Managing the logistics of continual change: Travel and the new normal for mining organisations
As the spread of COVID-19 has forced much of the world into lockdown, and international borders to close, there are momentous challenges being overcome every day to ensure that essential workers in the sector can get where they need to, and safely.
"Planning and managing travel to remote locations is complex under normal circumstances. Moving the right highly-specialist people to the right port or heliport requires expertise and a military-style approach to scenario planning." Gary Pearce, chief commercial officer, ATPI Mining and Resouces
1. Immediate impact
For a mining business the immediate impact on travel plans caused huge challenges to operations. Building in 14 day quarantine periods at either end of a journey, overcoming a lack of commercial flights, and working with governments around the world to ensure ever-changing border restrictions do not overturn plans for a workers hours away from arriving are just some of the measures introduced in a very short period of time.
2. Detail and delivery
Mines cannot operate without the highly trained workers on site at the right time, and so there has to be workarounds. This takes skilled people who know travel within the mining sector inside out, and have the knowledge to find multiple solutions to a huge range of potential challenges.
3. Lockdown logistics
As nations have different outbreak levels, border restrictions also vary. Someone who has travelled to a certain destination in the recent past may not be able to enter one country, and other nations have completely closed all international borders. Mining is a global sector, with some of the most diverse teams in the world. No one crew travelling together is the same nationality, and has the same recent travel history.
4. Protocols and processes
One of the challenges in this pandemic is the amount of people who test positive for the virus, and yet show no symptoms. Workers may be asymptomatic and still test positive, meaning they cannot travel and must remain in isolation. Mining cannot safely operate without a full crew compliment, and so mining businesses are having to plan ahead and have extra team members travelling as pre-emptive sickness cover.
5. Continuous change
Thinking through every possible iteration of a crew’s journey is absolutely essential to avoid huge barriers. It is a very specialist skill to navigate all the additional questions that need to be answered in order to make crew travel work today, and to pre-empt the likely points in a journey that are susceptible to change. For our specialist travel advisors, this plotting for a journey of continuous change is now part of their daily routine.
6. New normals
As an industry we have gathered significant intelligence and learnings to aid tackling the kind of global disruption that we expect to remain on the horizon for some time. But the unknowns remain the unknowns, and whilst science races to find vaccines, understand transmission patterns and the biggest risk factors, global commerce has to continue.