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Sunday, 22 November 2009

Reassuringly Expensive.

I caught up with a few good mates of mine for a few beers recently who all run their own businesses in diverse industries. I consider these blokes very business enlightened and I really enjoy drawing on their collective knowledge and experience.

We were talking about the large number of requests for tender we are getting across our desks lately, particularly since the GFC kicked it, and the pros and cons of tendering for new business versus the business that comes to you through marketing efforts or exisiting customer referrals.

While we agreed we all generally have won more tenders than we have probably lost, the time and effort invested in them is absolutely massive and sometimes makes you question the commercial sensibility of participating in the exhaustive processes that some companies want to run.

My experience suggests that decisions are driven nearly always by three factors. Namely: PRICE, PRICE and PRICE.

Sure the tender always says that quality of service, expertise, safety record blah blah blah will be prime considerations in the decision making process however when we win tenders and sit down with our new client we are usually told "Congratulations. You had the cheapest price".

It's the classic business paradox of price versus service. It is pysically impossible in most industry's to be the cheapest and also the best. The two are diametrically opposed to each other and to delivering your business it's imperative. A profit!

After about the fourth or maybe fifth beer, one of the guys said in his own business he always looks for the "Reassuringly Expensive" option ahead of the cheapest option and he would usually go with this as this is where the reliability and professionalism is usually found. I have to agree. You really do get what you pay for.

So for me even in tighter times, like my mate, I will usually go with the "Reassuringly Expensive" supplier who will be there for me in the long run with a consistently good quality product or service. Hence the reassurance I feel in making this decision.

Whether you are a builder, a lawyer or a candlestick maker....nearly all industries have become commoditised in someway so there will always be someone promising to do it cheaper and better and more willing to lose money than you to land the deal. Now with the internet and the plethora of companies trying to get noticed, "FREE" is the catch cry of the net. Where to from there? Well you don't go broke on the deals you miss out on so "Let them go" I say. These companies just won't be there at the finish line.

Do you remember the scene from the movie "Armageddon" with Bruce Willis and Steve Buscemi about the lowest bidder? If you are in the process of sending out a tender for new suppliers then I'll let the boys have the final word.
Check this YouTube clip out!




All for now.
Brad Skelton
The Shipping Bloke

Reassuringly Expensive.

I caught up with a few good mates of mine for a few beers recently who all run their own businesses in diverse industries. I consider these blokes very business enlightened and I really enjoy drawing on their collective knowledge and experience.

We were talking about the large number of requests for tender we are getting across our desks lately, particularly since the GFC kicked it, and the pros and cons of tendering for new business versus the business that comes to you through marketing efforts or exisiting customer referrals.

While we agreed we all generally have won more tenders than we have probably lost, the time and effort invested in them is absolutely massive and sometimes makes you question the commercial sensibility of participating in the exhaustive processes that some companies want to run.

My experience suggests that decisions are driven nearly always by three factors. Namely: PRICE, PRICE and PRICE.

Sure the tender always says that quality of service, expertise, safety record blah blah blah will be prime considerations in the decision making process however when we win tenders and sit down with our new client we are usually told "Congratulations. You had the cheapest price".

It's the classic business paradox of price versus service. It is pysically impossible in most industry's to be the cheapest and also the best. The two are diametrically opposed to each other and to delivering your business it's imperative. A profit!

After about the fourth or maybe fifth beer, one of the guys said in his own business he always looks for the "Reassuringly Expensive" option ahead of the cheapest option and he would usually go with this as this is where the reliability and professionalism is usually found. I have to agree. You really do get what you pay for.

So for me even in tighter times, like my mate, I will usually go with the "Reassuringly Expensive" supplier who will be there for me in the long run with a consistently good quality product or service. Hence the reassurance I feel in making this decision.

Whether you are a builder, a lawyer or a candlestick maker....nearly all industries have become commoditised in someway so there will always be someone promising to do it cheaper and better and more willing to lose money than you to land the deal. Now with the internet and the plethora of companies trying to get noticed, "FREE" is the catch cry of the net. Where to from there? Well you don't go broke on the deals you miss out on so "Let them go" I say. These companies just won't be there at the finish line.

