Better communication and understanding between shippers and ship owners will allow both parties to work more productively together and reap mutual benefits. This was the message given by Chris Welsh Secretary General of the Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF) at yesterday’s International Chamber of Shipping Annual Conference.
In his speech, Welsh stressed that there was already recognition from the shipper community that ship operators had invested in new vessels and equipment and that growing evidence of a greater emphasis on building longer-term relationships (untypical of many sectors in the shipping industry) through listening to shippers’ concerns and acting on them. However, there was also room for improvement.
"Of the research I carried out in preparing to honestly tackle the topic of the speech I was asked to prepare – rather provocatively titled ‘How can ship owners make shippers happy?’ – I encountered plenty of positive feedback from shippers. However, my research also revealed some considerable room for improvement, which if taken in the spirit in which it was given can only benefit both parties and help foster a stronger future.
"Clearly, shippers would like to see ship owners adopt a slicker, more customer-oriented approach and try to understand their customers’ wider needs. This could be achieved through investment in eCommerce and by giving greater priority to services that extend beyond just port-to-port operations looking at inland logistics needs too."
A particular concern from the bulk shipping sector was the need for better communication from ship operators about the status of a vessel as charterers gear their supply chains around estimated time of arrivals and a stronger focus on flexibility to amend quantities when plans change.
"We all know that supply chain operations could be improved, but through organsations such as the ICS and GSF we hope to open lines of dialogue between shippers and ship operators to foster greater understanding between the two. After all, they have a mutual interest in each others’ well being and a common-interest in seeing business flourish."