The global supply chain and the ships, vessels, and people behind the scenes are truly impressive. Think about it: 2-million seafarers, millions more on the docks, in the warehouses, driving the trucks and the administrative staff behind it all – Victor Restis in among them. As President of Enterprises Shipping & Trading S.A., he oversees nearly every aspect of his global shipping enterprise. I am in awe of people with this level of leadership and ability to see the minutia of every single touchpoint along a massive, global supply chain. Fred Smith of FedEx, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and other high-profile executives running seemingly impossible logistics are mind-boggling.
With the level of importance to the survival of people across the globe, international shipping doesn’t nearly get the credit it rightfully deserves. And to think of the thousands of touchpoints that could fail, causing clogs in the system sends shivers down my spine. Think of it, a mass disruption to the global supply chain would create havoc as we’ve never seen before. The article points out that the most valuable asset in a functioning supply chain is human resources. So, when COVID-19 sent many people home, closed down businesses, and made people sick, the threat to international shipping became extremely real. It’s the people behind the machines that make this system function.
The article discusses quick decision making that leads to further protections of shipping’s prized resource and allows the system to keep moving strong. I assume there was a “next man up” mentality where if somebody fell ill to COVID-19, there was another ready to jump in and take the helm. Or, more likely, is that others jumped in to not only do their jobs but to fill the gaps of others who were taken out by the virus. Either scenario is tough to consider, given the nature and physical requirements of the shipping industry. I don’t think this is a cushy job. It is physically and mentally demanding. Seafarers are always from their homes and families for extended periods and are out at sea for weeks (somebody has to save Tom Hanks).
I would love to have been a fly on the wall of the International Maritime Employer’s Council when COVID-19 hit the fan. It must have been a giant thinktank faced with an invisible enemy that was disrupted across the globe. Though people didn’t think about it, I bet the executives were concerned about how the world would react if food and supplies couldn’t be shipped, not just on time, but not at all.
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