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What does Victoria’s State of Disaster mean for supply chains?

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has announced operational changes to supply chain industries under the state’s stage four restrictions. Warehouse and distribution centres in Melbourne will have to reduce their workforce, adhere to additional PPE requirements and be subject to routine COVID-19 testing.

During a press conference on Monday August 3, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed he had discussions with the commonwealth about the certainty of industries involved in the state’s supply chains, acknowledging the lockdown effect across regional, national and global supply chains.

“Whether it’s our food production, waste collection or supply chain logistics we need some things to continue – but they’ve got do so safely,” Andrews said in a statement on Monday.

Andrews declared a State of Disaster with Melbourne facing additional restrictions under stage 4 COVID-19 lockdown, with stage 3 for the rest of Victoria on Sunday August 2.

Supermarkets, grocery stores, bottle shops, pharmacies, and post offices will continue to remain open for business under Victoria’s stage 4 lockdown restrictions covering metropolitan Melbourne from Sunday 2 August and until Sunday 13 September.

Retail will close under stage four restrictions however retail stores will be permitted to operate contactless ‘click and collect’ and delivery services with strict safety protocols in place.

Supermarket giant Woolworths will covert three Victorian stores into online delivery hubs under the new Stage 4 restrictions.

Warehousing and distribution centres in Melbourne will be limited to no more than two-thirds the normal workforce allowed onsite at any one time.

“Some parcels might not come as quickly, there is a very large degree of automation in these (distribution centres) places,” Andrews told media on Monday.

WAREHOUSING AND DISTRIBUTION CENTRES

Due to ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks across manufacturing and distribution centres in Victoria, Andrews announced that warehousing and distribution centres will operate under “significantly different conditions”.

Mandated reductions will apply to the number of workers onsite in a industrial workplace.

“In industries that can’t close, but where we’ve seen a number of cases or emerging new risks, we’ll be making some big changes to make these workplaces safer – for workers and for their families,” Andrews stated.

Warehousing and distribution centres in Melbourne will be limited to no more than two-thirds the normal workforce allowed onsite at any one time.

“To give one example, workers in abattoirs will be kitted out in full PPE – gowns, masks and shields – more akin to what a nurse would wear. They’ll also be subject to routine testing,” Andrews said in a statement.

All current open businesses and services will have until 11:59pm Friday 7 August to enact a COVIDSafe plan focused on safety, prevention and response in the event that coronavirus is linked to the workplace.

RETAIL

Industries where onsite operations will have to cease for the next six weeks including retail and administration.

Retail stores will be permitted to operate contactless ‘click and collect’ and delivery services with strict safety protocols in place, and hardware stores can remain open onsite, but for tradespeople only.

“These businesses will all need to close by 11:59pm Wednesday 5 August, unless they have specific circumstances that mean they need longer to shutdown safely,” Andrews said in a statement.

“As always, this work will be done in consultation with industry and with unions. And for those businesses and industries that fall into grey areas when it comes to their operation, the dedicated Industry Coordination Centre within the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions will consider their case.”

Paul Zahra, Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO said the ARA has advocated strongly for online trade and distribution and for those with national distribution centres within the state to be allowed to operate.

“We are very pleased the provisions announced today will allow for some of this to occur,” he said.

“Allowing online deliveries to continue will mean customers can source their important needs from retailers with an online presence. This will help omnichannel retailers cushion the losses from the closure of physical stores and ensure that customers can continue to access their everyday needs,

“Victoria is the freight and logistics capital of Australia, today’s decisions will also allow the ongoing supply of goods to the rest of Australia and allow for overseas exports.”

FREIGHT AND TRANSPORT DURING BORDER CLOSURES

Advice from the Department of Health and Human Services recognises the importance of public transport and freight and logistics as essential services to the Victorian community.

“The Department is also working closely with the ports, freight and logistics sector as an essential service to make sure essential supplies get to where they need to go,” The Victorian Department of Transport said in a statement.

New South Wales has temporarily shut its border with Victoria to help slow the spread of coronavirus, however as essential travellers, road and rail freight services are still able to cross interstate borders.

Heavy vehicles are able to pass time-based curfew “no trucks” signs when they are making deliveries of food or personal hygiene products to retail outlets for six months. Heavy vehicles can also remain in loading zones for the time required to make these deliveries.

Industry operators are asked to ensure adhere to the health and safety protocols to protect their workforces and the public.

INDUSTRY SUPPORTS NATIONAL SUPPLY CHAIN PRIORITY

In his press conference on Sunday August 2, Premier Daniel Andrews was right to emphasise the complexity of national supply chains and that Melbourne has the biggest container port in Australia, in response to questions about further work restrictions that would be introduced.

“The Premier clearly gets that the nation cannot afford to shut down because of what’s happening in Victoria,” Peter Anderson, The Victorian Transport Association CEO said.

“What we don’t want to see is a run on supermarkets over the next few days before the new restrictions come into effect because it is completely unnecessary. Distribution centres have ample supplies to maintain consumer demand so there is no need for panic buying like we saw earlier in the year when the pandemic first hit.”

The VTA is also continuing its dialogue with state and Commonwealth authorities about the unworkable requirement for heavy vehicle drivers to have a COVID-19 test every seven days as a condition for crossing the NSW and SA borders.

The Victorian Government has indicated it will be making announcements with further details on how restrictions will operate and impact workplaces in the coming days.

The Australian Logistics Council is in continuing discussions with the Victorian Government about the changed warehousing and distribution centres operations under the new restrictions.

“The freight transport and logistics industry will be able to continue operating to support the distribution of essential items to communities, and to support the supply chain needs of those businesses which are able to remain open,” Kirk Coningham OAM, ALC CEO said in a statement on Monday.

Paul Zalai, Director and Co-Founder Freight & Trade Alliance said in his correspondence to National COVID-19 Coordination Commission on 27 March 2020, that the move into stage 4 restrictions cannot come at the cost of impacting on international trade and logistics services.

FTA and the Australian Peak Shippers Association (APSA) have written to Premier Andrews outlining the need for business continuity for our sector of commerce.

“While we appreciate the difficult situation that Victoria is now facing and the need to further restrict social movement, it is essential that the operations maintain business continuity to keep filling our shelves and making last-mile deliveries to homes,” Paul wrote in an email to Andrews.

He noted that in an environment whereby the policy intent is for the majority of our population to self isolate, “last-mile” deliveries by carriers and Australia Post, facilitated through ecommerce, will play an essential role.

“To ensure that freight and logistics can continue to operate effectively, all steps along the supply chain need to remain operational.”

 

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