Dubai Halts Air-Cargo Imports Amid Supply-Chain Snags

Date: Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Dubai’s main cargo handler said it would stop accepting most imports of airfreight arriving at the emirate’s main airport as it rushes to reduce a backlog that has snarled processing and delivery of goods across the United Arab Emirates.

The halt affects cargo destined for U.A.E. destinations only, but represents another big local transportation bottleneck in a world filling up with them.

In the U.S., the White House said earlier this week the Port of Los Angeles would start operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to clear logjams there. That followed a similar move last month by the Port of Long Beach.

The U.K. has suffered weeks of long gasoline lines and closed filling stations due to a lack of fuel-tanker truck drivers. IKEA, the furniture giant, said this week 10% of its products in the U.K. aren’t available on store shelves because of an inability to get them from warehouses to retail outlets.

IKEA said the U.K. wasn’t an isolated market, and that it was experiencing similar-scale problems with transportation and product availability around the world. Trucking firms across the U.S. have struggled to find workers, too.

Businesses rushing to recover and restock as pandemic restrictions ease have put extreme pressure on supply chains around the world. Labor shortages and strong demand for goods, as well as soaring prices for many raw materials, have made matters worse.

The strain has been especially pronounced in the flow of goods aboard ships. The cost of sending goods by sea has soared, particularly ahead of the end-of-year holidays. That has many shippers shifting to airfreight.

Shankar Subramoniam, director of the Dubai-based National Association of Freight and Logistics, a trade body, said unexpected volumes of air cargo had arrived in Dubai in recent days because forwarders were switching from sea freight. The halt in new cargo in Dubai would mean delays for some goods entering the U.A.E. and then moving on road across the Gulf, but the impact would be minimal, he said.

“It’s just a surge of demand because of the global situation of sea freight,” he said.

Dubai National Air Travel Agency, or Dnata, serves 159 airlines shipping cargo across the world and handles about 7,300 tons of cargo each day, according to the handler’s website.

In a letter to clients, Dnata said that once it clears its backlog it intends to “start afresh with newly onboarded, trained, additional manpower.”

Dnata, a state-controlled ground handler, said the restrictions will be in place starting next Tuesday and will affect the transit of cargo from Dubai to other cities within the U.A.E., including Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Specific categories will be exempt from the ban including some perishable and pharmaceutical products.

“We are currently working around the clock to clear the backlog of unprocessed cargo at Dubai International Airport, caused by extraordinarily high volumes of inbound cargo to Dubai, and will endeavor to resume normal operations at the earliest,” Dnata said in the statement.

The company is offering discounts to freight forwarders until Oct. 24 to help expedite shipment of the current backlog and has extended its pickup slots to allow shipments to be collected from the airport through the night, according to the letter.

A spokeswoman for Emirates SkyCargo—Emirates Group’s cargo airline—said its operations weren’t affected by the backlogs being worked through at its sister company and that it was continuing to take new cargo bookings for shipments across the globe.


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