CENTRO INTERNAZIONALE STUDI CONTAINERS
ANNO XXXVIII - Numero MAGGIO 2020
TOP TIME SUCKS IN OCEAN SHIPPING
Bill Rooney, the vice president of strategic development for
Kuehne + Nagel, told the Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC)
this week that requests for quotes (RFQs) are "a good idea gone
"Bill Rooney, the vice president of strategic
development for Kuehne + Nagel, told the Agriculture Transportation
Coalition (AgTC) this week that requests for quotes (RFQs) are "a
good idea gone bad."
"Number 2 on my list of things that suck up more time
without adequate payoff are RFQs," Rooney said. "Many of
them are way too complicated. ... It's in many cases a process
that's really pretty bad. As they're conducted today, many RFQs lead
to faulty and suboptimal business decisions."
Rooney said he tells customers that "simplicity and human
interaction are important parts of a successful RFQ and they need to
be a bigger part in the future because we see too much of this in
our business, where complexity ends up driving suboptimal decisions
by people who are reading the RFQs."
In his role with Kuehne + Nagel, Rooney is a customer of the
ocean container carriers. Previously he was a carrier, as the senior
vice president of CMA CGM (America) and then as the North American
president of Hanjin Shipping prior to its 2016 bankruptcy.
"Number 1 on my list of things that suck up more time
without an adequate payoff are bunker surcharges. They are a
confusing mess. They don't work at very high and very low fuel
prices, as we've seen more recently," he said.
He referred to expected fuel cost increases after the
International Maritime Organization's low-sulfur fuel regulation
went into effect at the start of the year. But then the coronavirus
pandemic hit and oil prices plummeted.
"It was another example of where bunker surcharges don't
work - at very low prices and very high prices," Rooney said.
"Bunker surcharges, regardless of the complexity, distract
buyers from focusing on the important thing. What's important is
what's on the bottom line of my invoice. It's like checking out of a
hotel in New York. You think you're going to pay $250 and you leave
the hotel in Manhattan and the bill says $400 and you wonder how you
got from $250 to $400. Well, you got to $400 with the other six
charges they add to the bill. Focus on the $400.
"In this case, you've got to focus on the bottom-line
number, the bottom line on your invoice. After you've agreed to a
rate in this conversation with your provider, then have the adult
conversation about what the bunker surcharge is going to look like,
etc. I think that's the way to do it. And when you do that, you
really need to test ... that surcharge to determine what happens at
this price, that price, etc.," Rooney said. "I think we
can save a lot of time and wringing of hands over this thing. Don't
ignore it, just put it where it's supposed to be."
Asked about the possibility of a standard surcharge among all
carriers, Rooney responded, "The carriers are just now coming
to agreement on things like what is vessel arrival. They have great
difficulty doing anything in common. To expect them to be able to do
bunker surcharges in common, don't hold your breath."
Rooney called the current rash of canceled sailings as a result
of the coronavirus pandemic a "watershed moment" for the
"The carriers have been very good at matching supply and
demand [during the COVID-19 crisis]. This is something they have
never done a good job at. This industry for almost its entire
existence, from 1956, has had oversupply except for a few distinct
number of times," he said.
Rooney said the voided sailings have affected spot rates
"If you look at import rates in '09, import spot rates to
the West Coast were $800. They are double that now in conditions
that are worse than we had in 2009. Blank sailings have had a clear
impact on spot rates," he said.
"I think the thing to watch out for is this could be the
beginning of generally higher rates and higher returns to carrier
capital. Now I don't think these are going to make rates spike up,
but I do think blank sailings have proved to be a really effective
measure against rates taking a dive," Rooney said. "I
don't think carriers colluded on this but they found by matching
supply and demand, they kept rates in one trade at $1,640 instead of
Rooney does not expect any ocean carriers to go out of business
"I also don't think consolidation necessarily is going to
happen. We use all carriers to a great extent," he said. "I
think we're looking at political issues, not so much financial
Rooney also doesn't expect any quick resolution to what he
called "the chassis issue."
"It's been 10 years ... and still, as far as I can tell,
[there's] no optimal solution. It's still a problematic part of
supply chains. There are still many users abandoning the current
business model. When you look at that and you look at some markets,
in some markets you can see 30 to 50% of the chassis now being owned
by shippers and truckers as opposed to the three leasing companies,"
"To me, people are voting with their feet and they're going
to a new solution because they're dissatisfied with what they were
getting in the marketplace. I still feel - and I know there are
arguments for and against this - chassis utilities with a neutral
manager are a better way to go to extract more of the money that's
still on the table for chassis. It still doesn't work the way it
should. I think we can still do some things that will make it work
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