We are in the dark on what living with COVID-19 will look like for the supply chain industry and we need government direction now before the small outbreaks occurring at port terminals become far more common and devastating for the Australian people and economy.
We need Health Departments to work with us on developing a framework for managing outbreaks in supply chain workforces while keeping operations moving. As part of preparing that framework, Ports Australia recommends Health consider whether fully vaccinated staff can continue coming to work after an outbreak occurs and consider the use of rapid antigen testing on site.
This framework will need to be road-tested and Ports Australia urges authorities begin holding desktop exercises with industry which replicate outbreak scenarios and how the framework manages those situations.
The answer should not be shutting down a supply chain asset when COVID is detected, this only creates devastating ripple effects throughout the supply chain which are eventually felt by the consumer in the form of increased costs, delays, or the inability to find the goods they need on supermarket shelves.
We’ve just seen the Western Australian Government mandate vaccinations for “at-risk” port workers which has provided certainty for that state’s supply chain industry. The question is now whether other jurisdictions will follow suit rather than leaving it up to business.
Ports Australia will always support the Health advice, however, the question of mandatory vaccination is irrelevant when workers – regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not – are being forced into quarantine isolation after coming into contact with a COVID case. If Health advice deems vaccines are not mandated, then where is the incentive for a worker to go and get vaccinated if it will not safeguard their ability to work?
The incurred costs of a major container terminal shutting operations for one day are in the many millions of dollars, costs which only compound the longer the delays persist and are inevitably worn by the Australian people.
We cannot see the resilience of the supply chain throughout the pandemic undone by a lack of planning especially as we head towards the first Christmas season out of COVID.
Written by Ports Australia’s CEO, Mike Gallacher
Media: Josh Appleton – E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ports Australia is the peak industry body representing port authorities and corporations, both publicly and privately owned, at the national level.