Yes, it really does.
When we first started 4C Global Logistics, we were like everyone else and focused on freight prices more than anything else. For example, when we shipped DINP to Mexico, we chose the shipping lines that routinely offered the cheapest prices. That was the old us.
Now, as you’ll see in a second, price can’t be the only consideration.
We ship 99% of our product in 20-metric-ton flexi tanks (EPT BIG RED FLEXITANK®). Flexi tanks are riskier to ship than drums or ISO tanks, but they cost less money. Drums will leave you with around 16MT per FCL and an ISO tank is just plain expensive.
But no matter how much drums and ISO tanks cost, in the end nothing costs more than a shipment that never arrives. If there’s a large distance to go inland and the terrain isn’t easy-going, then an ISO tank is a must. Flexi tanks are fine, but only on less-demanding routes.
This is why you need to choose your shipping line carefully:
You need someone who knows what is going to work—and not work—in different conditions.
Here are some general tips for dealing with shipping lines, especially when it comes to flexi tanks, as well as bags, drums, or whatever else you are using for packing.
- Make sure the standards in the loading port and the destination port are the same. Sometimes what’s considered an A Type container in one country is considered a B Type in another. When that’s the case, someone (not the shipping line) needs to pay to upgrade to an A Type once the shipment reaches the destination port. Confirm with your freight forwarder that they have used this shipping line before, and do your own due diligence, too. Don’t always rely on freight forwards to find the answers. In the end, it’s your money.
- Learn the routes of the vessels you are using. If your port is the last stop before its voyage, there’s an increased chance of a rollover. Sometimes rollovers can last for up to 14 days. Unshipped product is lost money.
- Make sure the shipping line you are using doesn’t share the vessel with another line. This setup can lead to conflicting sets of rules. For example, sometimes a line says it will ship a flexi tank but its partner refuses. This forces you to find a replacement line at the last moment.
- Don’t be afraid to do your own research, call the different shipping lines and get to know them. If a problem does occur, it’s good to know the shipping lines care. We had one line tell us they didn’t care about our containers. If something happened to them, it was going to be 100% our responsibility, not theirs. We never shipped with them again.
Whatever you do, don’t be intimidated. There’s a lot to do, but it’s all do-able.
Photo Credit: Joe Ross