Pandemics, geopolitical conflicts, earthquakes, droughts. It’s fair to say the world hasn’t been short of black swan events in recent years.

The ongoing situation in the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden is, of course, the latest case in point. Approximately 12% of global trade (USD958 billion) passes through the Red Sea every year, but already, USD200 billion worth of cargo has been diverted away from the area, with some market analysts predicting that it could go on for another six to 12 months.

What’s more, it doesn’t just feel like these events are happening more regularly, they actually are. According to Resilinc, there was a total of 16,103 supply chain disruptions across all industries in 2023, a 5% year-on-year increase. The long and short of it is that black swan events are happening more often, and the consequences are becoming more severe.

The good news, however, is that there are solutions. In this blog, we look at one of those – air freight. Here’s how it can help you tackle black swan events and build supply chain resilience.

Adding flexibility to your supply chain illustration

Adding flexibility to your supply chain

One of the fundamental problems with black swan events is that you never know when they’re going to strike. Unpredictability is part of their nature. That means you need to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances, all year round. Airfreight gives you this flexibility. It gives you a plan B when plan A won’t work.

Take the Red Sea situation as an example. Shippers are currently avoiding the Suez Canal and rerouting shipments around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope and then up the west side of the continent into Europe. That adds at least 10 days to the journey. 

Whereas, with airfreight, you’ve a lot more choice. You can fly to Paris or Krakow or Berlin, for example. With more options, and more direct routes, you can quickly pivot and get your stock to where it needs to be.

Front shot of Maersk cargo plane

Finding the capacity to get going

Another thing to consider is that when a black swan event happens, you won’t be the only business affected. The competition for logistics solutions increases, making it harder to secure transport, especially if you’re shipping from a remote location.

During the pandemic, for instance, there were thousands of backlogs as demand intensified and freight rates skyrocketed. At the peak of which, in September 2021, a 40ft shipping container cost roughly USD10,400 – nearly four times as much as in January 2024 (USD2,600).

The point here is that, in the face of disruption, capacity becomes a huge challenge. But less so with air freight – according to Accenture, global air cargo capacity is currently up 6% against the same period in 2019. Compared to other modes of transport, there’s often more capacity available to secure a booking, giving you the reliability you need to beat disruption.

Male. female and a container illustration

Getting the speed to get back on schedule

Finally, when a black swan event happens and your transport is delayed or cancelled, it’s pretty obvious that you’re going to have to play catch up.

Here’s where airfreight can make the difference. As the fastest mode of transport, it gives you the speed to make up for lost time.

Let’s put this into context. Transit times for an ocean freight shipment between China and Europe typically take between 30 and 45 days, whereas airfreight typically takes less than five days.

 

That’s more than a month’s difference. So, if you’re about to launch a new product and a supply chain disruption occurs, air freight offers you the speed to make sure the launch happens as planned.

Crisis? What crisis?

Whatever your industry, black swan events are a mammoth logistics challenge. Not only are they unpredictable, but they’re happening more frequently, creating more threats to your supply chain, extending delivery timelines, increasing costs, and derailing entire business strategies.

When they strike, it’s essential that you have a crisis management plan at your disposal. One that puts you back in control of the situation. By integrating airfreight into your supply chain setup, you can gain the flexibility, reliability and speed you need to avert any crisis.

Maersk solutions illustration

To talk to us about how Maersk Air Freight can help your business:

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