As uncertainty around the global shipping market continues, what measures should businesses take to ensure successful international shipping?
The global shipping market remains volatile, following months of constantly changing rates, lockdowns in China, and port strikes across the world – to name just a few of the issues we’ve seen in 2022. However, as market rates have just started to settle back to pre-Covid levels, now is a key time for businesses to consider their international shipping strategies. Trading internationally is certainly no mean feat, but there are steps businesses can take in order to anticipate potential challenges and make their shipments a success.
Flexibility and agility lead to more resilience
Planning is undeniably key to business success, and logistics is no different. But if the last three years have taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected – and that the next crisis is a case of when, not if. When it comes to planning the logistics of shipments, businesses should therefore ensure that their plans include a mix of options – such as shifting from single-sourcing suppliers to a more diverse range of supply partners – to help them react to whatever may happen.
As part of this flexible approach, businesses would do well to look into a mix of different contract options, such as spot rates and longer term contracts. As rates have fallen significantly in recent weeks, they are unlikely to change for the time being. Now provides a time to explore different options and work out which deals suit your businesses’ needs best.
Work with trusted partners
It is also crucial for businesses to work with trusted partners when it comes to third party suppliers. What used to be a decision driven primarily by cost and practicality is now one that should be viewed more strategically – with businesses choosing logistics partners based on their ability to add real value.
If a business has undertaken international shipping previously, a good starting point is to reflect on the way existing partners behaved during these challenging times. Similarly, if a business is considering shipping internationally for the first time, it’s key to research any third parties they’re thinking about working with thoroughly.
And even if a potential business ticks all the boxes at the research stage, it’s still crucial to take the time to build a strategic partnership. This means focusing on how the two parties work together – such as sharing strategies, and the data points a business requires access to, to support successful shipping. Characteristics of partners that businesses should prioritise include visibility in communications, a positive attitude towards collaborating, and whether they are able to support a businesses’ goals in areas such as sustainability.
Partners should carry with them many years of expertise, and so aligning closely will help you find solutions for unexpected situations, and keep things moving as smoothly as possible. True supply chain stability still remains uncertain, and working with reliable partners is a key way to manoeuvre through this successfully.
Invest in technology
With market prices closer to normal levels, now is a great time for businesses to think about how they should invest to improve their operations – such as looking at what technology and digitally-driven solutions would have real impact on business success. Benefits of technology include increased visibility, improved document management, and more detailed reporting.
Investments in technology may be done in-house, or outsourced by working with tech-driven partners – and the right fit will depend on an individual business’ needs. For those who are at the start of their shipping journey, finding a partner with digital capabilities can be the more cost-effective approach to take. Accurate data allows businesses to make quick decisions and find solutions if and when an issue arises, so is a valuable starting point.
As the global trade environment continues to be unpredictable, those that invest in technology – whether via a partner or in-house – will have a real advantage when it comes to bolstering their supply chain resilience.
Looking back at the past year, it’s clearly impossible to predict what will happen in the global shipping market next. However, if businesses collaborate with the right partners, allow for flexibility and invest in new technologies, their international shipments are sure to be more plain sailing.