Tag: delays

By Mary Hanbury for Business Insider US

UK grocery giant Ocado was forced to delay or cancel thousands of orders this weekend after a fire broke at one of its London warehouses, the BBC first reported.

The company said in a statement Monday that three of its robots collided.

Thousands of robots zoom along a grid at its automated warehouses, collecting groceries and taking them to picking stations where employees pack orders. According to the BBC, this warehouse handles up to 150 000 orders a week.

As Insider’s Charlie Floyd previously reported, the grid uses an air traffic control system intended to prevent any crashes.

Ocado said the damage from the fire was limited to 1% of the grid, and that no employees were injured, but that 800 staff were evacuated.

The warehouse was closed for several days, affecting thousands of orders. The fire started on Friday, June 16, and deliveries recommenced Monday morning, Ocado said.

Customers took to Twitter to complain about the lack of clarity around delays and cancellations.

A spokesperson for Ocado did not immediately respond to requests for more details.

Customers who live in other parts of the country were also confused as to why their orders had been affected.

On Tuesday, Insider was unable to request a new delivery slot for a London address. Slots showed up for other addresses in the UK, however.


By Theo Leggett for BBC News

Disruption in the global container shipping industry shows no sign of being resolved quickly and could lead to shortages in the run-up to Christmas, say industry experts.

An outbreak of Covid-19 in Guangdong province in southern China has caused acute congestion at the region’s ports.

As a result, shipments have been delayed, exacerbating tensions within global supply chains.

And the knock-on effects could take many months to resolve.

The problems in Guangdong are just the latest in a series of severe setbacks for the industry. Shipping firms have been struggling to cope with dramatic fluctuations in demand triggered by the pandemic, as well as the consequences from the recent blockage of the Suez Canal.

The global nature of the sector, and the lack of spare capacity within it, means that problems in one region can have ripple effects around the world for several months.

Yantian International Container Terminal is one of a number of ports in the Shenzhen region, which collectively form a vital gateway for exports from the Pearl River Delta, a major Chinese centre for manufacturing and technology.

Since late May, the terminal has been operating at a fraction of its normal capacity, with operations restricted due to controlling the spread of Covid. This has led to severe congestion, with dozens of ships waiting outside the port for a berth to become available.

“One of the biggest ports in China has basically closed down for close to three weeks. They have some berths in operation, but nowhere near enough”, says Nils Haupt, communications director at the German shipping line Hapag-Lloyd.

Over the past few days, shipping lines have been diverting vessels away from Yantian to other nearby terminals in the Delta area. But, according to Mr Haupt, that has been creating its own problems.

“You can use ports like Shekhou, you can use Nansha, you can use Hong Kong; but what we’re seeing right now is that delays are piling up there as well,” he says.

The growing crisis in southern China is just the latest blow to hit the shipping industry, which has been suffering from acute disruption for more than a year.

A dramatic slowdown in the early stages of the pandemic was followed by a frenzy of activity, as customers, unable to travel or socialise in their normal ways, ordered more consumer goods.

This sudden shift in demand, from famine to feast, threw delicately balanced supply chains out of kilter. Ports in Europe and North America became clogged, with too many vessels arriving at the same time, while the supply of empty containers for new consignments dried up, because too many of them were sitting at quaysides around the world.

Then came the blockage of the Suez Canal in March. The closure of one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes delayed hundreds of ships. But when it reopened the sudden arrival of the delayed vessels triggered new congestion at European hubs such as Rotterdam and Antwerp.

UK shoppers warned of summer products shortage
The cost of the Suez Canal blockage
“We were just beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel,” says Mr Haupt. “But then unfortunately we ran into this situation in Yantian.”

Constant crisis
According to Peter Sands, chief shipping analyst at the industry organisation Bimco, the sector is used to responding to crises.

“On a global network scale, these states of emergency are a permanent situation right now,” he explains.

“But the issue with Yantian is, we need more transparency and openness from the local authorities. And we aren’t getting that, which means there is a lot of uncertainty in developing contingency plans.”

The hope within the industry is that the situation in Yantian will be resolved as rapidly as possible, although experts warn that when that happens, it will lead to a surge in shipments from the region, which could cause further bottlenecks elsewhere in the supply chain.

“Because the system is so overloaded, every time one of these things happens now, the system is already at breaking point, or past breaking point, so anything else just adds grist to the mill,” explains James Baker, containers editor at shipping industry publication, Lloyd’s List.

For this reason he expects the disruption to continue for at least another 12 months, with consumers in Europe and North America continuing to face much longer waits than normal for their goods.

Crazy Christmas
For UK retailers, this raises the real prospect of a shortage of goods ahead of the Christmas shopping period. Even under normal circumstances, they begin to acquire seasonal stocks from China months in advance, with the process beginning in the late summer.

“One of the issues at the moment, which is aiding the congestion, is the fact that everyone knows that the lead times are really slow, so retailers are booking their Christmas goods already,” says Mr Baker.

“Traditionally, the peak season for container shipping starts in the third quarter as everyone stocks up for the holiday season in the west, but this year we’re just in a permanent peak season already, and heaven knows what’s going to happen come August or September. It could get crazy. It’s very hard to tell.”

The situation could improve, he says. But, slightly tongue-in-cheek perhaps, he has some advice for consumers: “If you want to get something for your family for Christmas, start shopping now.”


