Container shipping lines say they are moving from a supply shock in China to a demand shock as Western countries lock down their economies to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Ocean Network Express Chief Executive Jeremy Nixon tells the WSJ Logistics Report’s Costas Paris the Japanese container line is bracing for a second wave of disruption, one that could strand containers on ships and ports as importers in Europe and the U.S. and Asia cancel orders and rattling operations at ports and inland logistics companies. Container ship operators canceled more than half their sailings through China as coronavirus shutdowns hit the country last month, and more sailings could be dropped as carriers try to maintain shipping rates and conserve cash. Mr. Nixon says lessons learned from watching China’s ports in February, along with automation at terminals, should help Western ports sidestep the most significant disruptions.

There’s no shortage of jobs in logistics even as big parts of the American economy go quiet. From cleaning products suppliers to food-delivery operators, companies are looking to add big numbers of workers in warehousing and distribution, the WSJ’S Chip Cutter reports, in a sign of how the economy is transforming under the coronavirus cloud. The shift is being led by some of the biggest corporate names, with Inc. saying it plans to add 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers and Walmart Inc. looking to fill 100,000 jobs in stores and fulfillment centers. Smaller operators are joining in. Blue Apron Holdings Inc. had been foundering but the meal-kit provider wants to fill 300 positions at its fulfillment centers in Linden, N.J., and Richmond, Calif., and the company is slimming down its menu to maintain the pace of its supply chain under surging demand.

Suppliers of medical gases are racing to match their supply chains to the growing demand for the purified oxygen needed to treat the coronavirus. France-based Air Liquide SA and Air Products & Chemicals Inc. of Allentown, Pa., are exploring ways to ensure supplies remain sufficient as demand soars, the WSJ’s James R. Hagerty reports. Most of the anxiety over respiratory treatment during the pandemic has centered on a shortage of ventilators. But the devices rely on purified medical oxygen, and supplying the gas may prove complicated as demand grows in hard-hit areas. Air Liquide says it has “the logistics in place” for world-wide distribution, while Air Products says it is building up inventory where it can around the world. Oxygen is delivered in bulk, liquid form to hospitals and requires special handling, Air Products is helping train military drivers in the U.K. to deliver oxygen in case that becomes necessary.


By Paul Page
March 27, 2020 8:21 am ET