Assuring security

Assuring security

Giving shippers greater assurance on how to prevent their freight from being delayed by security checks at the port of export or import is what I believe to be one of the biggest challenges faced by the European Shippers' Council.

To do this we must provide European business and industry with the required guidance as to precisely what they can do to provide the necessary security required by the U.S. and other authorities.

There is a growing demand for more information from European companies that export to the U.S. Shippers will probably be faced with increased uncertainty over the reliability of their freight arriving with the customer in the U.S. on time. Additionally, global industry remains exposed to the risk of terrorist infiltration through legitimate international trade.

The discussions about improving security in transport have one big benefit to all those involved in the industry. There was a time when industry and governments tended to think of the different functions within business as being part of quite separate industrial processes, and therefore sometimes often requiring quite distinct or unique policy approaches. The European Shippers' Council has tried for many years to convince regulators and governments to adopt a supply-chain approach, focusing on the responsibilities and roles of all those involved in the maritime transport chain.

A joint approach will enable governments to identify appropriate infrastructure and paper bottlenecks and other inefficiencies that may require legislative or other remedial action. The port-to-port concept is now outdated in container shipping, but it still prevails in many administrations.

The current wide debate on security in the supply chain will force many to change their outmoded view of the transport supply chain. This, in turn, will create greater transparency and a better understanding of the problems faced by all in the supply chain.

Transport operators need to be more fully integrated and involved in the shipper's supply-chain process, including planning and long-term market projections as part of the shipper's decision making and planning arrangements. This calls for closer relationships between all involved in the transport and logistics supply chain.

The emphasis on improved communications, and the successful development of intermodal transport services, is paramount to the attainment of these objectives. Improving efficiency in transport supply chains is a crucial factor in reducing transport costs. The role of best practice and benchmarking is fully appreciated by all involved in the supply chain as the means of improving efficiency, reducing costs and effecting higher levels of security.

The other great challenge of shippers is the further deregulation of the industry. Much of the focus in recent years has rightly been devoted to the reform and deregulation of maritime markets.

There is more and more recognition that the world has changed since conference price fixing was first institutionalized in the late 1800s, and that liner shipping is no more unique than any other industry and that there is no evidence that the removal of the antitrust immunity will lead to destructive competition.

This year the European Commission will initiate a public consultation with the aim of reviewing the liner shipping block exemption Regulation 4056/86. It has a major job to provide the right legal and policy framework to promote economic efficiency, competitiveness and open and competitive markets.

What is required is a modern industry framework that encourages efficiency, promotes partnerships between shippers and carriers, secures improvements in the logistics supply chain and adds value to the day-to-day business needs of customers and suppliers.

In order for this to happen, we must go a stage further in fully deregulating the liner shipping market.

Not only is this necessary for the commercial reasons, it is needed to ensure that there is an adequate competition policy framework to deal with the future possibility of the major liner markets being dominated by a much smaller pool of premier league carriers.

Nicolette van der Jagt is secretary of the European Shippers' Council. She may be reached at (322) 230 21 13, or via e-mail at secretariat@europeanshippers.com.