In 2009, ocean carriers focused on survival during one of the worse downturns in containerized freight history. Most used this time to eliminate wasteful habits that had crept up during the good times, and some had to reduce personnel.
In 2010, carriers need to focus on relearning their customer’s needs, because those needs have changed and will continue to change as a result of the recession. Not only will they have to adjust to these changes, but they also will have to do so while still in survival mode. Investments of any kind must be made with caution because 2010 likely will not be greatly different economically from 2009.
Despite massive efforts to streamline operations and reduce costs, carriers have still sustained incredible losses. Some have consolidated operations and services to such an extent that they are less likely to sustain or survive the types of tragedies such as hurricanes and terrorist attacks that have hit us in past years. Are we prepared for these types of events in 2010?
Most important, however, is to focus on the golden opportunities afforded from enduring a year of crisis already. We have an opportunity to change this industry, to make it more intelligent and modern. We all made operations leaner, and we learned how to do more with less — but we still did not change significantly the way we do business.
This opportunity will exist in 2010, and we must take advantage of it. Sit down together and talk — customers, carriers, railroads, trucking companies, everyone. This is the real challenge, to make big changes, not just cutting costs! Our industry has grown rapidly since the advent of the container and did not give us the time to sit down and rethink carefully the way we do things. It did not give us the opportunity to claim the fame that globalization brought to us. Now is that time, that opportunity. Let’s not miss it.