Phone and email still most common way to make a freight booking

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by Emily Atkins

More than 80 percent of freight quotes are being sought by email or telephone, in spite of the rise of digital options.

According to a new survey, digital adoption challenges leading to a lack of transparency, visibility and trust emerge as three key struggles for container logistic companies to book shipper-owned containers.

To examine the pain points of the current state of ocean freight booking, Container xChange joined hands with the Copenhagen Business School and surveyed with 137 freight forwarders and NVOCCs spread across the globe.  

While the majority of freight forwarders shippers and NVOCCs use online quotation solutions, 83 percent find the need for better digital infrastructure in the future, suggesting that  digital vessel schedules and intuitive booking interfaces will be the most important digital transformations to come.

The survey also found that more than 70 percent of the respondents find a lack of trust in their counterparts.  It also discovered that 84 percent still source quotations via email and phone, while 78 percent of them use the same outdated processes to place a booking.  

At the same time, the fact that 60 percent also use online quotation solutions such as shipping companies’ online booking interface (e.g., Maersk’s platform) shows that a market for digital SOC ocean freight booking exists. 

“Lack of transparency and standardized digital processes has fueled inefficiency and mistrust for a very long time in the logistics industry. These struggles are further worse for shipper-owned containers (SOC) where no carrier takes care of processes. This hinders the adoption of SOCs in the market,” said Christian Roeloffs, co-founder and CEO, of Container xChange. 

“With the adoption of digital tools, all of this could be streamlined in a manner that there is a standardized procedure for all users. With digitization being at the crux of the whole booking cycle, the industry could become more efficient with streamlined vessel schedules, intuitive booking process, avoid scammers and gain trust in counterparties with vetted partners.”

Compared to carrier-owned containers, SOCs, in principle, provide more flexibility and can help users avoid hefty fees like demurrage and detention. However, the market has yet to fully adapt to SOCs in the same way as COCs when it comes to digital solutions. SOCs, being a fairly new concept, don’t have digitized slot booking processes and have a huge opportunity to connect to the fragmented ocean freight marketplace. 

When it comes to ocean freight slot booking, shipper-owned container users struggle more with getting accurate quotations, and confirmations of available capacity and end up booking with 5-10 shipping or feeder lines since there is no schedule reliability. Carrier-owned container users do have the liberty of getting administrative tasks like trucking, offloading, unstuffing, and so on taken care of and have digitized slot booking solutions in place, plenty of players still conduct the process manually with loads of emails and phone calls.