If you are buying or selling goods around the world, you surely have had headaches regarding sailing schedules. Whether you book your LCL/FCL shipments through a freight forwarder, or directly with the carrier, visibility and transparency with schedules is always limited as you are not the only one looking to ship on that same vessel and route.
Since the dawn of the internet, freight forwarders have tried to use technology for communicating better with their preferred carriers and for providing the right information at the right time to their shippers/consignees, enabling each to make the best time/cost saving decisions. To shed some light on this, let's examine Sailing Schedules by explaining their position in the supply chain and global trade.
Moving goods is one of the oldest practices in history. It created international trade and evolved societies. Advanced engineering has made it possible today for just about anything to be shipped from one place to another, and with many shippers doing just that, goods are moved across the globe in many different directions with several stops in between. For this reason, the most critical condition is ‘time’ and how to face adversity on the seas without risking the cargo nor hurting the hundreds of companies relying on it arriving as scheduled.
To help keep track of time, modern shipping relies on sailing schedules, which are defined simply by an ETD and an ETA for a specific carrier’s vessel. A shipper/consignee will book a schedule because several elements in production, sales plans, and consumer satisfaction rely on ETA’s. Because this schedule touches so many factors in their value chain, the party responsible for ensuring that the goods ship as scheduled must be aware of the long-term effects that schedules and carrier relationships can have on their clients.
When schedule changes from A to B occur, that can bring problems such as lost time or damaged cargo. Some schedule changes may be unavoidable - such as labour strikes, sea accidents, and severe weather – but otherwise all parties involved should avoid factors that result in schedule changes whenever possible. Exporters and importers appreciate that equally.
In the case that exporters are unaware of schedule changes, cargo can be taken to the port early and have a delayed departure, creating demurrage charges. Alternatively, schedules can change for vessels to depart earlier, which can cause cargo to be delayed from missing critical cut off times. So, timing has to be just right for any specific cargo load. When applying that to the rest of the vessel’s route, a schedule change from the original plan greatly decreases the reliability of reaching the next destinations on time too, causing concern for those importing the cargo.
An importer makes all production and sales plans according to vessel schedules. They must be aware of any changes to arrival dates so that they can adjust their production cycles and programs. Importers are also responsible for scheduling hauliers’ pickup and delivery appointments, so if the sailing schedule changes, trucking schedules need immediate adjustment. At times, the importer may not have access to the updated schedule changes, which can cause higher haulage costs if they must complete empty runs. Importers often discover that a shipment has been delayed after they receive an arrival notice or if a customer calls to inquire about the status of their shipment. Not having access to updated schedule changes can result in missed sales dates, late deliveries, delayed production, extra labor cost, and even penalty fees.
And when we talk about perishable goods, products may spoil if they do not get to their destination in time. With medical supplies, time is also critical to sales, stocks management, and delays - all of which can result in financial losses. Additionally, shippers can get fees on rebooking trucks, losing warehouse slots, and incurring demurrage charges. When the shipper is unaware of the significant costs that a delayed or rerouted sailing can incur, they will trust their freight forwarder or specialist to make the final call to get out of these unfortunate situations.
A Current Scenario
Let’s say that a company is waiting for semiconductors from China and Korea to start production at their factory in Germany. They are booking with two different freight forwarders. Communication is always a problem for arranging pick up dates and ensuring that goods arrive in Germany at the exact same time from both suppliers.
There are some issues in the communication with freight forwarder in China, and they missed their expected sailing. They now struggle to find space with another carrier. If the company had transparency and visibility into their carriers’ schedules, then they could make a last-minute decision to book with the available options. Instead, back-and-forth emails, calls, and miscommunications occur. More schedules information would have saved them from bottlenecks and dissatisfied clients.
There are a limited number of new vessels coming into the market in 2021, and there won’t be much change to the currently offered capacity. These effects are felt worldwide as routes now suffer from equipment shortage. As a result, negotiated freight rates will be much higher than the 2019-2020 contract season. Since freight forwarders and big players will keep fighting with ocean carriers for competitive rates, it is understood that buyers are ready to pay higher freight rates and have vessel space rather than saving on freight costs. Carriers have the upper hand right now.
At Logward, we created a tool for staying up-to-date with all schedules and last-
minute changes at origins and destinations. Our software allows us to connect to platforms and carrier websites where we collect data from a list of major carriers. That list keeps growing each day.
A challenge to 100% accuracy is a lack of standardized data across the industry. Information is interpreted very differently – Logward intelligently analyzes and understands each stakeholders’ own language to provide seamless communication between them. We learn day-to-day from the challenges of translating this data into the same language and continually optimize our features so that you can read that language most easily.
One positive effect of COVID-19 on global logistics was the push to embrace technology in ocean shipping. Impressive technological developments have come at a fast pace, which keeps accelerating in a race for rapid implementation. Digitization of the supply chain and more reliable platforms where real-time tracking and tracing is offered are almost a given now. Companies that cannot keep up with this trend will lose their competitive edge.
It can be difficult and costly to manage vessel delays for any party in the supply chain. In an industry that has lots of external factors, an important advantage that you can create is having the latest sailing schedules and visibility into alternative solutions.
With our Schedules freebie, we give you an idea of how easily and quickly you can observe and analyze alternative routes. Transparency benefits all parties in the supply chain and will improve not only long-term planning but also short-term problem solving. That’s a cause we can get behind. Try the freebie out for yourself here.
Logward is a Hamburg & Bangalore based logistics technology company.
We build software, move containers, and change mindsets.
If you have any questions or just want to say hi, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can visit us at www.logward.com.