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How Can Small Businesses Streamline Global Shipping Processes?

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How Can Small Businesses Streamline Global Shipping Processes?

The international shipping process has faced a number of disruptions over the past few years, with political issues affecting the ease of moving goods around the world. But, just because sending products abroad is a little trickier doesn’t mean it’s impossible. 

Small businesses can maintain streamlined global shipping and build a multi-national brand, using smart logistics to make the process simpler.

Optimize your global operations with these tips for efficient overseas deliveries.

Understanding the Difficulties

Before looking into how you optimize global shipping for small businesses, it’s a good idea to get to grips with current situations that are making it harder to ship overseas. 

This isn’t essential, but it can help you plan for disruption and better inform your customers of why they may experience later shipments. 

One of the major issues involves the Red Sea, where unrest is causing shipping companies to avoid the Suez Canal and take longer routes to their destination. This can lead to delays of up to 14 days.

There are also problems throughout the Panama Canal, impacting delivery speeds both into and out of the West Coast of the US and the West Coast of Latin America.

There are port strikes, rising fuel costs, and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, too, all of which are affecting shipping.

Though it’s a somewhat turbulent time for deliveries, it shouldn’t put small businesses off expanding their market to other countries. Instead, we recommend looking into ways you can streamline global shipments taking into consideration current events, making for smoother deliveries around the world.

Streamlining the International Shipping Process

Logistics are a key part of successful global deliveries and the better you plan the more efficient your shipments will be. Get started with these top tips.

Set-Up Global Payment Systems

If you’re branching out into the global market, it’s important to set up a payment system for international deliveries. For small businesses already using a card reader, check to see if your device is linked to an online account that accepts global digital payments. This will ensure all overseas transactions are tracked right alongside in-person payments for simple cash flow management.

It’s also vital that you charge your customers accurately for global delivery to avoid losing money. Before setting costs, ensure you’ve received quotes from suppliers and have a good grasp on import and export fees. There are tools available, too, that will automatically calculate shipping fees based on the customer’s location, making it easy to generate accurate fees. 

Get to Grips With International Shipping Laws

The international shipping process relies on rules and regulations, making it important that your small business keeps up with compliance. This can be time-consuming, but it’ll make your deliveries much smoother and more likely to reach the customer without an issue. 

Maintain a knowledge of the import rules for any countries you ship to. Most governments will have a detailed guide of their shipping laws, like the UK’s guidelines, which state the steps you need to take to avoid your goods being seized.

If you’re struggling to understand the rules, speak to a government official or consultant. They’ll be able to check over your plans and guide you on ways to improve compliance for efficient shipments. 

Automate Compliance, Documentation, and Reporting

There’s a lot of paperwork involved when shipping internationally. Luckily, though, your small business can take advantage of advanced digital tools to automate a lot of the laborious processes.

Automating software is available for compliance, making it easy to arrange the correct classifications for your products and adhere to global regulations. You can also use automated software to correctly fill out documentation and reports, inputting relevant information based on data already in your systems.

According to a survey by Deloitte, almost all global trade professionals were using a global trade management tool to make cross-border operations simpler. As more industries turn to digitization, it’s smart to switch paper-based operations to high-tech software to keep up with your competitors.

Find a Reliable Shipping Company

Choosing a trustworthy, credible shipping company to deliver your goods will make all the difference to your logistics. They’ll offer services that go beyond moving packages from A to B, including:

  • Updating you on delays and maintaining good communication
  • Handling your goods with care
  • Answering your questions regarding compliance and delivery
  • Offering great customer service
  • Dealing with lost parcels swiftly and effectively

Finding a shipping company that helps rather than hinders your efficiency will have numerous knock-on benefits for your business, too, from improving customer satisfaction to increasing loyalty among your audience. It’ll also impact your brand image, making it well worth the search.

Plan For Delays

A shipping company that currently reports no problems or delays is a red flag. These are tricky times for international freight, and some of your deliveries will likely be delayed on their route to your customers. But, by preparing in advance, you reduce the impact they’ll have on your business.

Smart logistics is proactive, and planning a schedule that avoids bad weather, political events, and seasonal delays is a great way to keep your shipments arriving on time. For example, if you’re shipping at Christmas, anticipate slower deliveries and higher demand by sending earlier.

Even with great logistics, though, you can still experience delays. This is why it’s important you have a good line of communication with your supplier. A credible company will update you on any changes to the estimated time of arrival (ETA) quickly, and provide an explanation as to why they’ve occurred. 

Once a delay is registered with your small business, inform the customers. Send an email updating them that their shipment will be delayed, along with any additional information, including the cause of the delay. Be sure to let them know of the new ETA, too, and offer an apology gift if necessary – like a discount on their next shop – to bolster your brand image.

Manage Customer Expectations

Marketing your global shipping as quick and reliable might be tempting, but if there are delays this will only end up hurting your credibility.

Rather than leading with the ideal situation, manage customer expectations by being honest. People would rather know their package is likely to be delayed, and a realistic delivery time is far better than the disappointment of a late shipment. Give your ETA some wiggle room and you’ll have happier, more loyal customers.

It’s also a good idea to include some information on your website about why global shipping can experience delays. This keeps your customers informed, shows you’re taking delivery logistics seriously, and builds credibility for your small business.

Enable Product Tracking

A great way to keep both your business and your customers up to date on global shipments is with tracking. Many international freight companies will offer an option for tracked deliveries, giving you real-time information on where the product is and when it’ll be delivered. 

This transparency improves the customer experience and reassures them that their delivery is on the way, with 90% of people actively wanting to track shipments. It’s likely to boost their view of your brand, too, as you prioritize their knowledge of the delivery over the potential savings of untracked deliveries.

Final Thoughts

The international shipping process isn’t always easy to navigate, with regulations, compliance, and delays making global business deliveries a lot of work. But, once you’ve got the right logistics in place, reaching customers around the world becomes a lot easier.

