Monday, 23 August 2010

Who you gonna call?

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I have noticed a significant shift in the market recently with many large, high volume shippers who have previously had direct deals with shipping lines gravitating back toward freight forwarders.

Shipping lines have been fighting to stay profitable and as a result are frequently changing ships, retrenching staff, dropping port calls or still have some fleet laid up resulting in lack of capacity and short shipments. The reality is that many shipping lines service levels have been faltering. I think I can say without exception every client is fed up with dealing with so called "Customer Service" centres on 1800 numbers.

So who you gonna call? Freight forwarders!

Shrewd shippers are using forwarders to help overcome these things. The forwarders are generally better positioned and resourced in meeting the needs of shippers right now and will offer a broader range of options rather than just one carrier. The range of services is usually broader too and in the volatile freight market we have had for quite a while, the forwarders are more attuned to where the deals are.

Best of all...you don't sit on hold in a phone queue waiting for ages to talk to someone and then being told "Go to www." to do that!

All for now,

Brad Skelton

The Shipping Bloke.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Far East shipping industry recovery is well underway!

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I have been travelling the last week or so in the Middle East and Far East visiting clients and shipping lines and some of my agents in these places. Recovery from the global economic downturn, particularly with shipping lines in the Far East, is now well underway with some carriers forecasting things should be back to normal by the end of the year.

An example is Singapore owned, Neptune Orient Lines(NOL). NOL is the fifth largest container carrier in the world. After reporting a US$741m loss last year NOL expects to deliver a US$70m profit for the full year this year. Furthermore all vessels that NOL laid up to ride out the downturn are now back in service and they intend to start acquiring more. Similarly an even more spectacular turnaround is being delivered by Orient Overseas International who posted a US$1.28b profit for the first half compared with a loss for the same period last year of US$232m.

Maersk Lines, the worlds largest container carrier, has forecast they expect to return to profit this year after seven terrible consecutive loss making quarters.

Most carriers I have spoken to are hoping to be able to gradually increase rates later this year by 10-15% as space contracts on their ships again.

I am really getting the sense now that the pulse of global industry is shifting to Asia with more companies focusing on this region and the extraordinary opportunities and growth that exists here. Some are even shifting their head offices from Europe and the US to the Far East. Obtaining finance from banks and doing business in general, is easier than alot of other places in the world and the economies are less credit driven.

For my industry something that punctuates this for me is that there is a challenger to the Baltic Shipping Index coming out of China that is getting more prominent. It is called the China Containerised Freight Index and provides a benchmark index for container freight rates. At the end of June it had risen to 1171 points compared with 763 a year ago.

All in all things are looking very positive again and I think we'll be back to battling for space on ships again very soon....in fact in a few tradelanes we already are.

All for now,

Brad Skelton

The Shipping Bloke