Mimicry on High Seas: Long-distance shippers use trucker techniques

HALIFAX — As the international marketplace shrinks, international coastal shippers are being forced to act a lot more like truckers.

They’re facing much more competition and they’re being forced to be, well, fleeter of foot.

For one thing, the face of the long-distance international shipping business is getting botoxed and that should mean lower international shipping rates and a financial facelift for all sorts of entrepreneurs.

All around the globe, giant shipping cartels known as "shipping conferences" which have pretty much controlled 75 percent of international freight are going through corporate upheavals. They’re being forced to re-write freight-rate agreements, some of which date back centuries. Industry experts expect shipping prices to come down as a result.

For example, this time last year, the European Union ordered the dismantling of one conference, making way for free competition among European-based shipping lines. Only now are the affects on pricing starting to be felt.

It’s sort of like what happened with trucking in this country, when the industry was deregulated.

What’s more, international shippers are introducing another tactic that mirrors the trucking business.

Just like less-than-truckload carriers consolidate loads for distribution at a warehouse crossdock, less-than-container (LTC) freight movers consolidate overseas-bound goods into containers.

For instance, according to this report in The Halifax Chronicle-Herald, shipping a skid across the ocean in a less-than-container load can shave as much as 70 percent off the freight costs because it’s combined with pallets and packages from other shippers or manufacturers (The usual alternative would be expensive air freight.)

On Monday, reports The Herald, a joint operation uniting Nova Scotia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture, the Halifax Port Authority and shipping giant Kuehne & Nagel, opened for business to provide this LTC service to North American shippers.

The new service will consolidate pallets and smaller shipments into containers and move them across the Atlantic on a weekly basis from Halifax to Bremen, Germany, and that will serve as the hub port for inland shipments.

Less-than-container shipping should make overseas marketing far more attractive to Canadian manufacturers and small businesses who want to reach offshore markets, proponents say.

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