To stay on top of global shipping news or learn more about logistics, be sure to keep up with Global Trade.

Author Bio

Harvey Holloway is a digital marketing specialist, with a 1st class honours degree in Digital Media Design. Harvey is now looking to connect with leading publications and share his experience with a wider audience. Connect with Harvey on Twitter: @HarveyTweetsSEO.

shipping

Eco-Friendly Logistics: Strategies for Sustainable Shipping Operations

For businesses, it is important to explore innovative strategies for sustainable shipping operations and eco-friendly logistics. All companies are looking for ways to minimize their carbon footprint and adopt more eco-friendly practices. From optimizing supply chain efficiency to embracing green technologies, companies are implementing various initiatives to reduce environmental impact!

Current challenges in shipping operations

In contemporary shipping operations, companies face multifaceted challenges. Traditional methods contribute significantly to environmental degradation, as emissions from ships and other transportation vessels contribute to air and water pollution. 

Furthermore, heightened consumer awareness demands sustainable shipping operations as customers increasingly prioritize eco-friendliness when choosing products and services. Finally, regulatory bodies impose stringent emissions reduction measures, such as the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) sulfur emission regulations. These challenges compel better strategies and investments in eco-friendly solutions. 

Embracing green technologies

Green technologies are a major step towards sustainable shipping operations. Adopting alternative fuels, such as biofuels derived from organic materials and hydrogen produced through renewable energy sources, offers promising solutions to reduce carbon emissions and lessen reliance on fossil fuels. Integrating electric and hybrid vehicles into shipping fleets further contributes to environmental preservation by reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. 

Similarly, utilizing renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power in transportation hubs helps to minimize reliance on traditional energy sources and decrease overall environmental impact. Embracing these green technologies both reduces the carbon footprint of operations and aligns with growing consumer demands for eco-friendly practices. 

Optimizing supply chain efficiency

To enhance modern supply chains, optimizing supply chain efficiency is a big necessity. By implementing route optimization software, companies can reduce fuel consumption and transportation costs effectively. In addition, utilizing data analytics for inventory management enhances accuracy, minimizing waste throughout the supply chain. 

Streamlining transportation processes through advanced technologies improves overall efficiency and enhances customer satisfaction. Through the integration of these strategies, businesses can achieve greater agility and responsiveness in meeting consumer demands while simultaneously reducing their environmental impact. 

Collaboration and partnerships

Collaboration and partnerships are immensely helpful if you want sustainable shipping operations. By forming industry partnerships, companies can effectively share resources and infrastructure, thus optimizing efficiency. In addition to that, collaborative efforts between shipping firms and governments to invest in sustainable infrastructure facilitate long-term environmental benefits. 

Also, engaging with suppliers and customers to promote sustainability throughout the supply chain fosters a collective commitment to eco-friendly practices. So, through working together, stakeholders can leverage their expertise and resources to address complex environmental challenges effectively!

Investing in green infrastructure

Investing in green infrastructure stands as a cornerstone for sustainable shipping practices. The development of eco-friendly ports and terminals significantly reduces environmental impact. Similarly, expanding rail and inland waterway transportation networks reduces reliance on traditional methods. 

From there, integrating smart technologies enhances efficiency and decreases emissions. Prioritizing these investments enables shipping companies to contribute significantly to environmental conservation efforts. Besides, these initiatives enhance operational efficiency and reduce long-term costs, making them economically beneficial! 

Sustainable packaging solutions

When tackling sustainable shipping, adopting eco-friendly packaging solutions is a major selling point. After all, using recyclable and biodegradable materials directly reduces environmental impact. Implementing package optimization techniques also minimizes material usage and waste. Next, encouraging customers to opt for minimal packaging and reusable options further promotes sustainability. 

By prioritizing sustainable packaging solutions, companies can significantly reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to environmental conservation efforts. Furthermore, these initiatives resonate with consumers who prioritize eco-friendly practices, thus enhancing brand reputation and customer loyalty. 

Employee training and awareness of sustainable shipping operations

Employee training and awareness are important steps toward sustainable shipping practices. Providing comprehensive training programs enables staff to master the necessary skills to improve logistics with eco-friendly practices in mind. Fostering a culture of sustainability within shipping companies also encourages employees to actively engage in environmental initiatives. 

Empowering employees to suggest and implement green initiatives further fosters a sense of ownership and accountability. Therefore, by investing in employee training and raising awareness about sustainability issues, companies can build a knowledgeable workforce committed to reducing the environmental impact of their operations. 

Carbon offsetting and emission reduction initiatives

Carbon offsetting and emission reduction initiatives are another approach to achieving sustainable shipping practices. Investing in carbon offset projects directly helps mitigate emissions. Setting targets for emission reductions and tracking progress also ensures accountability and progress. Similarly, engaging in international agreements and initiatives demonstrates a commitment to global sustainability efforts. 

Shipping companies can significantly reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to global climate action by prioritizing carbon offsetting and emission reduction initiatives. If you need more encouragement to pursue this, these initiatives align with consumer expectations for eco-friendly businesses, enhancing brand reputation and customer loyalty! 

Regulatory compliance and standards

Regulatory compliance and standards are naturally important guidelines for achieving sustainable shipping practices. Besides, adhering to emissions regulations and environmental standards is mandatory for all companies! Staying informed about upcoming regulations also helps companies adapt operations accordingly and stay ahead. 

Advocating for supportive policies and incentives is also useful for fostering a regulatory environment conducive to sustainability. By prioritizing regulatory compliance and standards, shipping companies can demonstrate their commitment to environmental responsibility and contribute to global efforts to combat climate change. 