Start of school year delayed

By Liam Ngobeni for IOL

Public and private schools will only reopen officially on February 15.

Addressing the media on the start of the 2021 school year, Deputy Minister of Basic Education Reginah Mhaule said the calendar for schools had been revised to move back-to-school from January 13 to January 27, and was now being moved to February 15.

After consultations on Tuesday and Wednesday with the Council of Education Ministers, the Heads of Education Departments Committee, the national School Governing Body associations, teacher unions, learner formations, principals associations, as well as the national associations representing independent schools and learners with special education needs, it was decided to delay the opening for another fortnight.

While state schools and those which follow their calendar open on February 15, when exactly private schools open depends on their term calendars. However with many having already opened, they plan to move to online teaching.

“Given the pressure experienced by the health system in the past few weeks, occasioned by increased Covid-19 infections which has led to the second wave, the Council of Education Ministers in conjunction with the National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet, has taken the decision to delay the reopening of both public and private schools,” Mhaule said.

For public schools, and private schools which follow the four term calendar, the idea is that management teams will be back at school on Monday, January 25, with teachers on Monday, February 1 and learners back on Monday, February 15.

“Schools will use the time (before learners return) to finalise outstanding matters, regarding admissions, especially the unplaced learners in certain cases.”

Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa executive director Lebogang Montjane, said that as with last year, its schools would recommend hybrid teaching and learning, like it did last year during the first wave, with private schools remaining open, but remotely.

Mhaule told the media briefing that the Council of Education Ministers took the difficult decision, having considered all factors as backed up by research and statistics, regarding the current state of the health system.

The Department of Basic Education will be working closely with all nine Provincial Education Departments, to establish the true extent of the impact of the virus, resulting from the unfortunate demise of educators, workers and leaders in the sector, especially during the December and January holidays.

The basic education sector has also felt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic during the marking of the 2020 National Senior Certificate examination scripts.

“Some of our markers have passed away, while others withdrew from marking due to fear and anxiety, but also because for some of them or their family members have tested positive.”

The department leadership will meet with provinces next week to check on the very latest regarding the state of readiness, and they will go to stakeholders for consultation on the details of the opening of schools for 2021 school year.

There has been mixed reaction. While many welcomed the decision as being in the best interests of everyone, trade union Solidarity and AfriForum condemned it.

“It is extremely short-sighted of the government to keep children out of schools for this (long) period,” said Johnell van Vollenhoven, media and liaison officer at Solidarity.

“Research from various sources has already shown that a school is, in most cases, the safest place where a child can find him- or herself during the pandemic. Not only do children receive much-needed education at school, but they are also supervised where safety measures are strictly enforced, and most children also receive their only meal for the day at school.

The consequences of this postponement are devastating for governing body appointments and other additional services that schools offer. As it is, teachers are already under pressure to catch up on backlogs that resulted from school days lost last year. It would be unreasonable to expect that further backlogs arising from the latest postponement of the school year would now also have to be addressed,” she said.

AfriForum said it plans on directing an urgent letter to the NCCC and the department to persuade them to allow schools that can prove that they adhere to Covid-19 regulations to reopen for learners on January 27, 2021, as planned.

According to Natasha Venter, Adviser for Educational Rights at AfriForum, this is in the interest of learners who have already lost a lot of school time in 2020.

“Many schools have already made the necessary arrangements to look after learners and staff’s health. It is, therefore, unfair for the Department of Education to disadvantage these schools because the department failed to intervene in ensuring that schools who were unable to implement the necessary measures are sufficiently equipped.”

“Schools have to adjust to the new normal that the virus brought about. Government’s procrastination with supplying the vaccinations and its refusal to allow other role-players to participate, as well as the possibility of even more waves of infections, mean that we will have to abide by safety regulations for a while longer – something that many schools already do successfully. This does not mean that children’s education, social development, and welfare should be neglected, however,” said Venter.


Large-scale spam outbreak causes email delay

Source: MyBroadband

Xneelo has informed users that it is experiencing a large-scale spam outbreak that is resulting in e-mail being delayed.

Many Xneelo subscribers have been experiencing delays when sending emails to external recipients.

Some users have also received messages that the IP address they are attempting to send the email from is on the Spamhaus blacklist.

“You will receive the following error when attempting to send an email: 550 Spamhaus (-53): retry time not reached for any host,” Xneelo said.

The company said its engineers have rolled out a change that should resolve the error being encountered.

Last-minute BTS shopping has parents fuming

By Kgomotso Modise for EWN

Many parents said that they only received confirmation from the Education Department on where their children had been placed on Tuesday morning.

As parents who left their back to school shopping to the very last minute flocked to uniform and stationery shops last Tuesday afternoon, many blamed the Education Department for the situation.

Government schools reopen last Wednesday for the 2020 academic year.

The queue to get into the schoolwear shop in Booysens was lengthy, with parents streaming in. The store is the go-to shop for schools in the south.

Many of the parents said that they only received confirmation from the Education Department on where their children had been placed the morning before school started.

“I was expecting the other school to take him then he was taken by this school that I don’t like, so that’s the reason why I had to do the last minute shopping because I didn’t know which uniform to buy.”

One woman said that the last-minute changes in her family had brought her here.

“Having to move from one area to another area. I only found out that my daughter was accepted at the school at 12pm [on Tuesday].”

Some parents abandoned their bid for new school uniforms because of the long queues, saying they would try again.

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