchant ships put an end to shore leave.

Bloomberg's report connects the dots to show the patchwork of businesses that benefit from a complicated and fragmented system that rewards on-time shipments over the welfare of nearly invisible workers. More than 300,000 mariners are at the mercy of employers and shifting quarantine requirements to get them home.

The seafarers interviewed by Bloomberg represented more than a dozen nationalities, working on vessels that regularly cross the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, on global shipping lines like CMA CGM, Evergreen Line and other publicly traded companies. Now there are calls for investors and topline consumer companies at the top of the global supply chain to take action and help seafarers get home.

K. Oanh Ha in Hong Kong 

Charted Territory

China's grip on the global battery market extends to almost every component within the battery. The U.S. is currently playing catch-up.

Today's Must Reads

  • TikTok tangle | Donald Trump approved Oracle's bid for the U.S. operations of TikTok "in concept." Oracle will own 12.5% of the new company, and Walmart will control 7.5%. ByteDance is seeking a $60 billion valuation for TikTok Global. Trump said the business agreed to donate $5 billion to an educational fund, but ByteDance said it first heard about the education fund payment from news reports. The deal awaits Beijing's sign-off.
  • Trade revival | South Korea's early trade data showed exports rebounding in September, buoyed by more work days and growing demand for cars and semiconductors from economies gradually reopening after coronavirus-triggered lockdowns.
  • Unreliable entities | China dismissed accusations of targeting U.S. firms as it seeks to punish foreign companies that damage its national security by adding them to a "unreliable entity list."
  • Whittling down | World Trade Organization members eliminated three candidates from the race to be the next director general of the trade body and plan to narrow the field to two final candidates in the coming weeks.
  • Doors opening | India will give greater direct access to foreign investors in its defense sector as the nation seeks to lure more capital to an economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Boosting pay | Walmart is rolling out sweeping changes to staffing in its U.S. stores just as the holiday crunch begins, bringing pay raises for some members of the U.S.'s biggest private workforce, which has been upended by Covid-19.
  • Law and border | Want to know what it's like trying to operate a small business in northern England that makes parts which are exported to EU factories amid an imminent break from the bloc? Play Bloomberg's Brexit Trade Game.

On the Bloomberg Terminal

  • U.S. on Uighurs | Bloomberg Law examines H.R. 6210, a measure that would ban goods imported from China's Xinjiang region or produced from forced labor practices.
  • Legal battles | The Trump administration's expansion of tariffs on Chinese goods has drawn a flurry of challenges from domestic importers at the U.S. Court of International Trade, with over 300 cases Thursday and Friday, more than all the cases filed in the trade court all year.
  • Use the AHOY function to track global commodities trade flows.
  • Click HERE for automated stories about supply chains.
  • See BNEF for BloombergNEF's analysis of clean energy, advanced transport, digital industry, innovative materials, and commodities.
  • Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts.

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