Maersk vessel bow photo

Rumours that Maersk will restrict some customers to spot bookings from 1 January could be “a big opportunity” for smaller forwarders to win business from their multinational competitors.

Sean Crook, director at Sydney-based forwarder Neolink, says Maersk and subsidiary Hamburg Süd have “definitely been pushing everyone to online bookings and/or FAK [freight all kinds] rates”.

“But I would say that is 95% of the market now,” he told The Loadstar.

“And while that might not be great for big exporters/importers 1,000 teu a year, customers of ours moving 300-500 have never had contract rates.

“In a lot of instances, we have found our named account contract (NAC) rates less reliable than the FAK spot rates. I often have put both options in front of customers and recommended they pay the premium to guarantee space and improve reliability.

“I see this as a big opportunity to win market share from the big multinationals as they will be losing work to us and not being transparent with their customers that FAK/spot rates are the better option.”

For example, he said, one customer was able to see a significant improvement to delivered-in-full-on-time percentage, and a reduction in rolled cargo by moving away from contracts.

“Our customer numbers have increased by over 100 regular importers in the past 12 months, mainly from multinationals not being transparent about this very issue,” he added.

“Why would the shipping lines want to continue to book containers on my NAC rates from China, when they can sell that same space at 2.5-times my rate?

“Maersk/Hamburg Süd are only doing what the rest are doing. They are not refusing to deal with freight forwarders, they are just moving away from the NAC rates as the demand is so high and they can make more profit by shifting to FAK.”

Not all forwarders are happy with potentially being restricted to the Maersk Spot platform, however, and are doubting whether the shake-up will become permanent. One said: “I think they have a small window to make this work, and I would not back them to do it. I expect they will be looking for freight again by the end of next year.”

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