Tag Archives: alliances

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New paper published on Standards and carrier differentiation

My colleagues Chris Clott, Rob Cannizzaro and I just published a paper in the Journal of Shipping and Trade.  In it we propose a new standard called ServiceTerms for classifying container cargo on six ACTION dimensions which are relevant to downstream supply chain service and performance (and to some extent upstream actions).  The six dimensions are

  • Accessorial
  • Customer Service
  • Transport
  • Inventory
  • Orders and paperwork
  • None of the above.

ServiceTerms would function something like INCOTERMS in supply chain contracts. They would provide a standard which every participant in the supply chain– ocean, rail and truck carriers, port terminals, warehousing, drayage, distribution, and so on– would know about in advance and determine how they were going to handle the goods to meet the standard.   The standard includes a specification of limits on the time spent in each step of the journey, based on the total length in time committed to.  These time standards would allow each of the actors to plan their operations to meet their time requirement.  Aiming  for the standard would coordinate the supply chain actors with only limited need for them to work together except on the handoffs. (And these are typically between just two adjacent players in the network.)  The actors in the chain would be enabled to innovate their own individual  techniques to meet their goals.

Like INCOTERMS there would be no specific penalties for failure.  However, there would be measurement and reporting of performance (time in service) at each stage of the end-to-end delivery.  Individual contracts could provide penalties, negotiated by the participants;  everyone involved could keep track of whether a participant was doing his or her bit to meet the standard; or whether some were agreeing to a standard with less than total commitment to making it happen for individual cargoes.

Alliances have been touted as supply chain improvements because they coordinate a few ocean carriers on legs of a journey. But supply chain thinking tells us what matters is the overall source to destination performance, and that requires more involvement, particularly from downstream players such as rail, barge, truck, warehouse, and “last mile”.  To improve their abysmal service performance, alliances have to find ways of coordinating the entire delivery process.  A standard for the process that shippers, handlers,  and carriers can agree and coordinate on is a central element.

We see alliances as entities capable of incubating the ServiceTerms standards, much as the International Chamber of Commerce does for INCOTERMS.   ServiceTerms could then be included in a standard contract for delivery. The specifics of the ServiceTerms  standard should be negotiated during the incubation process; and the process should allow for individual variations by contract, much as INCOTERMS do.

If the majority of cargo went according to the standard, all the supply chain players would work together to make sure the overall term was met.  That should improve everyone’s focus on the goal of making customer service a standard rather than an exception in the container business.

 

 

   via Standard setting and carrier differentiation at seaports | SpringerLink

Cite this article as:

Clott, C.B., Hartman, B.C. & Cannizzaro, R. J. shipp. trd. (2018) 3: 9. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41072-018-0035-0

A pdf of the article is available here.

Some box terminals are facing ‘catastrophic economic failure’, warns analyst – The Loadstar

What’s the truth? Some experts say that terminals must be able to handle giant ships and therefore few customers, or fail.  Olaf Merk (of the OECD) says it looks like a ‘monopsony’; a port has only one or very few customers. Actually according to Alan Manning [1], who ‘wrote the book’ on monopsony, a monopsony simply means that there is little elasticity of supply (of incoming containers i.e. ships) for the port.

The classic monopsony situation occurs in labor supply; the ‘company town’. It used to be seen in mining and very early, in manufacturing.  In a company town, if you want to work, you have to work for the one employer.  The firm must raise wages for all employees if it needs more than are available at the town. If it needs fewer employees, it can drop wages.  Manning’s book defines labor monopsony as any case in which the labor supply (of workers) is inelastic (relatively vertical supply curve) while labor demand by the employer is elastic (downward sloping demand for labor).

What makes for inelastic labor supply? In the company town it happens because workers feel they don’t have mobility flexibility– it’s too far to the next place to work. But monopsony can happen for lots of reasons– discrimination, for one, can limit workers’ ability to get a different job.  In fact, any condition that prevents workers from seeking other work, and thereby constricting individuals’ market for jobs, suffices. Examples include safety on the job, or most recently in the news, forcing truck drivers to lease their trucks through a drayage firm.  The huge lease obligations pin the drivers to the job, and they lose control of work conditions and in the case of trucking, pay scales as well, since the drayage work in US ports is often piece work rather than (often unionized) pay by the hour.

In the port example the port is the labor supply– if the port is forced to upgrade to support ULCC ships in the 17-20KTEU range, it will be captive to those carriers that wish to run those big  ships to it. These consume so much port capacity that the port will not be able to solicit other jobs from smaller ships.  If it does, congestion will result.  The very few carriers calling there with their ULCCs will demand lower prices to land, and the port ‘wage’ will decline. That naturally also affects their profitability.

And the ports that don’t adapt to the large ships will not be able to get work at all, or nowhere near as much. It’s like the people living too far from the company town (on the remote farms) who will fall out of the labor market for that firm.

Such fun employing economic analysis to ports.

Source: Some box terminals are facing ‘catastrophic economic failure’, warns analyst – The Loadstar

[1] Alan Manning (2003) Monopsony in Motion

 

Drewry – West Coast upgrade

Drewry’s Container Insight Weekly had this detailed piece on West Coast usage by large ships.  The major takeaway: bigger ships are calling but it may be too soon for many of the ULCC (18000 teu or so) to call yet, due to port related delays.  There’s also a sort of bedlam caused by the reshuffling alliances; the firms in each alliance have different preferences as to which terminal to use at the ports. Hence there’s no stability in where a ship might call on each visit.  To fix this will require compromise on ocean carrier objectives, like “always use our affiliated terminal when you come to LA”.  Stability would make it simpler for the terminals to plan how to unload or load and get the customers’ cargoes on the way to their destinations.  That part is challenging enough for the ports terminal operators today. Everyone has to work together to improve the customer (cargo owner) journey (literal and figurative!!!).

  The number of containerships of 13,000 teu or above deployed on the Asia-US West Coast trade has nearly doubled since the start of 2017. How long before the mega-ships arrive?

Source: Drewry – Weekly Feature Articles – West Coast upgrade