Working towards a more eco-friendly future

You can make your business stand out with the right strategies for sustainable shipping operations and eco-friendly logistics! By embracing these initiatives, businesses can reduce their environmental footprint and enhance their competitiveness and reputation in the industry. From investing in green infrastructure to monitoring sustainability metrics, working towards a more eco-friendly future is now a priority!

Author Bio

Cassandra Evergreen is a logistics expert and advisor at Logicstics, a globally recognized leader in various industries, from aerospace to consumer goods. With their focus on improving the efficiency of your supply chain and a rich history of outstanding performance and innovative strategies, Logistics has a proven track record, which Cassandra has helped maintain! Her expertise and dedication to excellence have earned her recognition as a leader in the field! 

transportation supply chain odex portal

From Operational Tool to Strategic Weapon: Shipper Portals Redefine Logistics

In the past, logistics management existed within an opaque realm – shippers lacked visibility, carriers faced limited collaboration, and customers were often left wondering where their orders were. Shipper portals, seamlessly integrated within modern Logistics Management Software (LMS), are breaking down these barriers and empowering shippers to do more than just ship goods; they’re gaining strategic control of their supply chain.

The Central Command for Shippers

A shipper portal acts as a comprehensive workspace within your LMS. Intuitive interfaces make order management a breeze – easy bulk uploads, automated label generation, and streamlined processes cut down on manual labor and reduce the risk of errors. But true power comes from the unprecedented visibility they grant shippers. Tracking shipments in real-time pinpoints exact locations and proactively identifies potential bottlenecks. This granular information is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity for managing customer expectations and staying ahead in the market.

Turning Visibility into Actionable Insights

Shipper portals don’t just offer a window into your logistics; they offer the tools to act decisively. When delays crop up, shippers can immediately reach out to carriers and begin collaborative problem-solving. This eliminates miscommunication, builds stronger partnerships with carriers, and ultimately improves on-time delivery rates. Furthermore, the detailed shipment records accessible through these portals generate valuable data for shippers. Advanced reporting and analytics can uncover trends, reveal optimal routes, compare carrier performance, and pinpoint areas for optimization you never knew existed.

Customer Experience as the True Differentiator

The transformative power of shipper portals is undeniable, but their impact extends far beyond streamlining processes. In an era where customers prioritize reliable, transparent service, shipper portals offer a tangible competitive advantage. Real-time updates and accurate delivery estimates turn anxious waiting into informed confidence. Additionally, self-service capabilities through the portal empower customers, reducing service inquiries and freeing up your organization’s time and resources. It’s about more than delivering packages; it’s creating a customer-centric logistics experience that fosters long-term loyalty.

A Catalyst for Industry Innovation

If efficiency, collaboration, and customer delight are the present of shipper portals, their future is even brighter. Logistics tech is in a phase of rapid advancement, and shipper portals are ready to integrate with these innovations. Expect the following:

  • Hyper-Intelligent Optimization: AI algorithms and machine learning models will power even smarter route planning, considering factors like traffic, weather, and historical data for maximum efficiency.
  • The IoT Connection: Sensor-equipped shipments will transmit real-time data on temperature, humidity, and other sensitive metrics, giving shippers unprecedented control in areas like cold chain logistics.
  • Proactive is the New Reactive: Predictive analytics will uncover patterns and forecast disruptions before they occur, enabling proactive decisions well in advance, minimizing costly delays.

It’s Time to Own Your Supply Chain

The days of fragmented and reactive logistics are over. Shipper portals integrated with intelligent Logistics Management Software offer a unique opportunity to transform your supply chain from a cost center into a strategic differentiator. It’s time to move from simply shipping products to truly orchestrating your logistical symphony, where collaboration, data-driven insights, and customer delight pave the way for lasting success.

integration

Synergy Logistics and Techdinamics Revolutionize Shipping Integration for Efficient Warehouse Management

Synergy Logistics, a leader in warehouse technology innovation, has recently announced a groundbreaking partnership with Techdinamics, a renowned provider of connected fulfillment solutions. This collaboration aims to deliver seamless integration of rate shopping and transportation management capabilities to customers, revolutionizing the warehouse management landscape.

The focal point of this alliance revolves around Techdinamics’ cutting-edge techSHIP solution, which seamlessly integrates with Synergy’s advanced warehouse management system (WMS) SnapFulfil. Together, these platforms create a fully connected workflow encompassing order management, WMS functionalities, picking, packing, and shipping processes. The result is faster order fulfillment, improved accuracy, and reduced operating costs, all without the need for additional labor.

TechSHIP, a robust cloud-based application, facilitates easy integration with multiple carriers for generating shipping labels and custom documentation. It also offers intelligent rate shopping features, selecting the most cost-effective or appropriate services based on customer preferences and shipping destinations. With connections to over 150+ carriers, TechSHIP streamlines order processing, ensures timely deliveries, and provides competitive shipping rates.

Smitha Raphael, Chief Product & Delivery Officer at Synergy Logistics, emphasizes the speed and depth of integration offered by the techSHIP solution. Its agile nature allows for rapid configuration and deployment, enabling customers to achieve operational efficiencies and a swift return on investment within just 20-30 minutes.

One success story stemming from this partnership involves Younique, an online beauty retailer based in Utah. By leveraging the integration with techSHIP, Younique gained access to previously unavailable carriers like Purolator and significantly improved label printing efficiency for high-volume orders through SnapFulfil’s batch functionality, resulting in decreased shipping costs.

Reg Adams, President of Techdinamics, highlights the seamless integration between SnapFulfil and techSHIP’s API, enabling users to manage orders and generate labels within the WMS interface. This integration empowers users to leverage techSHIP’s order management rules and rate shopping capabilities directly from SnapFulfil, enhancing operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

This strategic alignment between Synergy Logistics and Techdinamics represents a significant milestone in the realm of warehouse management, leveraging real-time integration and partnerships to provide transparency across critical business systems and sales channels. With a rapidly expanding network of native integrations spanning various sectors, Synergy aims to drive efficiency and innovation in warehouse operations, setting new standards for seamless shipping integration.

