Ocean cargo: Shippers are getting the attention they deserve

“The carriers are finally coming to shipper forums to listen, rather than just speak,” said Peter A. Friedmann, executive director of Agriculture Ocean Transportation Coalition

By Patrick Burnson · June 17, 2011

As many leading ocean carrier executives have noted recently, sharper shipper expectations are driving disruptive change in the industry.

“The carriers are finally coming to shipper forums to listen, rather than just speak,” said Peter A. Friedmann, executive director of Agriculture Ocean Transportation Coalition (AgTC). “We have observed a whole new attitude when it comes to service and shipper concerns.”

Those concerns were given full voice at AgTC’s recently concluded 24th annual meeting in San Francisco.  According to Friedman, the record turn-out of his constituents may have contributed to the “new dynamic” of interaction.

“The carrier executives didn’t just blow in here to give a speech and abruptly depart,” he said. “They came early, mingled, and talked to our members, making a real effort to understand their point of view.”

Given the fact that AgTC members control approximately 1.4 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) a year, this should not come as such a surprise. But there’s another key reason, too, said Friedmann.

“Our ‘ocean carrier performance survey’ – now in its seventh year – is very closely watched by the biggest and best global carriers,” he said. “And they compete aggressively for this recognition.”
AgTC members include agriculture and forest products exporters and are found on the list of the Top 100 Exporters, as well as hundreds of smaller, but still substantial volume exporters and many importers as well. In addition, freight forwarders, who often serve as the export departments of ag and forest products exporters, are members of the AgTC, and bring the their expertise to the survey.

This year, over 425 transportation professionals completed the survey based on the following criteria:

Documentation accuracy and timeliness; quote responsiveness; rate competitiveness; claims service; freight billing accuracy; on-time performance; ease of doing business; canceling or rolling bookings; equipment and space allocation; problem resolution; and customer service practices.

“OOCL always ranks high,” said Friedmann, “and they finished first this year. It’s also important to note that APL finished second, and Evergreen captured third.”

But that doesn’t tell the whole story, Friedmann, said, observing that Maersk continues to show marked improvement year upon year.

“Their leaders have demonstrated a willingness to change and work with our constituents,” he said. “They don’t take their premier status for granted.”

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About the Author

Patrick Burnson
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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