During the COVID-19 pandemic, the shipping industry faced various challenges. They had to deal with a shortage of drivers to meet the demands. For years, even before the pandemic started, the industry has already been facing this issue. But with the pandemic, the issue only became worse. Working as part of the delivery personnel during this time has many dangerous risks. It’s because they are facing many people every day. Thus, their exposure to COVID-19 is very high.
Fortunately, things are starting to change when 2021 began. Many pharmaceutical companies reached the finish line of the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. Many businesses are gaining traction again after months of lying dormant during the pandemic. The shipping industry is also set to experience some changes as the new year begins. These are some of the trends that would eventually define the industry.
More Reliance on and Development of Tech
It’s not surprising to say that technology has been and will continue to influence many industries, including the shipping industry. The shipping industry had to accommodate more businesses and customers. This is because of the dramatic rise in online shopping during the pandemic. So they had to get creative with technology to keep track of orders, returns, scheduling, and delivery routes.
Many businesses rely on returns software to handle the returns of products. They also turned to artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to do routine tasks for them. Such tasks may include looking after the warehouse for any suspicious activities. And they use analytics to make smart decisions about driving routes and schedules of deliveries. And they’re also investing more in cybersecurity. This is to protect their financial records, the information of their customers, and other confidential data.
The Distribution of Vaccine
The shipping industry plays a significant role in making sure that people get vaccinated against COVID-19. The pharmaceutical companies and countless researchers did a lot of the heavy-lifting already. This is during the research and development process. But the shipping industry will come into play now that the goal to distribute the vaccine.
The good thing is that the industry has been preparing for this vital role for months. It started when things were looking up in the development of the vaccine. Of course, this won’t be easy for them. They have to make sure that they can carry as many doses as they can per trip. Plus, they have to store these doses in a container that has a temperature of negative 94 degrees Fahrenheit.
Many pharmaceutical companies already made deals with various shipping companies. One of them was Pfizer. The company reported that they’ll be working exclusively with DHL, UPS Inc., and FedEx Corp for the vaccine distribution.
Further Rise of E-commerce
The shipping industry would also need to prepare for the continuous rise of e-commerce. This is apart from the vaccine distribution in all parts of the world. Even back in August 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak, the World Economic Forum predicted that e-commerce will continue to grow even after the pandemic ends. Even if people are becoming more mobile again, they found the value of online shopping. It transformed people’s shopping habits. Because of this, it’s expected that e-commerce retail sales, at a global scale, will reach $4.9 trillion in 2021.
With this expected rise in e-commerce, the demand for personnel in the shipping industry will rise as well. They’ll need more drivers, warehouse personnel, and other staff. This is to make sure that each customer will get the product that they ordered in a timely manner.
Price Hikes for Shipping Services
Because of the high demand for delivery personnel, it’s not surprising that the shipping companies reported an increase in their rates in 2021. For example, the United States Postal Service (USPS) announced that its rates will increase starting January 24, 2021. Businesses and customers will be facing increases as high as 8.2 percent, depending on the size and weight of their package.
This increase in the rates may have long-term effects on businesses and people’s shopping habits. But, for now, it’s clear that they’re still heavily reliant on shipping services.
Much like most of the industries during the COVID-19 pandemic, the shipping industry experienced many ups and downs. It struggled with the high demand for their services and the shortage of personnel. Apart from that, people in the industry also risked their lives by exposing themselves to the coronavirus every day.
2021 will bring in many changes for the shipping industry. Yes, it will still face many challenges. But there’s hope that these trends will bring in positive change for the industry.