Wine and Spirits Shippers Association

Wine and Spirits Shippers Association

Managing director

www.wssa.com

There have always been changes in our industry, and one of the main things I've learned is that the changes one anticipates are rarely the most important ones that happen.

Security continues to be an extremely high priority for all importers. Beverage importers must conform to recently enacted Food and Drug Administration rules for prior notice, and it is incumbent on the shippers' association to ensure that shipment confirmation details are perfectly accurate.

Shippers and shippers' associations will need to continue to work closely with their marine insurance underwriters to address issues relating to pilferage. Wine and spirits containers have always been targets, and unauthorized access now has bioterrorism implications.

One of the most quantifiable measures by which members evaluate their shippers' association is freight rates. Rate levels are increasing in most major trade lanes, and a shippers' association is well-equipped to blunt the full impact of most increases.

Yet the days of bazaar-style negotiations are over. We must be mindful of the freight market, but shippers' associations need to focus more on carrier customer service levels. In an attempt to improve profitability, most carriers have made major changes in their approach to customer service. Unfortunately, few of these changes actually improve things. In fact, the tendency is to drag the quality level of the previously most competent carrier down to the level of the "no-frills" carrier.

The need for prompt attention to manifest changes or other corrections will become increasingly pressing as security requirements leave no room for nominal errors. Shippers and their shippers' associations will not want to increase their staffing requirements to compensate for carrier economies, so we will need to press for improved customer service.