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FIATA - Trade Compromised without International Freight Forwarders

FIATA President Basil Pietersen looks at the role Freight Forwarders play during the present COVID19 scenario and looks forward to their future role in a changing world.

Dear Colleagues, Members, and industry friends,

One could not imagine when we commenced 2020 that four months into that new year the world would be reeling with a pandemic and all economies would be struggling with health crises at different levels of intensity. The impacts on the global community, with its interlinked trade which has driven prosperity over many decades, seem now to have exposed the fragility of that interdependence as trade falters and economies trend into recession and significant negative downturn. All of this of course impacts significantly on the FIATA community of Association Members, and their respective members, many of whom are also FIATA Individual members.

With reduced transport capability in all modes, government restrictions and lockdowns to the movement of people, closed borders, manufacturing closures and consumer demand at low levels as unemployment continues to spike, the time to recovery will not be short. Nevertheless, it is crucial to remember the crucial role of the freight forwarding industry in ensuring our global supply chains function and goods move around the world. The international trade logistics and supply chain management service industry has been deemed as essential services in all economies, and as such, the international freight forwarder with its inherent skills, knowledge and value-added services in the international movement of goods will be pivotal to economic upturn by facilitating trade across borders. This is true not only for large companies but also for SMEs which contribute important benefits to society in all economies.

Though the COVID-19 crisis has put these “Architects of Trade “under immense business and financial pressure as supply chain disruptions and the economic downturn bring client receipt defaults, abandoned goods, container imbalances and cash flow issues. FIATA and its National Association Members continue to work at all levels with governments, companies, and international bodies to support their crucial work, find innovative solutions, and seek financial stimulus.  The FIATA message at all levels has been clear and consistent: “Trade and economic recovery will be compromised without international freight forwarders”. I will ensure that FIATA continues to take this message in all forums in which it engages to ensure governments get that message as to essential services. In addition, when our attention will turn to the crucial future rebuild of the economy, I will remain committed to meeting the common need to fully implement the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Trade Facilitation.

To FIATA Members, you are not alone. FIATA is standing with you, using all existing digital means to provide timely resources which can be integrated within your own national context. In the past weeks, FIATA has been moving swiftly over the past weeks to address key issues such as force majeure, demurrage and detention costs, abandoned goods (see bottom of article) and governmental approaches towards recognising freight forwarding as an “essential service”. These and more and can be found on FIATA’s dedicated COVID-19 page and its renewed LinkedIn profile. FIATA continues to work diligently toward conveying its members' interest and to ensuring a coordinated and unified response in these unprecedented times. We encourage our members to use these resources and to promote them within your peers and national environments to ensure our supply chains can continue to function with resilience.

Though uncertainties are at their peak, freight forwarders must continue to operate and adapt to maintain the flow of cargo to ensure that essential goods can be transported around the globe. This is the genius of the freight forwarder – to be able to find innovative solutions and overcome new obstacles in a changing world. So, remain confident, look after those who are part of your community and family, and raise your voice – not only within FIATA but within your own local spheres. Together, we can overcome these new challenges and continue to conduct our crucial work.

Basil Pietersen - FIATA President

FIATA has a dedicated section of its website for COVID19 resources, which can be accessed via the link below:

Two resources of practical use by Freight Forwarders are the below recently published documents:

Left with abandoned goods: What’s next?

Invoking force majeure in the coronavirus crisis: Some practical tips

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