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Our customers’ household goods shipments are typically transported internationally by sea container and we rely heavily on the global shipping industry to deliver our door-to-door service.
The global shipping industry has had to adapt to new challenges bought on by the Covid-19 pandemic – from lack of availability to delays and price volatility. We’ve been working hard to minimise the impact on our customers and the good news is that the situation is starting to improve.
However, some challenges still remain and this article outlines some areas that could potentially impact international removals customers.
Current Challenges (information provided by the British Association of Removers)
Available Space on vessels
Many destination ports are now operating more efficiently, with less frequent or shorter delays, however, according to the British Association of Removers some destination ports around the world are still experiencing varying lack of container or ship availability, leading to associated delays.
See the latest BAR global shipping conditions update for detailed information on specific routes.
Haulage in the UK
High demand coupled with a driver shortage has been causing challenges due to a lack of haulage capacity to get containers from customer residences/ warehouses to the port. This situation has now eased a little however we may still advise loading via a warehouse where we believe there may be a risk of problems with the container arriving at your home to avoid any impact on your move schedule.
Ports – capacity / strikes
Our UK Ports have experienced labour and Border Force strikes over the past 6 months; while no actions are currently scheduled that we are aware of, ongoing negotiation, particularly with UK Border Force workers continues. Customers should be aware of the impact of potential future strike actions which could cause unexpected delays both outbound (export) and inbound (import) shipments, particularly the inbound UK customs clearance time and subsequent container deliveries.
The inclusion of Lithium-Ion (Li-ion) batteries in household goods shipments is common, but as has been widely reported there is a significant increase in fire risk associated with these batteries and several recent cases of vessels or storage facilities suffering from significant fires. As a result many shipping lines are hardening their stance on accepting shipments that include such items and as a result, the British Association of Removers have provided guidance for shippers.
The BAR recommend that high-risk batteries are not shipped, or are declared as hazardous cargo accordingly (which will incur additional charges). Please download a copy of the Battery Management Guide for Customers here to ensure your shipment is compliant. The guide explains the restrictions and how to understand and manage the risks for the battery types you may be considering shipping.
Impact on shippers
We are now seeing shipping costs falling back more in line with pre-pandemic levels in the short-medium term and rates remain more stable. As members of the Movers Trading Club (MTC) we have some stability in freight rates, however, there is still some risk due to changing currency exchange rates and fuel costs which are still volatile.
- CURRENCY EXCHANGE DIFFERENCES
Shipping Line container-freight rates and ancillary charges are typically quoted in US Dollars and Euros for sea-freight, and local destination currency for destination port and on-carriage charges. These ‘freight charges’ are, however, payable in British Pounds (GBP) and converted typically at time of the ships’ sailing date, applying the currency exchange rate at that point in time. BAR Movers generally will include these container-freight costs in their GBP quotation offered to the customer using the indicative exchange rate(s) valid at the time of their quotation. If there is significant movement in exchange rate between quoting and the point of sailing, there may be an adjustment required to the final invoice as unfortunately movers have no control over the actual exchange rate used and applied by the Shipping Line.
- FUEL COST CHANGES
Sea Container freight contracts are subject to periodical ships fuel cost (bunkering) reviews. With the well-publicised energy supply issues, bunkering increases adding to the overall sea-container freight cost are possible and may affect your final invoice.
Availability / Lead time for bookings
Currently, we are experiencing improved vessel capacity with an average of 2 weeks' notice for some lanes to get an available slot on a vessel. We are however seeing increased notice periods required to book space on a vessel to some regions so advise planning move dates as far in advance as possible.
We will book space for our customer's shipments as soon as we have the ‘green light’ to move (e.g., all paperwork is in place). As soon as we have secured a booking with a shipping line we will notify our customers of the provisional date for sailing and confirm this once the container has been loaded onto the vessel.
Last-minute changes to bookings
We are still experiencing some last-minute changes and service failures from the shipping lines including:
- delays in vessel sailing dates
- rejection of bookings due to lack of space, loading dates or suspension of service lanes
- cancellation or postponement of booked space due to changing ship schedules, lack of haulage, empty containers or port capacity
- changing of routes/transit time
- cancellation of haulage to collect or deliver containers
- delays due to congestion
Unfortunately, there is little a moving company can do to solve this (although we are trying very hard!) and this may mean planning to load your shipment onto one of our vehicles and returning to our warehouse to load onto the shipping container from there, reducing the impact of any issues as above if they do occur (for example not being able to vacate your property in time).
Please bear with us as although we are working hard to ensure our customers are kept up to date as quickly as possible we are also experiencing poor communication from shipping lines in some instances, including slow notification of changes.
We will not be able to confirm shipping/estimated arrival dates until a shipment has been loaded. Please talk to your move manager before committing to any dates that are dependent on your shipment date.
What do International shipping customers need to do?
Whilst these issues are completely out of our control our teams are working hard to share information with our customers and set realistic and transparent expectations when it comes to shipping schedules and costs.
Here are a few things you can do to minimise the impact of these shipping challenges on your international move:
- Book your move as early as possible and discuss your schedule plans early with your move manager.
- Be prepared for delays, longer transit times than usual and for last-minute changes.
- Talk to your move manager before committing to bookings for flights or accommodation. If these depend on the arrival of your shipment, they should not be confirmed before move dates are finalised.
- Understand any potential additional charges up front so that you can plan and budget for those risks if necessary.
Is this just a Bournes problem?
No, this is a global problem for every industry that involves shipping by sea, and every company in the International Removals and Shipping industry. Beware if a moving company tells you they have no problems securing containers and request more detail as to how they are avoiding these current challenges to ensure this is a valid claim.
We want to help you plan your relocation in the least stressful way possible, and that means being realistic. We believe in being transparent with our customers and setting clear expectations to avoid surprise additional costs or unexpected delays further down the line and we hope our industry colleagues and competitors will also offer their customers the same courtesy.
Want to know more?
Please contact your Bournes representative if you have any further questions or concerns.