Shipping should be easy. You contact the shipping line, you obtain a price, agree the loading date, make the booking and load your container. Simple right? Well it used to be but not anymore.
If you are a small to medium exporter with a few containers each month, the larger shipping lines will not even talk to you. You need a champion to fight your corner. Such is the role of Freight forwarder, and that’s what we at Freight Agency Limited specialize in doing.
Covid 19 and the resulting lock down created a massive in balance of containers in the Western half of the World. Despite the fact that it’s now over two years since the pandemic, the shipping world still has not recovered. This picture shows vessels waiting for a berth at one port in the United States. The closure of many companies meant containers could not be delivered and had to be stored in the ports. Containers that in normal times would have delivered in a few days, were left at the port for weeks and in some cases months. This created massive congestion and severe space shortages at all major ports.
The below picture is just one port in the U.S.A. but it’s the same situation at almost all the major ports in the United States and Europe.
With so many vessels at anchor the door to door transit times are much longer than pre pandemic days. A recent U.S. report looking at transit times stated that in some cases the increase is as much as 98%, leading to a severe shortage of equipment for export shipments and export vessel space.
The result is carriers suspending sailings and reducing the ports called at on certain routes, allowing them to drive up the rates to their major clients. This leaves only a limited number of spaces for the smaller shippers which lines effectively auction on a vessel by vessel basis under the spot rate system. They also penalise any cancellation or changes to a booking made under this rating system with a severe financial penalty to ensure they maximise revenue.
So what does this mean for a small to medium exporter who wants to ship a few containers each month. Firstly shipping lines are unlikely to deal with you directly but even if they do, you will only be left with a limited options. What you need is someone who can negotiate on your behalf. Someone who can fight for your booking and get you what you need when you need it, and guide you through the complicated export process. After all if you can’t ship your goods to your customers they are not going to remain customers for very long.