Prior to 2020, it was easy to run a business that relied on obtaining goods shipped by sea. When the coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020, the shipping industry had a meltdown.
Between rising container costs, stranded cargo ships, and containers going overboard, it’s been a rough couple of years. However, shipping by sea is not entirely hopeless.
If you need to transport goods by sea, here are 6 tips to make the process easier and more reliable.
1. Screen the companies you hire
Hiring a logistics company without due diligence is risky. You need to hire a company that knows exactly what they’re doing and how to manage obstacles that may arise.
Ideally, you want a customer-service oriented logistics company that takes pride in who they bring on board. There are plenty of logistics positions getting filled, but you want a company that interviews those with the best resumes first. Having a professional logistics resume is an excellent way to get hired, and you want a logistics company that pays attention to those details.
Before contracting with a logistics company, research their reputation to find out if they’ve been great with their customers or if they’ve had significant hangups. Sometimes things happen accidentally, so pay close attention to how they handled issues that arose. Did they take responsibility, or did they stick the customer? Whenever possible, choose a company that takes ownership of situations – even those outside their control.
2. Use a recommended shipping company
Nothing beats testimonials and customer recommendations. If you want to find a solid, reliable company with good rates, look for companies with happy customers. If you can’t find recommendations from customers, try contacting broker associations or port authorities.
3. Track your shipments
Since shipping by sea is a much longer process than shipping through the post office or UPS, you’ll want to track your shipments. The business you contact with should issue you a tracking number for all of your containers so you can track them as they move along the route.
If the company you’re doing business with can’t provide a way to track your goods, consider using a different company. Most containers should be trackable. The last thing you want is for your shipment to get lost in a sea of other containers with no way to find it but by manually searching.
4. Be prepared for price hikes
The cost for a container has drastically increased over the last year and a half. At one point, prices tripled. However, that seems to have been short-lived. Still, container prices are higher than ever, so the cost increase will need to be passed on to the consumer.
Be prepared to pay more to ship your goods by sea. Hopefully, the cost of containers won’t reach insane heights, but they’re not going down anytime soon. It’s good to look for better deals, but be prepared to pay a premium no matter what company you use. Inflation seems unavoidable, even in the shipping industry.
5. Find alternative sources
Perhaps the best way to avoid any potential shipping problems is to find alternative sources for the products you receive from overseas. If you have something made in China, for example, start looking for local manufacturers. Your products will cost more, but the advantages are huge.
When you don’t rely on overseas shipping, you won’t be affected by another shipping container shortage, shipping price hikes, or delays at the ports. You’ll never have to issue refunds to customers because your ship can’t dock.
6. Ship as much as possible in one container
You may want to consider shipping as many products or supplies as possible in one container. If you usually manage, say, one separate shipment every month, start condensing your shipments and order twice as much half as often. Place larger orders and start increasing your inventory with fewer shipments.
There’s no telling when the next cargo container snafu will happen, but it’s almost guaranteed, given that the underlying issues have not yet been resolved.
2022 will bring uncharted territory to shipping by sea
We already saw some major setbacks in 2021 with stranded cargo ships, expensive containers, and route blockages. Going into 2022, there will likely be more setbacks as various countries roll out vaccine mandates for shipping companies.
In light of these challenges combined with rapidly rising inflation, 2022 looks like a great year to source your parts and manufacture your products locally.