Thursday, November 24, 2011

Container Shipping Lines Must Adapt to Needs of Conventional Ocean Freight

An Industry View from Freight Forwarder and Project Cargo Specialists
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – As certain sectors of the freight and logistics market contract it is seen increasingly necessary for ocean carriers to adopt a more flexible attitude in order to collate as much suitable cargo as they can in order to maximise revenue. In an interview Neel Ratti of Manchester based freight forwarders and project cargo specialists Tuscor Lloyds speaks out with his views on how the container shipping lines are seeking new and innovative ways to handle shipments outside their usual range.

“In the current market, container lines are looking to fill slots and gain revenue. An obvious statement, but what is not so obvious is the growth of break bulk acceptance on this type of service. Conventional cargo has become very popular with the container operators in recent years. A great number of slots can be filled easily, returning high revenue and profits. Better training and expertise is required however to improve operations and make this an attractive option for this lucrative sector of the industry.

“Outsized, heavy and abnormal cargo would normally be booked as conventional shipments. Often the vessels are geared and properly configured to receive consignments of various types and sizes. It is widely acknowledged however that conventional vessels are inconsistent in terms of schedules and transit times. They often omit port calls and large volume bookings are required to ensure a measure of reliability.

“Container lines provide a highly attractive alternative, with their regular as clockwork sailings (by comparison), wider coverage of port calls and faster sailing times. Container vessels, with their tight schedules, require a slick and efficient port operation in order to off-load. The ports are now set up for this, with equipment and cables on hand to adapt gantry cranes and even mobile heavy duty cranes available to execute heavy and awkward lifts. This provides a good substitute for the conventional vessel’s gears and reduces handling time and risk to the cargo.

“Whilst the ports have the expertise on the ground, the process is all too often scuppered by a lack of operational knowledge in the office. Expertise is required to make the whole process work and the customer needs to feel confident the job is being done correctly. Often the shipper will not even get to a quotation so will assume that break bulk cannot be carried, but it can be as simple as speaking to the right person within the liner organisation to assist with the enquiry.

“If the container lines are really serious about becoming a substitute to conventional services then they need to train their office staff to better handle the enquiries. For container lines to become an attractive alternative to a different type of shipper the industry generally needs to wise up. There are far too few lines capable of handling conventional cargo yet far too many who claim a stake in the market.”