Cargo is shipped across the world to fuel global businesses and commerce, with 90% of traded goods carried by sea. Maritime trade volumes are predicted to triple by 2050. As such, ocean forwarding provides the main transport routes for global trade. But, with this amount of responsibility comes opportunities and challenges.
Delays are an unavoidable aspect of supply chain management and logistics, but how can freight forwarders help their customers plan accordingly against these events and minimize exceptions?
Both port processes and the actual sailing can be impacted by weather. Ocean vessels faced with extreme weather can resultedly transport goods slower against waves/currents, be forced to reroute around events, and have their departures delayed.
“We believe that the combined effects of weather account for around 80% of the effects on vessel performance, whereas other factors make up the remaining 20%. While the 20% remains important and can create important marginal gains, the impact of weather significantly outweighs them but is often sidelined or ignored,” said Stuart Nicholls, CEO of StratumFive (a voyage informatics platform).
Operations can stop or slow in the ports when conditions are too stormy or icy. Equipment and personnel at ports can be impacted while trying to manage the loading/unloading of ocean vessels in severe weather. High winds can halt the usage of cranes, while trucks involved in origin and destination port transport of goods can face delays as a result of flooding, extreme winds, icy roads, and other weather conditions that negatively impact roads.
Weather is a factor that can’t be ignored when managing the forwarding of goods by ocean. Forwarders should establish frequent communication and transparency with their customers to help minimize weather impacts. Providing a platform for customer access to live tracking of orders, online messaging to your team, and exception notifications will give them a clearer insight into when delays have occurred while giving your team more time to strategize solutions instead of fielding incoming calls. Historical data should also be used by your team to identify commonly affected areas. Then, that information should be shared with customers in advance when they are booking through locations or times of the year that see heightened weather delays.
Rather than calling or emailing to ask where their cargo is, your shippers can log in and access this information on their own, anytime, day or night with Logixboard’s Live Vessel Tracking!
The effects of congestion are often felt by ocean forwarding. Whether weather, workforce, or no external cause out of the ordinary, ocean vessels often wait outside ports for their turn to dock. If your customer’s shipment vessel is waiting to dock at port, then the delays are felt on the receiving end. But, that congestion also brings delays for shipments waiting to fill those vessels back up once they have been emptied at the docks.
Congestion also impacts the timeliness of trucks looking to pick up at the destination port. Traffic from trucks picking up their loads, waiting for late loads, or rushing to get loads that have come in earlier than expected can fill the port – leading to delays for all parties if the traffic time is not planned in their scheduling.
Port congestion has not only been the biggest issue for China and the US, but also plagues the scheduling of ocean forwarding worldwide. Reuters reports that “delays in shipments from China to Europe are subsequently causing shortages of containers to take European goods to the US East Coast.” A domino effect of delays are felt from congestion in ocean forwarding because of interlinking routes, carriers, and forwarders.
Your team can implement software that includes customer accessible analytics and exception data to create averages for estimates on how long ships wait in certain port bays, how long they take to unload, and averages for how long trucks could wait when picking up. You can help your customers make data-informed strategies for estimated arrival times and corresponding pickup scheduling.
With Customs, the risk of delay is always present. You can never predict if a shipment will face a custom inspection at the origin port or destination port. Incorrect document filing and random searches by Customs can lead to inspections and holds that throw off your customer’s arrival times.
This challenge can be met by forwarders using historical analytics to inform customers of where you have seen patterns of frequent customs delays or what types of shipments usually receive more delays in general. You can better inform their supply chain scheduling and predicted timelines.
Providing your customers with an end-to-end visibility solution will create a single source of truth that minimizes the negative impact of customs delays. Like the weather, you cannot always predict how your shipment will be hit by Customs. Implement a software with automatic updates when roadbumps are hit. This will promptly inform customers and any other relevant people involved in the shipment journey.
Strikes & Labor Issues
Strikes and other labor shortages across different nations may also cause delays to a shipment traveling by sea. No matter the cause of the strike, a depletion of workforce can have a ripple effect across an ocean shipment’s journey. Office Clerical Unit workers at the Port of Long Beach and Los Angeles conducted a strike in 2012 that shut down 10 of the 14 total (combined between the two ports) ports for eight days. “Port officials at the Port of Long Beach estimated that for each day of the strike, the movement of $650 million worth of goods was halted,” stated the United States Department of Transportation – Federal Highway Administration website.
Whether from strikes, sickness, vacations, or the distancing impacts from the recent pandemic, the loss of workers can impact the efficiency of these operations in big ways. The best way forwarders can help their shippers with delays revolving around workforce is by being on top of news on strikes, on shortages, and by providing self-serve visibility to their customers to also watch their shipments throughout the journey for peace of mind. Delays can be managed, but the level of impact on a supply chain will come down to how much time it takes for shippers/BCOs to be informed of changes and make resulting decisions.
Offering ocean forwarding options for your customers will place you in direct competition with the many other forwarding businesses looking to differentiate themselves to shippers. Your team must come into that arena with strategies and digital solutions to help your customers get the best experience from whatever mode of transportation they need for their shipment. Successfully providing reliability and transparency to shippers during a process that often has many surprises in scheduling/timelines will make you invaluable to your customers. Learn more about the in-depth visibility that Automated Container Tracking by Logixboard can give your team and customers to face any challenges throughout a shipment journey.