Exporters are complaining about inaccuracies in ocean carriers’ electronic data that expose shippers to costs and delays.
Forwarder Mallory Group examined bills of lading on 1,100 randomly chosen cotton and paper shipments and found 20 percent of them had discrepancies in electronic data that required rehandling, said Donna Lemm, the Memphis-based forwarder’s vice president of sales and marketing.
“We’re having to use time and energy and people and resources to do it two or three times to get it right,” Lemm said during a panel discussion at The Journal of Commerce’s 12th Annual Trans-Pacific Maritime Conference in Long Beach.
Some of the problems are as simple as carriers failing to advise shippers of changes in the number of characters permitted in a computer field, or listing a forwarder’s local port address instead of its headquarters address, Lemm said, adding they still can cause costly delays. Besides inaccurate documentation, exporters also must contend with problems such as different no-documentation/no-load cutoffs for cargo, she said.
Michael Symonanis, North America regional head of execution at Louis Dreyfus Commodities, said problems in electronic data can expose commodity exporters to costs from price shifts while documentation is corrected.
He said data inaccuracies might be aggravated by economy-driven cutbacks that have thinned carrier staffs and eroded institutional knowledge. The Westbound Transpacific Stabilization Agreement’s shipper advisory board is working with carriers to solve the problems, Symonanis noted.
“I don’t believe personally that the carriers, if they were aware of this issue, would not try to fix it, because we’re talking about efficiency on both sides,” he said.
Lemm also said shippers and carriers share an interest in improving documentation quality and that Mallory’s study could be a catalyst for improvement. “We hope the combination of high-level visibility along with a granular study produces a change,” she said.