Here’s How the Chemical Industry is Responding to the Coronavirus Crisis

As the world continues to react to the sudden and rapid spread of the coronavirus and the associated COVID-19 disease, the levels of uncertainty are growing every day. Here in the UK, we are coming to the end of our third week in lockdown and it seems unlikely the restrictions will be lifted anytime soon.

Around the world there have been, at the time of writing, 1,703,147 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection. Of these 377,273 have made a full recovery and 102,846 have sadly lost their lives. Of the remaining 1,223,028 active cases, 1,173,108 are considered to be in mild condition and 49,920 in serious or critical condition.

With so much at stake there is a responsibility for global industry to play its role in, not only restricting the spread of the virus as much as possible, but also making sure that critical supply chains remain open and moving as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Chemical Logistics

China recently reported its first day with zero coronavirus deaths and Wuhan – where the outbreak is thought to have originated – has opened to in and outbound traffic once again. However, drive to get the country back to work is taking longer than expected and is having a significant effect on logistical operations in the region.

Global shipping and regional multimodal supply chains are having to absorb and deal effectively with, first, the knock-on impact of the hopefully successful containment of the virus outbreak in China and. second, local containment measures.

While the restrictions put in place by governments don’t apply to logistics companies, they are affecting the industry in periphery ways. Getting across borders is more challenging now thanks to increased checks being carried out on drivers and cargos, which is increasing shipping times and preventing some international freight altogether.

For example, a third of the global polyethylene demand emerges from China, present serious problems for getting this critical material out of that country and to where it’s needed. In fact, China currently accounts for more than half of global capacity for several product groups including the polyester chain, purified terephthalic acid (PTA), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), methanol and methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE).

While there haven’t been direct calls to shut down chemical factories as of yet, the shortage of workers, lack of drivers, and the aforementioned logistics concerns are making it more difficult for these companies to continue production and shipping and many are going to feel growing pressure to reduce output or close their doors for the duration of the crisis. This adds additional concern as many chemical supply chains are essential to the global fight against the virus – such as those brands who produce chemicals critical to vaccine development.


However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the chemical logistics industry and many producers are stepping up and going the extra mile to fight the coronavirus pandemic. As one of the biggest names in the business, DuPont is certainly doing its bit in this regard.

The US Department of Health and Human Services recently announced it has signed an agreement with DuPont to provide 450,000 of its Tyvek suits to help in the fight against the pandemic. The suits will be made in DuPont’s Hanoi, Vietnam manufacturing facility and shipped via FedEx to the US Strategic National Stockpile for distribution across the United States. The US government will also play its role by facilitating the logistics of shipping the chemicals and materials necessary to make the suits to the Vietnam facility.

“We are proud that the DuPont Safety business is working tirelessly to help those directly impacted by the virus including healthcare workers and first responders on the front line,” said DuPont. “Thousands of DuPont employees are working around the clock in all parts of the world to increase capacity of protective garments during this time of high demand. We have an experienced global manufacturing network that is fully activated and prioritizing the needs of healthcare workers in the most impacted regions combatting the Coronavirus.”

The suits consist of an N95 respirator or surgical/face mask, a face shield or protective eyewear, and gloves, and are a critical piece of personal protective equipment which will help medical professionals diagnose and treat the sufferers of this terrible disease while minimising their chances of becoming one of the infected.

Final Thoughts

The chemical logistics industry has many challenges to face during this crisis. From making sure critical components and materials get to where they are most needed, to ensuring that workers are kept safe and well, there are a lot of plates to keep spinning.

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