• QA 046
    Why is the use of transhipment growing?
    Your answers in questions QA 025 and QA 034 re transhipment delays from Indonesia are interesting but do not explain why the use of transhipment seems to be growing. One of our shipments from East Africa to Scandinavia was carried on four different vessels!
    Asked by:
    Importer - The Netherlands

    The growing use of transhipment is a direct consequence of an international shipping industry gearing itself to respond to an increasingly global and competitive environment. As such it is an almost inevitable process but clearly also not without its consequences for the coffee trade, although some of the criticism levelled is not always well founded. For example, a smaller port that previously might have attracted only a single monthly sailing to the US East Coast, may in fact benefit from having a fortnightly feeder service instead, one that links into a hub port from where there may be two, three or even more monthly sailings to the US. Nevertheless, transhipment is sometimes associated with delay, for example when a mother vessel leaves cargo behind because of late arrival of that cargo. Or, at times perhaps due to overbooking

    Container vessels are expensive to operate and, they are continuously growing in size. And, as modern container ship design progresses, so-called 'fast-ships' will in future reduce in-port turn-around times still further, meaning feeder services must be very accurately timed indeed. 

    Already some vessels carry as many as 8,000 containers or TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) and still larger ships are planned. Such vessels will only call at ports that offer sufficient cargo and have the efficiency needed to ensure the vessel can maintain a strict schedule with minimal time spent in port. This means more and more smaller ports have to feed cargo to the nearest major regional port, using smaller, coastal vessels that feed such larger ports or 'hubs'.  As a result these hubs are seeing an upsurge in container flows. Ideally a feeder vessel will link up with a major or 'mother' vessel, but this is not always the case. Sometimes this may mean not just one transhipment but even two or more.

    Whatever the reason, delays cost money, as does the transhipping exercise in itself. Shipping companies recognise this and most have extensive systems in place that enable shippers and receivers to 'track and trace' cargo literally instantaneously and so be 'in the know' at all times. At the same time exporters and importers should choose carriers that offer the most efficient routing, rather than simply relying on shipping agents to select feeder vessels. 

    Go to 05 - Logistics, for a review of shipping matters generally. For information on tracking and tracing cargo visit www.inttra.com Other useful links  include www.cargosystems.net (international shipping press articles), www.ponl.com (P&O NedLloyd website), www.maersk.com (Maersk Shipping Line website).

    Posted 17 September 2005

    Related chapter(s):
    Related Q & A:
    QA 025 QA 034