As representatives of the global shipping industry seek solutions to the consolidation and restructuring of the sector and its three super-alliances, representatives of the Global Shippers Forum (GSF) have committed themselves to new talks, brokered by the International Transport Forum (ITF). The ITF, part of the OECD, announced the talks will be co-ordinated between the global container shipping lines, shippers and other stakeholders in the supply chain before the end of 2017.
Speaking at the end of the GSF’s sixth annual meeting in Gran Canaria, Spain, Chris Welsh, the GSF’s Secretary General, was optimistic the talks will help to bolster relationships between shippers and stakeholders, following a period during which shippers have encouraged shipping lines to work more closely with customers and recognise opportunities for the provision of added value services:
"The decision by the OECD/ITF to host these discussions will help us move our relationship with the shipping lines on from historical confrontation to greater future collaboration. All shippers ask for is for shipping lines to engage with their customers in a spirit of willingness to understand their needs and develop innovations that improve the quality of services.”
The global container shipping industry – vital to the conduct of world trade – is in the throes of an unprecedented restructuring with more than 20 individual businesses consolidating into just three so-called super-alliances which will dominate services on the world’s main trade lanes.
“Something had to change,” continues Welsh. “The slower than anticipated growth in international trade in recent years failed to produce the volumes of freight expected to fill the new ‘Mega-vessels’, which were themselves disastrously over ordered and which have kept shipping rates at historically low levels, undermining shipping line profitability.
“Although shipping costs have been relatively low in recent years, shippers (importers and exporters) have suffered from poor reliability, cancelled sailings and longer journey times as shipping lines adjusted to the new operating schedules under the alliance structure. These costs and delays have impacted supply chain reliability and costs and required higher stock holdings and inventory costs.
"The OECD initiative is a welcome and important step in encouraging collaboration between those committed to moving the global shipping industry into a stronger, more profitable position, and the GSF and its members stand ready to contribute in an informed and positive way.”
The first meeting of the OECD's Global Maritime Forum is scheduled to take place on 1st December 2017 in Brussels.