Little man has trouble getting straight answer

Analyst SeaIntel Maritime recently posed as an importer to find out how well carriers and NVOCCs respond to email requests for rates on a shipment of two 40ft containers carrying garden equipment on the transpacific and Asia-Europe trade.

Shipping lines and NVOCCs are regularly accused of ignoring email requests for prices on small cargo shipments, and are said to use unintelligible industry jargon and offer significantly different rates when they do quote, it has been claimed.

SeaIntel sent out 33 rate requests to 22 carriers and 11 NVOCCs for a transpacific voyage, but only nine companies managed to provide a rate, and five of them asked for extra information – for internal reasons.

Of the nine quotes received, SeaIntel said an importer new to the business would have difficulty interpreting six, because of the number of abbreviated surcharges included.

The quotes also varied significantly, with one shipping line quoting below market prices, despite the low volumes, and with no haggling, while another quoted almost double that amount.

One NVOCC even provided two different quotes from separate offices for the same shipment. None of the carriers quoted the BAF (bunker adjustment factor) level recommended by the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement, although all the NVOCCs did.

Of the 24 that did not provide a quote, only five responded at all and said they were not interested in carrying the cargo.

There was a similar story on the Asia-Europe trade. SeaIntel contacted 19 carriers and eight NVOCCs, with only 11 sending quotes – nine carriers and two NVOCCs.

Of the 16 companies that did not provide a quote, only one gave a reason.

SeaIntel said the quotes were in multiple currencies, with some quoting per teu, some per container and some per bill of lading.

SeaIntel concluded: “Based on the many carriers and NVOCCs we have contacted, we have to conclude that, overall, it is very difficult to be a small cargo owner looking for a simple quote. “In the majority of cases, you are simply ignored.”

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