Tough times call for tough decisions, and the turbulent seas of the past two years forced companies to take a hard look at their businesses and make course corrections. Significant transformation takes tremendous courage, and some steps taken are likely to have great impact over several years. However, several of these changes will be even more evident for liner shipping in 2011. The result will be a better and more sustainable industry model.
International shipping has enjoyed annual volume growth rates in excess of 9 percent for nearly three decades. The hard lessons learned during the crisis remind us we can never take meteoric growth for granted, and we must continue to remove waste and inefficiencies that impair asset utilization and continued productivity increases.
Customers and carriers need to work together to improve the accuracy and consistency of forecasting to better match demand to supply. And collectively we must find ways to improve processes and business models to maximize productivity of assets and resources.
Substantial change is never easy. However, the benefits include significantly increased reliability, improved inventory planning and asset deployment, and elimination of redundant costs. Making such improvements at the forefront of returning market growth will yield greater returns for years ahead.
While ocean shipping remains the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation, continued industry growth will increase pressure to reduce environmental impact, as customers will seek partners to help reduce their own carbon footprints. Transparency and credibility requirements will necessitate verification from third party organizations. Driving this change is the responsible thing to do as an industry.
Engaging customers and suppliers as partners in this process will differentiate the leaders and winners from those who have yet to learn from the past.