FCL shipping

Container xChange Unveils ‘The Future of Shipping in 2024’ Report

Container xChange, a leading authority in the shipping industry, released its second annual “2023 Shipping Industry Trends and Future of Shipping in 2024” report. The report gives an analysis of the key impacts that shaped the container shipping industry in 2023 and provides predictions and scenarios for 2024 with an aim to equip the industry to plan ahead in time for a ‘grumpy’ 2024. 

Overall, the report indicates high probability of market recovery failure in 2024. The industry surveys conducted with the supply chain professionals globally indicates that in 2024, the shipping industry is predicted to grapple with persistently reduced demand and oversupply, potentially leading to fiercer competition, further reduced profits, and possible market consolidation. Although container schedule reliability is improving, persistent challenges remain. Blank sailings are expected to rise in response to market volatility, while imbalanced container availability, driven by economic crises, may continue in certain regions.

Planning considerations for container logistics players in 2024 – 

1. In the wake of longer-term factors such as inflation, increased interest rates, and a shift in consumer spending patterns from goods to services, cautious consumer spending in 2023 is expected to extend into 2024. This caution is anticipated to impact the demand for imported manufactured products, with implications for the container market. According to PYMNTS research findings, 74% of consumers have reduced nonessential retail spending, influencing the container market for an extended period. Container prices took center stage in 2023, causing concern among stakeholders, and a further decline in demand is expected as the Chinese New Year approaches.

Josilene Mattos, Senior Global Account Manager at Hapag-Lloyd AG, anticipates a stable demand for 2024 and a more balanced market supply, primarily driven by evolving environmental regulations. “Importers in the USA have diversified their sources to include Southeast Asia, India, and Pakistan. This strategic move has proven to be a successful business practice and should be sustained in the years to come. Relying solely on a single source is not advisable, as it allows for the growth of other countries in the production of various products.” said Josilene. 

2. Oversupply Risks and Increased Deliveries:

The shipping industry faces the risk of oversupply in 2024 as deliveries are set to increase to 2.95 million TEUs. The surge in deliveries, including “Megamaxes” and “Neopanamaxes,” may lead to intense competition, reduced profits, and potential mergers and acquisitions. Carriers, particularly in North America, are navigating a delicate balance between government-driven demand and rising interest rates. Overordering of ships during the economic boom could create overcapacity, turning 2023’s profits into 2024’s losses. The sector is projected to face challenges to restore supply and demand equilibrium until 2026.

Timothy Renshaw, a shipping industry analyst, highlights the overcapacity issue and the potential disruption of reliable container ship scheduling in 2024. “The North American shipping sector in 2023 is navigating a precarious balance between government-driven demand from programs like the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and rising interest rates aimed at curbing inflation. This has left consumers squeezed, potentially depleting their savings by early 2024, jeopardizing freight demand as capacity increases. Global ocean container companies ordering new ships during the pandemic’s economic boom have created an overcapacity issue that may turn 2023’s profits into 2024’s losses and disrupt reliable container ship scheduling. It’s projected that supply and demand equilibrium won’t be restored until 2026, posing challenges for the industry’s profitability in both the short and long term” said Timothy Renshaw, a British Columbia-based shipping industry analyst and journalist.

3. Geopolitical Uncertainties and Shifts in Trade Routes:

Geopolitical uncertainties in 2023, including conflicts in Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel, significantly impacted the shipping industry. These effects are expected to persist in 2024, with potential consequences for trade routes. The Russia-Ukraine conflict led to the closure of Black Sea ports, causing congestion and delays in goods transportation. Potential conflicts in the Taiwan Strait and the Israel-Palestine region pose risks to key shipping routes, impacting trading in 2024 and beyond.

The expansion of BRICS countries introduces new dynamics, diversifying trade routes and introducing alternative payment systems. Energy cooperation and resource competition may reshape shipping dynamics, offering both opportunities and challenges for the shipping sector.

4. China Plus One Diversification:

Various factors, including ongoing trade tensions between the United States and China, rising labor costs, and concerns about potential future manufacturing disruptions, are driving companies to diversify away from China. While completely disengaging from China is challenging due to extensive electronic supply chains, companies are making strategic moves to relocate final manufacturing and assembly processes outside of China.

Christian Roeloffs, CEO of Container xChange, notes the expected increase in trade between China and Southeast Asia, India, and other similar destinations. The “China Plus One” strategy is anticipated to show more prominent trends and signs `ZAZ~ZAQS in 2024, with companies seeking additional containers to diversify their supply chains.

Impact and Potential Scenarios in 2024:

1. Reduced Demand and Oversupply Intensify Competition:

The break of alliances, such as Maersk and MSC’s decision not to renew their 2M alliance, marks a significant shift in the industry. The resulting less demand and oversupply may lead to heightened competitive pressures and lower profits. The industry could witness fierce competition for market share among carriers, potentially necessitating further rounds of mergers and acquisitions.

Vladimir Tagasov, Head of Analytics at FESCO, highlights the unique factors setting Russia’s container-shipping market apart from the rest of the world.

2. Container Line Schedule Reliability on the Rise:

Container line schedule reliability is improving, returning to pre-pandemic levels. Although global schedule reliability declined slightly in August 2023, the industry is on a positive trajectory. MSC emerges as the most reliable top-14 carrier in August 2023, followed by Maersk and Hamburg Süd. Despite improvements, challenges persist, and the industry is focused on achieving further enhancements.

Josilene Mattos, Senior Global Account Manager at Hapag-Lloyd AG, emphasizes the influence of evolving environmental regulations on schedule reliability.

