HIGH-TECH TAKES FORWARDERS OUT SHIPPERS CAN DO MORE TASKS

HIGH-TECH TAKES FORWARDERS OUT SHIPPERS CAN DO MORE TASKS

High-tech communications technologies have allowed major shippers to reduce sharply their use of freight forwarders on some key routes.

The trend may prove a boon for sophisticated transportation companies, which may end up handling many of the tasks once the province of forwarders, said executives at the International Trade and Computerization Conference held here last week.Automated systems "can make an ocean carrier a forwarder, from a systems standpoint," said Robert H. Shellman, manager of chemical and plastics export operations in the purchasing and distribution department of Union Carbide Chemicals Co., Danbury, Conn., a subsidiary of Union Carbide Corp.

Freight forwarders act as travel agents for cargo, booking vessels, handling payments and documentation and resolving difficulties that may arise en route.

Because of the high cost of the technology, carriers are providing forwarder-type services mainly to large shippers, said John F. Shannon, manager, distribution and transportation, Avon Products Inc. of New York.

Large carriers operating internationally have the systems to provide the data and information that forwarders now provide, Mr. Shannon said.

Forwarders agree that their marketplace is changing rapidly. "The Du Ponts and the Dows, we know they are going direct (to carriers)," said Ed Walsh, vice president, Daniel F. Young Inc., a broker and forwarder, referring to E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., Wilmington, Del., and Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Mich., two large chemical companies.

Companies that are moving to automated systems agreed that there are many routes and regions where a shift won't be possible.

Union Carbide is using the technology for stock transfers between the East Coast and its European affiliates, Mr. Shellman said. "This is not a global scenario," he said.

Forwarders are needed to book shipments at ports where corporations don't have representation, he said. They are also essential when it comes to trading with countries that don't have currencies that are readily convertible into

dollars.