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作者:Mike Wackett   发布时间:2007-12-03    浏览量:3984   字体大小:  A+   A- 

Ocean carriers are facing a nightmare scenario of spiralling costs: Only this week P&I Clubs, the North of England and the London Club, announced an increase of 17.5% in their 2007/2008 premiums with the American Club even higher at 20%.

Commenting on the hikes, the London Club committee noted that a ‘higher-than-budgeted incidence of large claims in the 2006/2007 policy year had brought about a 30% rise in the cost of such claims’.

P&I Clubs are in agreement that the upward trend will continue.

Fuel prices have continued to soar and now represent more than 60% of an 8,000TEU container vessel’s operating costs.

This week, CMA CGM, announced that its vessels on its FAL3 Asia – Europe service would in future steam at a more economic speed in order to save fuel.

To compensate for the slack in coverage, due to an extra week in the round-trip transit time, CMA CGM has found it more cost effective to charter in an additional vessel.

Other carriers will no doubt follow CMA CGM’s lead in their endeavours to put a lid on costs.

Crewing costs are also surging as shortages bite and officers practice ‘job-hopping’ between companies for improved terms.

Other costs such as charter hire / mortgage interest, port and terminal charges are largely immovable.

So…where are savings to be made in 2008 and beyond?

Office and administration costs must be dauntingly substantial for a major ocean carriers that in general now operates an own office strategy.

Twenty years ago, European liner agents were synonymous with containerisation. The agency sales ‘rep’ would have a portfolio of services offered by his respective principals along with him at every shipper or importer sales call.

Agency giants such as Brown Jenkinson and Killick Martin, Escombe McGrath and Lambert Bros, controlled a sizeable chunk of container throughput in the UK.

On the north continent, household names such as Paul Günther in Germany, Hudig & Pieters in the Netherlands and Best & Osterrieth in Belgium provided similar functions for expanding ocean carriers.

However, gradually agency ocean carriers, in an increasingly competitive and sales-orientated market, opted for a direct sales and marketing control approach, by means of their own in-house representation.

Names like Brown Jenkinson and Killick Martin disappeared into murky liquidation after decades of agency representation; or survived living hand to mouth and fearful of takeover and acquisition news that could lead to their indirect dismissal.

Today’s remaining liner agents will have been forced to prove themselves capable of weathering any storm.

They are the survivors of a turbulent two decades for liner agency.

A never ending pattern over the years of lost agency business, due mostly to circumstances outside of their control, has forced them to adapt into new business areas such as NVOCC services, whilst becoming leaner and meaner with their costs.

Names like Johnson Stevens, John Good, Cory Bros, Escombe Lambert, are still around and fighting for business.

Johanna Schnitger is a director of one of the UK’s leading liner agents, Escombe Lambert.

Escombe Lambert is the agent for the Shipping Corporation of India, in the UK and Ireland and its sister company Interfreight Shipping Agencies, agents for UASC.

As a 29-year old woman, in the male dominated world of shipping, Schnitger knows how to fight her corner and fight for business, but is optimistic about the future for liner agents.

Schnitger is confident that a good liner agency representation can result in savings for an ocean carrier, maintaining and increasing throughput; without detracting from the carrier’s profile.

Schnitger opines: ‘Ocean carriers should re-think their strategy in regard to 100% own-offices and take a closer look at the skills and one-stop-shop resources that the modern liner agency has to offer.’

When ocean carriers come to review their business plans in 2008 and beyond - which they will surely be forced to do - might it be worth considering how a good liner agent can assist?