3. Blank Sailings to Increase in 2024:

Blank sailings fluctuated in 2023 but are expected to increase in 2024 due to market volatility. Despite being more organized than in the previous year, blank sailings remain a strategy to stabilize market rates and manage demand patterns. Significant fluctuations in blank sailings across major shipping routes reflect the dynamic global shipping industry influenced by factors such as market conditions and disruptions.

Christian Roeloffs, CEO of Container xChange, highlights the challenges posed by the imbalanced container trade and shipping service reliability.

4. Container Availability to Remain Imbalanced:

Economic challenges in the Euro Zone contribute to imbalanced container trade, affecting container availability. The Container Availability Index indicates higher container burdens in ports like Rotterdam. As the Euro Zone grapples with an ongoing economic crisis, the region struggles with the challenge of surplus containers causing repositioning costs exceeding the asset cost.

“In 2023, the Russian container-shipping market differs notably from global trends. It’s characterized by a growing focus on autonomy, an expanding linear service network with new ports and routes, continued state support for exporters, local market imbalances, and high freight rates. These factors combine to set Russia’s container-shipping market apart from the rest of the world” said Vladimir Tagasov, Head of Analytics, FESCO.

 

cargo ECS Weship tanker

Maritime Challenges – Fires, Economic Uncertainty, and “Dark” Tanker Fleets 

While shipping losses were at a record low in 2022, cargo and hull fires, economic uncertainty, and “dark” tanker fleets are safety challenges on the horizon for the maritime sector. Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) is a corporate insurance carrier providing risk consultancy and insurance solutions worldwide. The company’s annual Safety & Shipping Review looks at loss trends and risks for the maritime sector and the 2023 version is officially out. 

The most notable headline of the report is the continued decline in shipping losses. Thirty years ago it was common for 200-plus vessels to go missing every year. It has been six years since triple-digit losses have been registered and last year there were fewer than 40. The “loss hotspot,” however, continues to be South China, Indonesia, Indochina, and the Philippines. Congested ports, extreme weather, and older fleets are the primary loss culprits. 

While losses are down, cargo and hull fires are a growing concern. Decarbonization efforts have introduced new types of cargo. Battery-powered goods featuring lithium-ion (Li-ion) are highly flammable and represent a concerning risk for carriers. Electric vehicle (EV) sales are increasing and the overall battery market is expected to grow by 30% annually between now and 2035. 

Decarbonization has also led to larger vessels and carriers seeking greater efficiencies. While larger vessels may prove more efficient, higher container cargo exposure and accumulation have led to more fires. Li-ion battery fires are additionally very difficult to extinguish. An AGCS analysis concluded that fire is the most expensive cause of loss – eating up approximately 18% of the value of the total claims. 

“Dark” tanker fleets, also known as “shadow” or “ghost” fleets, are unregistered tankers that slip through regulatory controls. Oil sanctions, as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have resulted in Russia and some of its allies to implement dark tanker fleets to transport and sell Russian oil. Energy embargos are difficult to enforce, and according to Tanker Trackers, of the 900 ultra-large tankers at the global level, roughly one-fifth were breaking sanctions with Venezuela, Iran, and Russia. An uninsured dark tanker exploded in Southeast Asia in May killing crew. Tanker explosions result not only in loss of life but also environmentally toxic oil spills.   

Finally, the report is especially concerned with economic uncertainty. The sector is suffering from lower demand and depressed freight rates where shipping a container between Asia and the US in April 2023 costs roughly 80% less than at the same time in 2022. Commodity prices are up as are labor costs, and the price of steel is crippling manufacturing budgets. Between 2020 and 2022 some estimates point to an 18% + increase in ship repair costs alone. 

Inflated prices have been baked into the present figures based on the global inflation figure of 8.8% in 2022. The inflation outlook still remains uncertain adding to some very real challenges over the remaining four months of 2023.    

baltimore import mach electronic shipping route import 7LFreight Expands Instant Cargo Pricing and Booking for North American Forwarders Across Both Air and Trucking  import container descartes automation baltimore bridge container freight global trade

Free-Shipping is Becoming Less Free

A worrisome 41% of merchants indicated shipping costs were their biggest challenge in 2022. According to Shippo, an e-commerce shipping services provider, surveyed retailers were spending north of 10% per order’s value on shipping alone. Couple this with elevated fuel and distribution center costs many retailers are making some sobering changes to their delivery options. 

In 2019 the average minimum-order threshold to qualify for free shipping was a purchase of $52. As of today, the figure is $64. The free shipping heydays of the mid-2010s brought about a copycat syndrome with one retailer after the next slashing delivery costs out of fear of being left out of tremendous e-commerce demand. US e-commerce growth boomed from $55.3 billion in the first quarter of 2012 to $272.6 billion over the first quarter of 2023. While the sales increase is notable, free deliveries eventually cut into profits and everyone from Amazon to Macy’s to Abercrombie & Fitch are now tightening their belts.

In 2005 Amazon launched its Prime membership. A key perk in the membership package was unlimited two-day shipping for a reasonable annual fee. Walmart soon stepped up with a similar offer and according to the same Shippo survey, roughly 62% of shoppers indicated they wouldn’t patronize a retailer without a free-shipping option. This figure has shot up 22% since 2020. According to Deutsche Bank Research, the costs associated with the delivery of goods to a store (via truck alone) represent 2% to 3% of a typical sale. Home delivery is popular but the cost is rocketing upward – the previously mentioned 10% of the item’s value. 

Consolidating the logistics expense into the final sale price has become more and more challenging in a high inflationary environment. Yet, simply raising prices could turn customers away. Fed Ex and UPS both raised their average prices in 2022 by close to 6%. The previous threshold had been 4.9% in a given year, and a new record was hit this year – a 6.9% hike. 

Shipping charges across all major retailers have shifted. Saks Fifth Avenue had no minimum order requirement for free shipping – they have now implemented a $100 minimum. Neiman Marcus had maintained a similar structure, and recently put in place a $50 minimum. Abercrombie & Fitch requires customers to spend $99 (up from $75) to qualify for free shipping, while others are routing clients into paid rewards programs with the inducement of free shipping. 

