Shippers in Europe and other parts of the world have frequently expressed concerns about the direction of travel of the container shipping industry towards ever-larger vessels, a dwindling number of independent operators and the rise of alliances. As a means to address some of these issues, shippers have called for a greater degree of cooperation between partners in the supply chain to openly discuss concerns and address challenges.
Recently there have been positive developments on this point. The International Transport Forum (ITF) which is the transport policy think tank of the OECD, has established a Maritime Logistics Forum. This will include the international bodies representing shipping, port terminals, forwarding organisations, and, of course, shippers. The objective of the forum is to start a debate with the container shipping industry and other stakeholders about how to optimise the performance of the highly fragmented maritime and logistics supply chain. The European Shippers’ Council and other shippers’ associations will be represented through the Global Shippers’ Forum, enabling shippers to put forward their views in this important new initiative.
Of course, a new forum alone will not solve all the issues relating to the container shipping market, and ESC and other shippers’ associations worldwide continue to engage closely on competition and market regulation in their regions. The ITF itself is also working on other initiatives in this space, carrying out a detailed study of the impacts of alliances on supply chains, looking in particular at the alliances’ impact on market concentration and competition. ESC and other shippers’ groups are engaged with this research which should provide new insights to support their advocacy for greater regulatory oversight of alliances.