Do you remember the scene from the movie "Armageddon" with Bruce Willis and Steve Buscemi about the lowest bidder? If you are in the process of sending out a tender for new suppliers then I'll let the boys have the final word.
Check This Out!

All for now.
Brad Skelton
The Shipping Bloke

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Some shipping trivia on plimsoll lines?


(You are getting this note because you subscribed to Brad Skelton's Blog-The Shipping Bloke)


Firstly what is the plimsoll line? It is the horizontal line and marks that you may have seen painted around the hull of the ship near the waterline. It dates back as far as 2500BC in Crete!

Why is it there? It is effectively the safe load line calculated for the ship. As more cargo is loaded on board the weight forces the hull of the vessel deeper underwater. The plimsoll line is therefore effectively the maximum point a vessel may be loaded too to ensure a safe level of buoyancy is maintained for it's voyage. If the plimsoll line can't be seen as it is underwater...then you have an overloaded ship.

There are more than one mark on ships as the depth a hull will float in water will vary depending on a range of factors such as salinity and water temperature.

The letters on the Load line marks have the following meanings:
TF – Tropical Fresh Water
F – Fresh Water
T – Tropical Seawater
S – Summer Temperate Seawater
W – Winter Temperate Seawater
WNA – Winter North Atlantic

The plimsoll line tells the master of the vessel and the vessel underwriters make sure that the ship is operating within safe working limits for seas it will sail through. In fact it is not allowed to sail if the plimsoll line is not visible.

This is why it is so important to have the most accurate cargo weights possible so that the ships planners can keep the vessel inside it's safe working limits and also trim the vessel so it floats evenly in the water.

If there is any other shipping trivia or questions you have, then drop me a note in the comments field and I'll come back to you. Thanks!

All for now,
Brad Skelton
The Shipping Bloke


Some shipping trivia on plimsoll lines?


(You are getting this note because you subscribed to Brad Skelton's Blog-The Shipping Bloke)


Firstly what is the plimsoll line? It is the horizontal line and marks that you may have seen painted around the hull of the ship near the waterline. It dates back as far as 2500BC in Crete!

Why is it there? It is effectively the safe load line calculated for the ship. As more cargo is loaded on board the weight forces the hull of the vessel deeper underwater. The plimsoll line is therefore effectively the maximum point a vessel may be loaded too to ensure a safe level of buoyancy is maintained for it's voyage. If the plimsoll line can't be seen as it is underwater...then you have an overloaded ship.

There are more than one mark on ships as the depth a hull will float in water will vary depending on a range of factors such as salinity and water temperature.

The letters on the Load line marks have the following meanings:
TF – Tropical Fresh Water
F – Fresh Water
T – Tropical Seawater
S – Summer Temperate Seawater
W – Winter Temperate Seawater
WNA – Winter North Atlantic

The plimsoll line tells the master of the vessel and the vessel underwriters make sure that the ship is operating within safe working limits for seas it will sail through. In fact it is not allowed to sail if the plimsoll line is not visible.

This is why it is so important to have the most accurate cargo weights possible so that the ships planners can keep the vessel inside it's safe working limits and also trim the vessel so it floats evenly in the water.

If there is any other shipping trivia or questions you have, then drop me a note in the comments field and I'll come back to you. Thanks!

All for now,
Brad Skelton
The Shipping Bloke


Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Dial 1800WESUCK at customer service!

(You are getting this note because you subscribed to Brad Skelton's blog-The Shipping Bloke)

The exasperation of my freight team in dealing with MEGA shipping companies and their so called "customer service" through centralised 1800 numbers and websites is getting overwhelming. It is to the point where we are actually avoiding doing business with them because it's near impossible anyway and it affects our ability to deliver the standard of service our customers are used to from us.

Here's an example from one carrier on a recent import shipment to Australia.

- We receive a computer generated email telling us the freight charges are available online at their website. What the??? If the computer can generate an email to us telling us the charges are available online then why can't the computer just email them to us in the first place? Stupid!

-So we go the website we are directed too from the email. But of course for security reasons you need to register as a user. Fair enough.

-The registration process is completed but the access doesn't come through within a few minutes as promised.

