Perhaps not surprisingly, shippers and forwarders noted that carrier performance has deteriorated between 2016 and 2017 in four areas: the range of different available carriers, the range of different available services, the price of service and the overall carrier service quality. This timeline corresponds closely with consolidation moves in the liner industry.
The joint ESC and Drewry survey revealed that the 400 shippers and forwarders who took part rated the service of container shipping lines with a score of 3.2 on average on a scale of 1 (very dissatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied).
There were different levels of satisfaction for 16 different carrier activities reviewed in the survey. Satisfaction with documentation accuracy scored 3.4, but quality of customer service received only 2.9 and transit times and reliability of booking/cargo shipped as booked attracted scores of between 2.9 and 3. All the service features, in effect, received a poor or medium level of satisfaction score from customers.
“It is disappointing that, even after the big re-organisation of container services following the start of new alliances, carriers still do not meet the expectations of their customers - on the contrary,” said ESC secretary general Nik Delmeire.
“At the time of the survey, the carriers’ Emergency Bunker Surcharge, which we regard as customer unfriendly, was not yet in place, and it is reasonable to think that the results of the survey would be worse if it was done now,” he added.
“Shippers and forwarders want a balance between service quality and price, but the survey shows that carriers are cutting back on service and offering less choice to shippers,” said Philip Damas, head of the logistics practice at Drewry.
To receive a higher level of customer service, some Drewry customers actively avoid direct contracts with ocean carriers and instead deal with forwarders and intermediaries. “These issues make Drewry focus more on the transit times and service levels of providers when we provide benchmarking analytics to beneficial cargo owners,” Damas commented.