A new report from maritime analyst SeaIntel has found it's tough for new, small shippers to get freight rate quotes from liner carriers and large forwarders.
In the latest edition of the company's SeaIntel Sunday Spotlight,
SeaIntel describes an investigation it undertook to determine how easy it would be to get rates for a small shipment from Hong Kong to Los Angeles and Rotterdam.
The exercise had SeaIntel contact 33 carriers and forwarders on the transpacific and 27 on the Asia/Europe lane to get container yard-to-container yard pricing for two dry containers on each of the two lanes. The analyst found that a vast majority of liner carriers and large non-vessel-operating common carriers didn't give rates. Only nine on the transpacific and 11 on Asia/Europe responded with rates.
Reasons some carriers and NVOs gave for not providing rates including wanting more company details to vet the shipper, they couldn't provide competitive rates for such small shipments, and because they worked in contract environments.
Some carriers didn't return e-mails, while others passed the rate request on to other departments, with SeaIntel's fictional shipper copied in, but the request wasn't followed up on.
Of the carriers and NVOs who provided rates, most were competitive in relation to spot rate indexes. But some companies provided two different rates from offices in two different countries. For other carriers, base rates were wildly different if SeaIntel used the carrier's online rate system versus asking for a rate via e-mail. In one instance, the base rate from Hong Kong to Los Angles varied by more than $2,000.
SeaIntel also calculated that base rates from Hong Kong to Rotterdam are actually in the negative. Maersk, for example, quoted a -$5 base rate on the lane, though with BAF the rate was, of course, in the positive. No other line or NVO outright quoted negative rates, but SeaIntel estimated that lines had lowered their bunker fees to make the total rates more competitive, in lieu of stating negative base rates on a quote.
SeaIntel also found that many quoted rates were indecipherable for a company not used to shipping containers. From Asia to Europe, rates included as many as 24 acronyms, while some included charges in multiple currencies. Other rates included currency surcharges based on percentages, but did not specify if the percentage was applied to the base rate or rate including other surcharges.
SeaIntel found no pattern to suggest carriers as a whole or NVOs as a whole were more customer-friendly.
'The pattern repeats across the industry, and signals a more deep-rooted industry standard concerning the customer experience as it relates to providing a quote,' SeaIntel said.
To see the report and to sign up for the SeaIntel Sunday Spotlight, go to www.SeaIntel.com