-So we call their 1800 number and say "We received an email directing us to your website but then we had to register and we still don't have access". Then we are told that they have no IT people working in Australia anymore (apparently this is run from overseas now because labor is cheaper) and we are given an email address to send a message to their IT dept to get them to complete the registration process that they should have done by now anyway. Before sending this message we ask the customer service operator on the phone if they have the charges and if they could just give them to us over the phone or email them to us directly. The operator says she does have them but she can't do this anymore and we have to use their website. Arggh!

-So we email IT trying to get the registration to their website through. That was in the morning and by late afternoon we have no reply and still no access to help our client get their cargo tomorrow.

-So back to the "Dial 1800ZEROCAREFACTOR customer service team". We explain that we have done everthing they ask and we still don't have the charges and access to the website and the ship is in tomorrow. We need them now so we can pay them and they can then release the cargo when our truck goes to the wharf.

-That customer service person finds all this too hard and transfers us to another operator who ask's "What port this is for?". "Pt Kembla" we say. "Oh that's not me that someone else...I'll put you through" Arggh!! &^%*%!!!

-We speak to the next person who says "No worries, I'll email them to you now". Simple as that. What the? Why could that person do it and nobody else could or would? Stupid!

-We are still waiting on the IT dept to come back to give us access to the website but the cargo picked up on time. Unbelievable!!

This is a real example and I fail to see how these businesses function at all or have any customers. I am really tempted to name them however then I'll probably hear from their legal dept. Then again, it has probably been sent offshore too and maybe I don't have to worry?

This reminds of an experience a good mate of mine, Troy Hazard, had with a bank in America recently. Troy has recently moved to the States and is on the corporate speaking circuit there. Here is his rant to me by email...

"Troy – I’m here to find out why I have been charged $175 overdraft fee when I don’t have an overdraft?
Bank – Yes?
Troy – I’d like you to refund that please.
Bank – Well, I can’t do that here sir you’ll have to call customer service.
Troy – Call customer service? But I am standing here… In the outlet… At the bank… In person… Talking to you…In your office…With my statements in hand… The branch where I opened the accounts.
Bank – Yes I know Mr Hazard but I don’t have that authority here.
Troy – So you’re saying that someone I don’t know, that’s never spoken to me, and has no idea about my account other than what comes up on their screen has more authority to deal with me than you do, my local banker, at my local branch?
Bank – Yes sir.
Troy – You’re kidding right?
Bank – No sir, I do not have the authority to talk to you about that. (as my card is handed back)
Troy – So I need to go and call this number then.
Bank – Yes sir, that’s what you will have to do.

(Not even, let me call them for you now and tell them what you are seeking to sort out, OR, let me dial the number for you and put it through to that courtesy phone over there so you can talk to them while you are here, OR, let me talk to them first and give you a reference number so you wont have to go through all of the explanation when you do call, OR let me find someone at customer service that can help you so you wont have to waste time on the phone….. nope… here’s your card, go call them, good luck, don’t let the door hit you on the backside on the way out)"

So I sympathise with Troy as we are basically in the same boat with some of the larger shipping lines. Pardon the pun!

All for now,
Brad Skelton
The Shipping Bloke

Dial 1800WESUCK at customer service!

(You are getting this note because you subscribed to Brad Skelton's blog-The Shipping Bloke)

The exasperation of my freight team in dealing with MEGA shipping companies and their so called "customer service" through centralised 1800 numbers and websites is getting overwhelming. It is to the point where we are actually avoiding doing business with them because it's near impossible anyway and it affects our ability to deliver the standard of service our customers are used to from us.

Here's an example from one carrier on a recent import shipment to Australia.

- We receive a computer generated email telling us the freight charges are available online at their website. What the??? If the computer can generate an email to us telling us the charges are available online then why can't the computer just email them to us in the first place? Stupid!

-So we go the website we are directed too from the email. But of course for security reasons you need to register as a user. Fair enough.

-The registration process is completed but the access doesn't come through within a few minutes as promised.