 

 

 

dangerous goods

Best Practices for Shipping Dangerous Goods Globally

Every day in the United States, a staggering amount of hazardous materials is transported, totaling millions of tons. As many as 800,000 hazmat shipments occur daily, amounting to a massive annual total of over 3.1 billion tons. Based on the latest numbers, approximately 1.25 million dangerous goods are shipped by air annually. 

While most shipments reach their destinations safely, accidents can still occur. Some pose minimal risks, while others can have severe effects.

Hazardous materials are not limited to transportation by road. They are also commonly transported via railroad. Large-scale hazmat spills can occur in the unfortunate event of a train derailment, leading to devastating environmental consequences and drastic risks. 

When a spill involving hazardous materials takes place, it consists of the release of a substance that has the potential to endanger health, safety, and property. 

While transporting hazardous materials is essential for various industries, it is crucial to prioritize safety measures and implement best practices to prevent and mitigate accidents. 

Understanding the Classification and Identification of Dangerous Goods

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images / 29538 images on Pixabay

The United Nations (UN) has developed the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods as a global framework for classifying, labeling, and documenting dangerous goods.

Classes of Dangerous Goods

These goods are categorized into different classes based on their inherent hazards, as follows: 

  1. Class 1: Explosives: This class includes materials and substances that have explosive properties, like fireworks, ammunition, dynamite, and blasting agents. These goods can cause significant damage and pose a high risk to people and property.
  2. Class 2: Gases: Gases that are flammable, non-flammable, or toxic fall under this class. Examples include propane, oxygen, helium, and carbon dioxide. 
  3. Class 3: Flammable liquids: This class includes gasoline, ethanol, acetone, and diesel fuel. These flammable liquids have a low flashpoint and can release flammable vapors, making them potentially hazardous during transportation.
  4. Class 4: Flammable solids: Flammable solids can ignite readily and sustain combustion. These materials, including matches, magnesium, and certain metal powders, can pose fire hazards and require proper packaging and handling to prevent accidental ignition.
  5. Class 5: Oxidizing substances: These chemicals release oxygen and can cause or contribute to the combustion of other materials. Dangerous goods under this class include hydrogen peroxide, potassium permanganate, and ammonium nitrate. 
  6. Class 6: Toxic and infectious substances: This class includes toxic materials to humans, animals, or the environment. It comprises toxic chemicals, pesticides, medical waste, and contagious substances like bacteria and viruses. Proper containment and precautions are necessary to prevent exposure and contamination.
  7. Class 7: Radioactive materials: These dangerous goods emit ionizing radiation and can harm human health and the environment. The typical shipment under this class includes uranium, plutonium, and medical isotopes used in nuclear medicine. These materials require specialized packaging and handling to minimize radiation exposure.
  8. Class 8: Corrosive substances: These are chemicals that can cause damage to living tissue or other materials upon contact. Sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, and caustic soda belong to this class of dangerous goods. 
  9. Class 9: Miscellaneous dangerous goods: This class includes hazardous goods that do not fall into the previous classes but still pose risks during transportation. Examples include lithium batteries, magnetized materials, and environmentally dangerous substances. 

Since each class requires specific precautions and packaging, shipments must follow these classifications. This ensures the proper handling and transportation of dangerous goods. 

Tips for Global Shipping of Dangerous Goods

Here’s how to safely ship dangerous goods globally.

Use certified packaging

Certified packaging prevents leaks, spills, or accidents during transportation. Different types of packaging are required for each class of dangerous goods, such as UN-certified drums, cylinders, or boxes. These packages are designed to withstand the specific hazards associated with each class.

Image taken from  Royal Chemical 

Packaging standards and testing ensure that the packaging meets the necessary safety requirements. For example, UN packaging must undergo rigorous testing, including drop, vibration, and pressure tests, to ensure its integrity.

Ensure proper handling and storage

Proper handling procedures are critical to preventing accidents and ensuring the safe transportation of dangerous goods. This includes following guidelines for loading, unloading, and securing the goods. Training employees on proper handling techniques and providing them with personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential for their safety.

Moreover, dangerous goods often have specific storage requirements to prevent reactions, leaks, or contamination. Proper segregation, temperature control, and ventilation are necessary to minimize risks. Emergency response procedures, such as spill containment kits or fire suppression systems, are crucial to addressing any incidents swiftly and effectively.

Maintain documentation

Accurate documentation is a vital aspect of shipping dangerous goods globally. Shipping staff must complete and maintain documentation, including shipping manifests, declarations, and emergency response instructions. 

These documents provide essential information about the goods, associated hazards, and appropriate handling procedures. One example is the Bill of Lading (BOL). This document must have the signatures of both the shipper and the driver assigned to pick up the freight. 

Documentation plays a significant role in regulatory compliance, facilitates communication with authorities, and ensures transparency throughout shipping.

Consider transport modes and regulations

Different transport modes, such as air, maritime, and road, have specific regulations for shipping dangerous goods.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regulations are necessary for air transport. The International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code regulates maritime transport. Road transport is under the jurisdiction of national and international regulations, like the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) regulations.

Understanding and complying with these regulations is crucial to ensuring the safe and legal transportation of dangerous goods. Examples of such regulations include packaging requirements, labeling, placarding, and vehicle marking.

Confirm international compliance

Global shipping of dangerous goods requires verifying international compliance. Regulations may vary between countries. Organizations must understand and adhere to the specific requirements of each destination. You must address differences in language, customs procedures, and regulatory frameworks that can present challenges.

International agreements, such as the UN Model Regulations, facilitate harmonization and consistency in dangerous goods transportation. These agreements help establish common standards and practices among countries, simplifying the shipping process. Collaborating with experienced customs brokers, freight forwarders, and regulatory consultants can provide valuable guidance and assistance in navigating international compliance.

