Michael DiVirgilio, President, Principal, Containerization and Intermodal Institute; MJ DiVirgilio & Associates

Michael DiVirgilio, President, Principal, Containerization and Intermodal Institute; MJ DiVirgilio & Associates

In life, and usually in business, the future is thought to be too difficult to predict, but for liner shipping, the future seems to look like the past all too often. Glancing to 2019 and the ocean shipping market, no doubt there will continue to be the passive acrimony between service providers and cargo interests. The uncertainty present this year in terms of cargo volumes available in key lanes, resulting from the trade policies of the current administration, seems unlikely to change, and so both carrier and cargo interest will have to stay nimble in asset deployment and inventory control, respectively.

The carriers, asset- or non-asset-based, need to continue to focus on technology to improve service offerings. Faster cargo clearance, final mile, e-commerce requirements, online tracking and tracing, all these demand strong technology. One lesson to be learned is that “open systems” afford greater flexibility and higher subscription levels than “in house” proprietary systems. Not only less expensive to implement, but also regularly updated and improved on the hosting company’s platform, being in an ecosystem that is neutral, global, and welcoming to customers allows the carriers to focus on personal service and not on apologies for IT system failures.  

Saving development dollars internally, and immediately spending those same dollars to differentiate your service product externally, may help carriers to navigate through the trade uncertainty by having the technology foundation that allows them to stay flexible in these unique times. Providing confidence to your customers that their shipments are safe and secure, and the data associated with these shipments is easily accessible to them, should there be some new rule or trade policy that appears, is important today and will be more important next year as we learn to accept more volatility in global trade.

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