The shipping industry is incredibly difficult to work in. It’s fast paced, always changing, and requires a lot of patience due to the sheer number of things that are completely out of your control. While the shipping industry has always been this way, the last year and a half are a testament to just how much things can change overnight and how drastically it affects every single shipper.
There are a lot of things that can be frustrating when dealing with international shipments, but most of them boil down to a few key issues: communication gaps, pricing transparency, and the strategic partnership (or lack thereof) between a shipping and their forwarder.
As a freight forwarding company, we’ve spent the last several years surveying shippers and taking note of the causes and reasons that shippers experience frustrations, leave freight forwarders, and search for new strategic logistics partnerships. In light of the events of the past year, we observed several shippers struggling to find a freight forwarder that could adapt efficiently to fast-changing market conditions. So with that in mind, here are some things to consider as you navigate some common frustrations during one of the craziest seasons for international shipping ever:
Record High Rates
Money has to be one of the biggest stressors in the shipping industry (any industry for that matter.) Shipping during market conditions such as those we’re experiencing right now is so hard because you’re entirely at the mercy of what carriers are choosing to charge for their services. And when there’s high demand and low supply/sever congestion, rates get hiked way up.
The issue that shippers have though isn’t necessarily the rates themselves – it’s the lack of transparency on the part of the freight forwarder. Out of fear that customers will be frustrated with raised rates, freight forwarders will often opt for an “ask for forgiveness instead of permission” plan when it comes to bookings. They book your cargo understanding it’s not going to be feasible at discussed rates, and then come to you with news of major fees, delays, and increased rates after it’s too late to be useful.
While we understand that high rates are frustrating, our strategy over the last year and a half has been to introduce processes that keep transparency and clarity at the forefront of every single stage. Our customers are always informed ahead of time when additional fees or increased rates seem likely, because while there are certainly frustrations over increased rates, we understand that having the information up front as market conditions evolve is crucial for decision makers to choose the best options when it comes to their freight. There’s no room for sugar coating or lying – it always comes back around, and transparency is the only route that works in market conditions as insane as what we’ve recently seen.
Low Capacity Availability
It should come as no surprise to you that capacity is incredibly low. Since the early 2020 lockdowns, U.S. importers (and shippers all over the world) are scrambling to restock inventory for the spike in eCommerce activity and preparation for the winter holidays. That combined with the already inflated shipping market and major congestion at huge U.S. ports like Long Beach/LA means finding space is incredibly tough.
While we’ve always been deeply connected with our partners, the last year has taught us the importance of building a reliable and trustworthy network of several overseas partners to accommodate as many last minute changes and unforeseen market condition shifts as possible. And it’s worked incredibly well.
Working with a large pool of overseas partners, and actively engaging in conversations regarding new routes, changed rates, and available space means we always have a solution for customers who need capacity. We orchestrate conversations and decisions over capacity far in advance to when it becomes an issue, making it easier to efficiently ship cargo for customers regardless of market conditions.
Being Left in the Dark by Your Freight Forwarder
This has to be the number one frustration we hear about from customers. Most businesses can deal with rate increases, a small shipping delay, or minor communication issues. But being left entirely in the dark? It’s frustrating, unacceptable, and unfortunately incredibly common. And it’s one of the biggest reasons shippers will end up switching freight forwarders.
At Interlog, we recognize that the new market changes are probably here to stay – at least for a while. In embracing the fact that recent market conditions may be the new “normal,” we’ve onboarded several new positions specifically to aid in the onboarding and handling of our clients to ensure they’re always in the loop on market conditions and the state of their cargo.
Creating teams that are solely dedicated to maintaining a close communication channel with customers puts minds at ease and creates the opportunity to change plans quickly if need be. Interlog employees are empowered to act and help immediately rather than having requests go through a vertical organizational structure to uninvolved and uninformed 3rd party managers.
Market conditions suck right now, and everyone knows it. And the secret to navigating the market as is isn’t about finding the right carrier with the right rate. It’s about finding a freight forwarder that can act as a true source of strategic value rather than an ad hoc service provider.
Your freight forwarder isn’t just there to get your cargo from point A to point B – they’re there to assist your team in finding the best solutions for your cargo. With the state of the world, that requires that you work with people who are empowered to act immediately, have established relationships with several overseas partners, and can always provide customized solutions to your team. If you have questions or would like to just start a conversation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our team members! We would love to help in any way we can.