Follow Regulations and Best Practices for the Global Shipping of Dangerous Goods

Image by AbsolutVision on Pixabay

You must adhere to regulations and best practices to ensure the safe and secure international transportation of dangerous goods. Following proper classification and identification, using certified packaging, following correct handling and storage procedures, maintaining accurate documentation, considering transport mode regulations, and confirming international compliance are key steps in mitigating risks.

By prioritizing safety and adhering to these best practices, companies can protect their employees, the public, and the environment. At the same time, it facilitates the smooth flow of global trade. Stay updated with evolving regulations and industry standards to maintain compliance and continuously improve the shipping process.

Remember, safety must always be the top priority when shipping dangerous goods. Following best practices ensures the well-being of all involved and contributes to a safer and more sustainable global supply chain.

Bio

I have been a technology and business writer since 2015 working with companies like SmallBizClub, StartupNation, Namecheap and Time Doctor. I have loved writing my whole life and being in business development has given me a unique perspective. I’m obsessed with our constantly evolving fast-paced society and finding new ways to integrate that into amazing content that teaches the readers something new. 

 

battery

Charting a Course to Battery-Powered Ships 

In the global movement to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions, one sector remains largely overlooked: maritime trade. According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, ocean-going ships carry more than 80% of world trade by volume and are projected to contribute 17% of man-made carbon emissions by 2050. Yet the decarbonization of maritime vessels lags severely behind the electrification of on-road vehicles. 

To address this issue, the International Maritime Organization has set an ambitious target of cutting carbon emissions from ocean shipping by at least 50% by 2050. For any chance of achieving this goal, the shipping sector will need large-scale adoption of alternative energy sources. So far, lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries have been the most widely used technology for electrifying the world’s cargo ships, but they’re far from a perfect solution. Here’s a look at the potential of battery-hybrid freighters for reducing carbon emissions, and the technological advances the shipping industry will need to achieve decarbonization. 

 The Future Is Battery-Powered 

Of the zero-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels available on the market, battery systems may be the most promising. A 2022 study by the University of California and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found electric power in the transportation sector to be typically five times more energy-efficient than alternative fuels such as green hydrogen and ammonia.  

 The recent electrification of passenger boats and smaller cargo ships gives us a preview of how battery systems can greatly reduce maritime carbon emissions. Denmark’s ferry Ellen offsets 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year and transports passengers to their destination 15 minutes faster than her fossil fuel-powered counterpart. 

 Switching to battery technology not only eliminates greenhouse gas emissions, it may also help shipping companies cut costs. Due to rising fossil fuel prices and new carbon taxes on marine shipping, ocean freight will no longer be as cost-effective as it used to be. In contrast, battery-powered ships require less maintenance and fewer engineers on board, reducing operations costs. 

 Maritime battery technology is only set to improve in the coming years. Startups are developing ways to make maintenance even more convenient, like a system for replacing individual battery cells when they die rather than an entire battery pack. Others are making battery systems the size of shipping containers for use on smaller cargo vessels, which not only travel longer and farther on electric power but also can access more ports than full-sized freight ships. In light of these recent advances, shipping companies can expect higher returns than ever when they switch to electric-powered vessels. 

 The Limitations of Lithium-Ion 

 Considering the progress so far, what’s stopping ocean shipping from going green? One major obstacle is the lithium-ion technology used to power a majority of electric ships. While they are the most energy-dense and commercially mature type of battery on the market, lithium-ion batteries pose major risks to maritime applications. 

 Runaway battery fires at sea tend to be catastrophic, even more so than those on land. Before a lithium-ion cell in thermal runaway actually catches on fire, it releases toxic gasses such as hydrogen fluoride and carbon monoxide. These flammable vapors may spread throughout a ship for hours before the point of combustion, culminating in a huge explosion that destroys cargo and puts crew members’ lives at risk. Traditional fire suppression systems are not effective at stopping battery fires, which do not require oxygen to burn and can be exacerbated by seawater. 

 Companies have been working on features to make Li-ion batteries safer — better cooling systems; separation between cells to prevent mass thermal runaway — but lithium-ion batteries have already caused significant damage to the marine shipping industry. According to Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, fire and explosion accidents were the top cause of loss on marine insurance claims in 2021. AGCS and other insurance experts have identified lithium-ion batteries as a significant source of such fires and a growing risk for maritime shippers’ investments. Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard has issued warnings about transporting lithium-ion batteries at all, let alone using the technology to power shipping. 

 What’s Next: A Better Battery 

 Battery technology will continue to improve over time, but lithium-ion chemistry in particular poses too high a fire risk for large-scale adoption by marine shippers. To reach the International Maritime Organization’s decarbonization targets, shipping companies need a power source just as energy-dense and far safer. The company that develops a non-flammable battery chemistry will turn the tide of maritime carbon emissions. 

Mukesh Chatter is the CEO of Alsym Energy, a technology company developing a low-cost, high-performance rechargeable battery chemistry that is free of lithium and cobalt.

 

intermodal cargo shipping container import logistics chain port containers

April Global Shipping Update: Import Volumes Increase Significantly at West Coast Ports

As the second quarter of 2023 unfolds, U.S. economic uncertainty continues to cast its shadow across the supply chain. While inflation appears to be decelerating, interest rates are still high and the political impasse over raising the federal debt ceiling is cause for concern, with the potential to send shock waves through global financial markets if the government defaults. In the midst of this volatile economic landscape, importers and logistics service providers (LSPs) continue to grapple with lingering supply chain challenges.

IMPORT VOLUMES REMAIN ON 2019 TRACK

Largely driven by activity at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, U.S. container import volumes increased significantly in March 2023, rising 6.9% from February 2023 to 1,853,705 TEUs (Figure 1) and keeping the monthly trendline aligned with pre-pandemic 2019 volumes. While volume was down compared to March 2022 (27.5% drop in TEU volume), imports were still up 4.2% from pre-pandemic March 2019.

