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Shippers would prefer to be treated by container lines as partners rather than customers, according to a new survey.

TShippers want to be partners with carriershe European Shippers’ Council (ESC) and logistics consultancy Drewry Supply Chain Advisors jointly surveyed hundreds of shippers around the world on series of 16 service attributes and asked them to rate their experiences of dealing with box carriers on a scale of one (very dissatisfied) to five (very satisfied).

The three areas of service or price with which shippers and forwarders were the “most dissatisfied” with were carrier financial stability, quality of customer service and reliability of booking/cargo shipped as booked.

“Shippers want to be treated not only as customers, but also as partners when discussing their container transport requirements,” said Fabien Becquelin, ESC maritime policy manager.

“As supply chains are becoming more and more complex, partnership is of key importance, and unfortunately it is missing.”



He added that the air freight industry had suffered similar perceptions, but appeared to have be much more willing to address its image problem.

“Comparing transport modes, the air freight industry is suffering similar problems to container shipping, but it came to the conclusion that partnership is the only way out and is reaching out to the shippers,” Mr Becquelin said.

Box line customers, on average, did not rate carriers higher than 3.3 for any of the 16 service attributes, the survey shows, while carriers scored most highly on price of service, accurate documentation and quality of equipment (containers).

Cynics might argue that shippers ought to be highly satisfied with pricing in recent years, although this particular survey was only held last month. It is also interesting to see that the shippers were, again on average, satisfied with “price stability during the contract period”, suggesting that the severe rate volatility in recent times may have abated.

Philip Damas, head of Drewry Supply Chain Advisors, suggests carriers need to continue to invest in the softer aspects of their business.

“Shippers and forwarders clearly see the necessity for the carrier industry to invest in IT, and to balance the needs for cost competitiveness and for more predictability and reliability,” he said.

The ESC and Drewry plan to run the shipper and forwarder satisfaction survey on an annual basis and are seeking more shippers and forwarders to participate, provide views and be kept informed of its carrier performance assessments.

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  • Steve Cameron

    April 17, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    With The European Shippers Council survey saying shippers want to be treated as partners as well as customers, and Philip Damas of Drewry Supply Chain Advisors, suggesting carriers need to continue to invest in the softer aspects of their business, it will be interesting to hear from those that have been able to measure the returns on soft assets – IT systems and people.

    The Liner Industry has been quick to invest in hard assets (bigger ships) and just as quick to shed soft assets (people), when the hard asset investments cause over capacity. Perhaps a better way of comparing the return on investments on both sides of the business might produce a more balanced approach?