We just say goodbye to 2019 and are entering into a new decade of the 2020s, it is now a very important moment for us to take a retrospective on the past and see what we could learn and to prepare ourselves for the upcoming adventure.
A lot had happened in the freight industry in 2019 where there was an unprecedented amount of venture capital injected into the industry, while not to any existing players on the field but to new start-up i.e. Flexport (digital forwarder) and Freightos ( Digital platform)
And we have more traditional freight forwarders i.e. Agility entering the digital field by
launching an on-line operation portal, covering instant quotation, booking and invoicing.
Nevertheless, the most conservative service provider, container shipping lines, rushed into the digital arena by offering instant spot quote with guaranteed space.
This is extremely rare in the history of container shipping where ocean freight rates are kind of “discretely” passed along NVOCC and sizable importer on a contract basis, any small-and-medium size importer shipping on occasional basis has literally no direct access to carrier quotation but through a freight forwarder.
Having Maersk and Hapag – Lloyd taking an aggressive approach to putting everything online, everyone today has the possibility to learn about the moving rate.
International shipping costs are part of decisive factors in importers cost structure, accounting for approximately 30% on total supply chain cost in most cases.
As more and more service providers are evolving and disclosing price online, it is worthy of the time for importers to look around, to compare and to find out the possibility for cost reduction in international shipping.
Try to recall the days how eBay and Amazon gradually edged out sellers from the street.
Emm, something similar might be happening on the other side of the world.
In this article, we are going to list and compare the portal from major carriers, forwarders and digital platform, so as to give a comprehensive coverage concerning ocean freight FCL, ocean freight LCL, air freight, express and Amazon FBA.
Ocean carrier online portal
All-in-one marketplace (non-forwarder background)
Freight forwarder online portal
Start with Ocean carrier online portal
Container shipping (also known as Sea shipping) is the most prevailing and cost-effective method. Refer to below operational flow of a shipment, even though it is consisting of multiple handling processes from shipper to consignee, the biggest cost always comes from port to port handling, which is the ocean freight price that paid to the ocean carrier.
Of all the ocean carriers who declared to offer instant online quotation, we found only two carriers turned words into action.
With the Maersk spot and Hapag-Lloyd online booking portal, everyone could now get an instant and transparent price quote;
The most comprehensive product coverage we have seen so far from an ocean carrier, covering FCL (space guarantee), inland trucking and Oversize cargo
To get a quote for an FCL shipment (full container load), we could simply click on Ocean prices or Maersk spot and will be redirected to the quotation page as followings
After inputting all necessary info (7 Steps), we will get an instant quotation with sailing schedules to choose from
Also with clear shipping schedule and surcharge breakdown
Meanwhile, please keep in mind that according to T/C of Maersk Spot.
There is a penalty scheme in place where cancellation, no-show and amendment made by shipper, are subject to penalty; while at the same time there is also a back to back guarantee from carrier that in the cases where rollover happens, shipper is entitled to claim the compensation from Maersk, both on the basis of a fixed amount per container, details could be found here.
From our experience, on Maersk spot, we are not always getting sky-high FAK rate but most of the time very competitive spot rate on selective routes, kind of like “lightning deal” from the online marketplace. That’s why since Sep 2019, there has been rapid growth in search on Maersk China portal which is now accounting for roughly 5% of total volume.
In the world of internet, whenever a new platform is trying to emerge, special offers are commonly used to attract new users and to encourage transaction. If more people in the industry are paying attention to this tool, there is surely some solid reasons behind.
Similar to Maersk spot, offering online quotation for Ocean freight FCL
To get a quote for an ocean freight FCL, we could simply login Hagag-Lloyd account and will immediately see the quotation page on the user dashboard
It takes fewer steps (3 steps) for input before getting the quotation
Similar to Maersk spot, we also see clear ocean freight rate structure along with surcharge breakdown, and indication on rate validity
Then, here is the major difference compared to Maersk Spot on T/C from Hapag-Lloyd.
Unlike Maersk’s penalty and compensation scheme, Hapag-Lloyd has a different version with the incremental adjustor, where cancellation may cost as much as up to 95% of ocean freight rate if the cancellation is made within 7 days to vessel departure.
