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ESC – European Shippers' Council

A Message from the Secretary General

Every now and then I get dressed like a professional cyclist and I jump on one of the two hottest transport modes of these days. For the other one, the drone, I do not have the appropriate clothing yet.

It is commonly known that people who disguise themselves suddenly start behaving differently. This is definitely true when there are wigs involved. I do not escape from that and in my case this means that I look at the World of Logistics in a different way than usual. Let me share it with you.

Of course, I do not wear a wig when cycling, however I do wear fancy sunglasses and classy cycling shoes that I bought online. But what are these online shops aiming at if they offer free transport and even more free returns, even on weekends? They make transport look free, like a complimentary piece of cake. Completely different from what the European Commission publishes: the share of logistics is at least 10 % of the sales price of a product. What a bad signal web shops are giving to the world. Isn’t it about time that transport associations together with shippers and authorities place things in the right perspective?

During weekends, I often go cycling in the Port of Antwerp; roads are wide and safe because there isn’t much activity. One can also enjoy staring at the large ships. Those ocean carriers, do they still know what they are doing? Alliances run the show, prices go further down and then they all start looking the same. How to solve those identity problems then? By extending the alliances on the landside? By offering a Premium Care Service to shippers who by definition do not want to pay for it? Building megaships then? Indeed, it is wonderful to look at but it makes me think of my neighbour, he bought a SUV to find out that it did not fit in his garage and he could not take it into town.

Different carriers are making use of each other’s vessels, but making use of each other’s containers is not a common practice. Premium Care Services are all based on 21st century software. And, dear customer before we take your container on board, would you please be so kind to put it on a good old fashioned weighing scale, we don’t really trust your 21st century software.

Ports also have railroad tracks. Yet you have to watch these tracks carefully when crossing them with your 23 millimetres tires. Just like a shipper has to watch rail carriers when doing business with them. Carriers that offer rail transport still cannot pronounce the word ‘customer’ properly.

Airlines sometimes cross my mind as well. How can I explain to my friends,  what airfreight means, that sometimes they sell their core services at negative prices and that, in the end a shipper pays for fuel, security and all that. Can you imagine such a thing in a supermarket? E-ticketing is common practice for passengers since years; what keeps us from extending this to freight?

Don’t worry, cargo-owners do not escape my thoughts when I am on the road.  In times when manufacturers and their customers want more and more end to end insights in their goods flow and current IT systems offer these possibilities, the provider of data and its handling will become more important than the provider of the wheels and the handler of the goods. The complexity of this all means that shippers cannot leave the selection of their logistics service providers in the hands of their Purchasing Departments. It takes serious project work where multiple disciplines are around the table in order to find the lowest cost rather than find the lowest price.

A bigger concern however is the difficulty that initiatives like “Green Freight Europe” do not seem to be interesting enough to be discussed in the boardroom of manufacturers and traders of goods. As longs as board members are exposed to the Zalando’s of this world, announcing free and à la carte transport, initiatives to reduce CO2 will have difficulties to break through. Indeed, very nice pairs of Zalando shoes (cycling shoes or not) will be worn, but the Carbon footprint will not get any better at all. And so we are back with the web shops and their wrong signals.

These are my reflections when I go cycling. Perhaps, I have to start reflecting about “re-cycling” as well, another hot topic in logistics. But that will be for another occasion.

This article was posted on June 18th, 2015 by Nik Delmeire under News