This interview with Ryan Peterson, CEO of Flexport, is fascinating. It is well worth registering at the Loadstar in case you don’t already have access.
Ryan points out that only 75% of freight bookings are kept. This may be a correlative of on time percentage of about the same amount for ocean carriers; but it is more symptomatic of a situation in which the uncertainty breeds more uncertainty. It’s like new product introductions; no one knows if your new product (disk drive, for example, in the business I was in years ago) is going to sell; it has plenty of promise, but also lots of competition. As a result your distributors (NVOCCS and freight forwarders) over-order, trying to convince you they can peddle lots of them, for fear that they will be cut out of the allocation when you start to deliver but can’t give them their whole order. In a sense, for an ocean alliance every voyage is like a new product launch. People over-order, they plan, but can’t full ships, so they cancel (or reroute, changing schedule). It’s a no-win for everyone.
Ryan is right in my view; data and sharing it can help. The issue is whether companies can be talked into sharing data. That’s what his firm is partially about– facilitating the exchange (for a price of course!). And for many firms, shippers and carriers, it should be worth it; a trusted intermediate can greatly reduce transaction costs.
Listen up– you’ll learn a lot!