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Thomas Knudsen: "It's still hard for customers to engage with shipping lines"

Thomas Knudsen, President of Toll Global Forwarding, tells us what areas the industry can improve upon to better customer experiences.

At this year’s Global Liner Shipping & Shipping2030 Asia, we gathered some of the most prominent thought leaders, and asked them to share their views on the hottest topics in shipping and maritime.

Thomas Knudsen, President of Toll Global Forwarding, was at Global Liner Shipping & Shipping2030 Asia talking about innovation and digitalisation, and in this interview, we are picking his brain on what shipping is missing out on currently.

Watch the interview or read the transcript below.

Lili Nguyen: How has innovation changed container shipping in the past 10 years?

Thomas Knudsen: I think you need to look at it in two different ways. One is looking at the industry inside. What are we doing for internal efficiencies and technologies in the business? There’s actually been a lot of developments on the ship side. Ships have gotten bigger; there’s more technology on board the ships for route planning, etc. The internal efficiencies have certainly benefitted from innovation.

I would argue that from a customer perspective not much has happened in the last 10 years. If you look at the digital offering online and compare it to what the customers had 10 years ago, I would not say that there has been significant change. It’s a tale of two cities here.

LN: What are opportunities that shipping is missing out on at the moment?

TK: It’s still hard for customers to engage with shipping lines. If I think of how I, personally, book an airline or a hotel, it takes me 5 minutes. I use my credit card, I trust it, and I always get a good deal. If I think about shipping lines, it’s not that simple. There’s no online tracking, or if there is, it’s not real-time. It’s complex to make bookings; it’s complex to get pricing. If something goes wrong, I have nowhere to go to fix it. So, I think there’s still a lot to do to improve the customer experience online.

LN: What are the biggest digital disruptors that we should be keeping an eye out for?

TK: Some disruptors will take place which are coming in externally, like the focus on low-sulphur – which is a good thing. That will be impacted by the political situations and trade wars, which will certainly have an impact on the business. I think if we’re talking about digital innovation, I struggle to see what it actually is. There’s a lot of talk about blockchain, new digital platforms that are coming into the industry. I think there’s a lot of hype and it’s actually about seeing through the hype and understanding what is actually real and what is noise. But I do think that blockchain and other technologies will enable real time tracking and visibility. It’s the future.”

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