-So we call their 1800 number and say "We received an email directing us to your website but then we had to register and we still don't have access". Then we are told that they have no IT people working in Australia anymore (apparently this is run from overseas now because labor is cheaper) and we are given an email address to send a message to their IT dept to get them to complete the registration process that they should have done by now anyway. Before sending this message we ask the customer service operator on the phone if they have the charges and if they could just give them to us over the phone or email them to us directly. The operator says she does have them but she can't do this anymore and we have to use their website. Arggh!

-So we email IT trying to get the registration to their website through. That was in the morning and by late afternoon we have no reply and still no access to help our client get their cargo tomorrow.

-So back to the "Dial 1800ZEROCAREFACTOR customer service team". We explain that we have done everthing they ask and we still don't have the charges and access to the website and the ship is in tomorrow. We need them now so we can pay them and they can then release the cargo when our truck goes to the wharf.

-That customer service person finds all this too hard and transfers us to another operator who ask's "What port this is for?". "Pt Kembla" we say. "Oh that's not me that someone else...I'll put you through" Arggh!! &^%*%!!!

-We speak to the next person who says "No worries, I'll email them to you now". Simple as that. What the? Why could that person do it and nobody else could or would? Stupid!

-We are still waiting on the IT dept to come back to give us access to the website but the cargo picked up on time. Unbelievable!!

This is a real example and I fail to see how these businesses function at all or have any customers. I am really tempted to name them however then I'll probably hear from their legal dept. Then again, it has probably been sent offshore too and maybe I don't have to worry?

This reminds of an experience a good mate of mine, Troy Hazard, had with a bank in America recently. Troy has recently moved to the States and is on the corporate speaking circuit there. Here is his rant to me by email...

"Troy – I’m here to find out why I have been charged $175 overdraft fee when I don’t have an overdraft?
Bank – Yes?
Troy – I’d like you to refund that please.
Bank – Well, I can’t do that here sir you’ll have to call customer service.
Troy – Call customer service? But I am standing here… In the outlet… At the bank… In person… Talking to you…In your office…With my statements in hand… The branch where I opened the accounts.
Bank – Yes I know Mr Hazard but I don’t have that authority here.
Troy – So you’re saying that someone I don’t know, that’s never spoken to me, and has no idea about my account other than what comes up on their screen has more authority to deal with me than you do, my local banker, at my local branch?
Bank – Yes sir.
Troy – You’re kidding right?
Bank – No sir, I do not have the authority to talk to you about that. (as my card is handed back)
Troy – So I need to go and call this number then.
Bank – Yes sir, that’s what you will have to do.

(Not even, let me call them for you now and tell them what you are seeking to sort out, OR, let me dial the number for you and put it through to that courtesy phone over there so you can talk to them while you are here, OR, let me talk to them first and give you a reference number so you wont have to go through all of the explanation when you do call, OR let me find someone at customer service that can help you so you wont have to waste time on the phone….. nope… here’s your card, go call them, good luck, don’t let the door hit you on the backside on the way out)"

So I sympathise with Troy as we are basically in the same boat with some of the larger shipping lines. Pardon the pun!

All for now,
Brad Skelton
The Shipping Bloke

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Greener shipping.




(You are getting this note because you subscribed to Brad Skelton's blog-The Shipping Bloke)

NYK is one carrier that is really looking well ahead into the future with it's concept of the NYK Super Eco Ship. This project they hope will be delivered by 2030 and will radically improve carbon emissions by about 69% compared to a cargo ships as we currently know them. The vessel is planned to be able to carry about 8000 TEU's (twenty foot equivalent units).

This bold project and leap into the future will potentially see ships powered by a combination of LNG-based fuel cells, solar cells, and wind power. The main power unit is planned to be a 40,000kw LNG fuel cell.
The hull design also comes in for a major overhaul with reducing friction through the water being the goal followed by weight reduction. The design of hull means it is longer and wider but it has a shallower draft than most vessels currently operating now. This draft will also assist the Eco Ships with getting into ports with draft restrictions.

I'm not sure what happens to those sails when the containers are being loaded and discharged. I know some wharfies would see them as a prime target for the gantry crane.

Full marks to NYK for their investment, innovation and effort to drive change in the industry.

All for now,
Brad Skelton
The Shipping Bloke