This article quotes Carl Bentzel, an FMC commissioner, who says that there is increased concentration of the ocean shipping business, from no carrier having more than 4%, to around 10 carriers, half of whom have 12-20% each.
Many supply chain participants have been calling for standardization of basic data surrounding a shipment, especially concerning its timing and needs as it moves through the system. There are no standards for this kind of data, and any attempt to compile it meets the challenge of disparate and constantly changing independent systems. And often, data for particular shipments is exchanged by emails.
It would be nice if the FMC would step in and develop a standard for data interchange. But different players have different concepts of what data is essential, according to the article. For instance, some partners want to know how long they have storage rights for a particular container, free of detention and demurrage charges. Others want to know whether a chassis is available, and where. Chassis shortages have hampered container moves in the LA/Long Beach area, despite a chassis pool; other ports have pools as well, but containers often ride out delays on a chassis if it’s believed the wait won’t be too long.
A standard would be nice, but often takes years to negotiate. The startup Dray Alliance, mentioned in the article, is trying to set a standard for some of this information with an online and app-based system. But not all the necessary data will be there, not for all the participants in the container-move supply chain. And it’s not clear truckers need one more app.
The port claims they are seeing a rush of container deliveries; perhaps it’s a presage of Brexit starting January 1, or simply a rush of winter orders. But this was entirely foreseeable. I guess their eye wasn’t on the ball for this crisis.
Imposing the ban was clearly a mistake, and a shock. It only took a couple of days for port management to realize they had screwed up the supply chains of everyone using the port.
It’s typical of IT projects to ber late or never get finished. Here we seem to have an example that is severely impacting everyone else in the supply chain.
Here at Felixstowe, you can’t return empty containers. You have to return them inland, at considerable extra cost and expense. It’s England, so the truckers are companies, and they can pass their costs along.
If this were the US, the individual owner-operators would have to take the expense, because they get a piece rate for a trip, regardless of where they have to return the container. they would have no way to pass on the cost. We see similar debacles occasionally at US ports.