A quick recap and comparison for two carriers;
Now, we move on to All-in-one marketplace (non-forwarder background)
Freightos is an online freight transportation marketplace launched in 2017, having established itself as a marketplace, Freightos recruited a number of quality service providers from the logistics sector internationally who are keen in listing sufficient service solution for
Ocean freight (FCL and LCL, Port to Port and Door to Door)
Air freight ( Port to Port and Door to Door)
That said, any registered user on the marketplace could get an instant quote for a small order from a box (30 KG) door to door delivery
To a FCL (full container load) with both door to door and port to port option
This versatile portal is being viewed as an important marketplace for small and medium-size importers to source reliable shipping solution online due to the convenience of getting a quote and to compare across the board. Moreover, shipper and consignee could both enjoy the ease of doing business from the money-back guarantee.
However, like any other platform, there is inevitably drawback in “shopping” as shoppers only see what’s available or what’s being offered on the platform.
For instance, there is clearly a tendency for a seller (service provider) to make abundant listings
We have 13 service providers listed 133 solutions to ship a 30KG box from Yiwu to Vernon, by air freight or Express courier.
and 7 service providers listed 127 solutions to ship a 750KG pallet from Yiwu to Vernon, by ocean freight LCL
Top ranking service provider alone listed 66 offers for this pallet…
It is always good to have more options, rather than less, on a marketplace for a buyer to make a decision on transaction. However, In a longer run, Freightos as a platform might have to come up with a solution to improve user experience rather than having redundant offerings from a limited number of providers
Sofreight.com is an online price searching and comparing tool for air freight and ocean freight, developed and operated by a Chinese technology company in Shenzhen.
By simply input POL and the POD, any visitor could get an instant quote for ocean freight import from China, with surcharge details
the same works for Air freight
The only difficulty in using this tool is language since most surcharges or remarks are made in Chinese, it may cause misunderstanding for Non-Chinese users.
A quick recap and comparison on two marketplaces;
Finally, we have the Freight forwarder online portal
The biggest player in digital forwarding, equipped with an advanced operating system and worked on a streamlined operation flow. It was widely viewed as a digital platform rather than a forwarder in the very beginning, however, the way they attract new customers ( leads generation and conversion) and the achievement it has made in a very short period of time, have shed a light on the rest of competitors from traditional field on how to evolve in fast-forwarding digital ages.
After login to the account, we see there is no such “quotation tool” which was seen from other digital platforms, while instead, there is a user dashboard with all the functionalities pre-installed i.e. shipment/quote/product/report etc.
It is a comprehensive closed-loop flow that Flexport doesn’t merely want its user to check rates and compare with competitors, but to get the price for air freight/ocean freight and go straight to shipment execution.
Take a look at the shipment page, there is clear indication with great details on every step all the way from shipping method (air freight or ocean freight) to incoterm applied on the shipment;
Following by receiving and delivery location details, with the option to create multiple shippers or suppliers address, which is a unique functionality to what we have seen from all major online booking portal;
to create more than one location
Then move on to the cargo description tab, fill in all necessary information
And eventually, receive quotations for respective shipment details input previously under user quote tab
Together with billing and tracking built under the same user dashboard, a shipper could easily book, pay and track their shipment anytime they want.
However, since Flexport is heavily engaged in transpacific trade between Asia and North America, it is not offering worldwide shipping service as most freight forwarders do.
Shipa freight is the online initiative of international freight forwarder Agility, offering an online solution for air freight, ocean freight FCL, ocean freight LCL and FBA
It is very easy to get a quote as long as basic information is input on the quotation page
Here is the example of getting a Door to Door LCL quotation under FCA term, with all the surcharge details
Door to Door air freight quotation under FCA term
There is no search limited and all the quotes are automatically saved under the user dashboard until the quotation expired
In line with agility's global forwarding capacity, shipping rate from China to worldwide could be found here which is a good indication for international shipping price comparison.
A traditional freight forwarder that is providing end to end shipping service from China to worldwide, aiming at developing solutions for small volume shipment (50 KG ~ 500 KG) with competitive price for ocean freight, air freight and FBA.
By sticking to an efficient and transparent operational flow, an online portal is developed for customers to check and compare shipping solution.
For instance, to get a quote for ocean freight LCL from China, simply input POL, POD and cargo dimension, an all-in price is shown within seconds.
The same works for Amazon FBA
A quick recap and comparison on forwarders;
Looking ahead into 2020, believe more and more participants in the industry will find ways to maintain and to attract new customers through digital approaches, and eventually, all the efforts made will empower shippers all over the world to make quick and wise decision in managing their international shipping.