When evaluating container import volumes, it’s worth noting that March 2023 numbers may be influenced by multiple factors, including the longer duration of the month (31 days vs. 28 days in February) and the potential lingering impact of January’s Chinese Lunar New Year holiday on early March import volumes.

Figure 1: U.S. Container Import Volume Year-over-Year Comparison

Source: Descartes Datamyne™

WEST COAST PORTS MAKE GAINS

Compared to February 2023, container import volumes for the Top 10 U.S. ports in March 2023 increased 98,379 TEUs (Figure 2). The West Coast ports made strong gains at the expense of the smaller ports, with the Port of Los Angeles experiencing the greatest overall container volume increase (30%), followed by the Port of Long Beach (25%).

The surge in volume at West Coast ports seems counterintuitive given that import volumes from China continued their downward trend—declining 7.4% from February 2023 and down 41.6% from the August 2022 high—and no country had a spike in commodities or exports to the U.S. from February to March. In addition, importers have likely been shifting freight away from the West Coast ports due to the uncertainty of the ongoing—and still unresolved—contract negotiations with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

Figure 2: February to March Comparison of Import Volumes at Top 10 U.S. Ports

Source: Descartes Datamyne™

Notably, for the top 10 countries of origin, U.S. box import volume increased 2.5% (30,257 TEUs) in March, with Italy (50%), Thailand (39%) and South Korea (23%) experiencing the greatest percentage increases.

PORT TRANSIT DELAYS STABILIZE

Despite the increase in container import volume, port transit delays stabilized for all ports. Overall port transit delays in March 2023 were consistent with February 2023, with transit times at the major East and Gulf Coast ports remaining slightly lower than at major West Coast ports (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Monthly Average Transit Delays (in days) for the Top 10 Ports 

Note: Descartes’ definition of port transit delay is the difference as measured in days between the Estimated Arrival Date, which is initially declared on the bill of lading, and the date when Descartes receives the CBP-processed bill of lading.

ONGOING CHALLENGES HINDER TRADE FLOW

Despite the March data showing consistency with pre-pandemic import volume seasonality, lingering supply chain issues continue to hamper the efficient flow of goods. While the situation has improved since the start of the year, COVID continues to impact manufacturing supply chains, especially in China where companies are still dealing with the fallout of the country’s sudden zero-COVID exit this past December.

The ILWU contract negotiations continue to drag on, with the two sides seemingly no closer to bridging the gap on their disagreements. While there has been little impact on container processing to date, tensions are rising and there are calls to bring in the federal government to assist in the negotiations to resolve the issue.

On the regulatory front, California’s AB5 labor law remains a significant hurdle for logistics and transportation providers, with big implications for truckers at U.S. ports. With no resolution in sight, the potential for AB5 protests—akin to the demonstrations at the Port of Oakland last July that lead to a 28% drop in processed cargo containers—remains a concern.

With cuts to oil production and the war in Ukraine propelling energy prices higher, elevated gasoline costs—a significant contributor to high inflation rates—remain a challenge for importers and LSPs. Indeed, the price of gasoline increased slightly to $3.50 per gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, although it was down $0.63 per gallon from the same time in 2022. 

And while the decline in the cost of diesel is good news—decreasing slightly to $4.11 per gallon and down $1.04 per gallon from March 2022—the cost of both fuels is likely to remain elevated for the foreseeable future given the disruption of global energy markets.

TIPS TO MITIGATE ONGOING SHIPPING DISRUPTIONS 

While the pressure on supply chains and logistics operations continues to ease, ongoing issues have the capacity to cause further disruptions as the second quarter of 2023 unfolds. To manage supply chain turbulence, importers and LSPs should review their supply chain strategies to identify opportunities to mitigate risk and moderate supply chain variability.  

In the short term, logistics companies should keep a close eye on ILWU contract negotiations, potential AB5-related port disruptions or decline in port container processing performance, and the spread of any new COVID variants, especially in China, that might impact manufacturing supply chains. 

Given the current economic unpredictability, importers and LSPs should focus on retaining existing supply chain resources, especially drivers. While wage increases are important, building trips to reduce stress and improve quality of life for drivers is equally important for increasing driver retention. 

To improve supply chain velocity and reliability, logistics companies should seek out less congested transportation lanes, including alternative entry lanes through northern and southern borders and inland ports. While total transit time is a valid consideration, supply chain predictability is especially valuable during times of economic uncertainty.

Thinking long-term, importers and LSPs should implement strategies to mitigate the risk of another logistics capacity crisis down the road. Companies may consider evaluating supplier and factory location density to minimize reliance on over-taxed trade lanes and geographical regions that have the potential for conflict. 

PARTING THOUGHTS

Overall, the March U.S. container import data points to less pressure on supply chains and logistics operations, with box import volumes tracking to 2019 levels and port transit delays remaining constant despite significant volume increases at West Coast ports. Yet, despite a degree of relief from the logistical challenges that choked operations during the height of the pandemic, several current issues may cause further disruptions and threaten global supply chain performance in 2023.

COVID continues to impact available supply chain and logistics resources and operations globally, increasing supply chain performance variability, while labor-related issues such as the unresolved ILWU contract negotiations and California’s AB5 law threaten West Coast port operations. 

Although the latest Consumer Price Index report (February 2023) shows a gradual decline in inflation, the rate is still high—driving a rolling recession and continued economic uncertainty in the U.S.; diesel prices continue to decline, but gas prices have risen slightly and remain elevated due to the Russia/Ukraine conflict. By monitoring these key economic and logistics factors closely, importers and LSPs can heighten supply chain resilience to mitigate risk and strengthen operational and financial performance moving forward.