The U.K. managing director for container line MOL laid out the reasons why different shippers receive significant variations in price quotes from different shipping lines.
“Calculating a realistic price for a container movement can be very complex – it depends on how full the ship is, the price of fuel, how fast it sails, how long a container might stay in the port and so on,” said MOL’s Adrian Jones, speaking at a multimodal exhibition in Birmingham, United Kingdom. “With the variety of charges applied to cope with this uncertainty, shipping lines are often painted as the bad guys, but we really do want to save shippers money.”
Jones explained that each shipping line has its own cargo flows depending on which customers it is serving.
“So, if we end up with a lot of empty containers in one area and need to reposition them to another part of the world, we would be able to offer you a cheaper rate to ship between those two points than another shipping line which did not have a surplus of containers at the same place of origin,” he said.
Jones said he understands why some customers will change shipping lines every time they can get a cheaper price elsewhere, but warns that this is not always the best option.
“By constantly switching lines, there are added administration costs involved in sorting out terms and conditions, and there is also an increased risk of operational failure, as new partners are brought in who are not familiar with the way the shipper or forwarder works.”
He suggested that shippers be flexibile in their requirements.
“Everyone specifies a delivery at 8 a.m. – whether they need the goods then or not,” Jones said. “If they agreed to receive the container in the afternoon, the delivery cost could well be cheaper.” - Eric Johnson