International shipping might be an everyday task for logistics solutions managers, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy one! Increasing loads, tight delivery schedules, shipping criticalities, operational challenges and the jungle of red tape and regulations keep everyone on their toes. At the same time said challenges don’t leave much time to focus on common mistakes or how to fix them.

The risks of not doing so though include potential instability in sea freight operations. It has an impact on transit times, costs, customer satisfaction and the logistics manager’s own job performance.

Read on to learn about five common mistakes often made when managing sea freight – and how you can overcome them and ensure smooth sailing.

1) Booking shipments at the last moment

Unlike air freight, sea freight does not give you the option of daily shipping. The cargo service’s large carrying capacity and controls on port movements impose limits on the frequency of vessels.

Not booking ahead means you could miss the boat due to lack of available space, so it is important to be proactive and schedule shipments in a way that aligns with the delivery deadlines you need to meet.

2) Putting cost savings before timelines

Sea freight is an extremely cost-effective freight option, but it is not the fastest. Opting for the lowest shipping cost can be a false economy, as this may result in a supply chain with multiple transshipping points and add additional time to the delivery timelines.

The risk is that stocks may run out and customers may be left unsatisfied. Working with an experienced freight forwarder can solve this. Their knowledge can assist you decide on the best balance between cost and time. They can also assist with other aspects that can save you time or money – or even both – such as load consolidation, planning and scheduling, up-sizing capacity and reducing any additional charges, like storage charges.

There are many freight forwarding companies in Australia and not everyone may be the right fit for you. To give you a better understanding, read thise article about 10 signs that show if you are working with the right freight forwarder.

3) Managing everything in-house

In-house management of sea freight services may seem the cheapest option on paper, however in reality, outsourcing to freight forwarding service providers can actually benefit the bottom line.

Because your cargo has to move through multiple transportation modes and jurisdictions, an expert can assist in navigating, managing and negotiating all the complexities. A freight forwarder, doing it everyday all day long for many customers, has to constantly stay up-to-date on regulations and requirements for the logistics industry – you should use that to your advantage. Having many customers, a freight forwarder can get better prices that a single company would not be able to get. You can switch a freight forwarder at any time or even work with more than one, depending on your requirements.

This liberates your time for meeting other crucial KPIs and reduces the risk of glitches in your supply chain.

4) Deciding between LCL or FCL

One of the most important decisions for logistics managers is choosing between less than a container load (LCL) and a full container load (FCL), and it’s not always easy to make the right choice. LCL is suitable for low volume shipments, but what if your cargo is close to a full container load of either 20ft or 40ft?

LCL is cost-effective, but it can increase transit time and the multiple handling involved increases the risk of damage to your goods. On the other hand, FCL increases the cost but reduces the transit time and chances of damage.

So it’s important to prepare a comparison sheet based on transit time, shipping cost and risk, and make the decision that best suits your priorities.

5) Selecting inappropriate shipping services

Sea freight is not just a matter of moving cargo from the port of origin to its destination port. Logistics managers also need to arrange the pickup and delivery of the cargo to the consignee’s gate or other agreed delivery point. This requires appropriate selection of pickup and delivery transportation.

It is important to analyse the costs, transit time and operational aspects involved such as the availability of docks, loading equipment, clearance services and other considerations when making the choice of transport. By having your finger on the pulse in terms of your shipments’ movements and choosing the right services in advance, you can maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of your end-to-end shipping solution.

Set your compass for success

International sea freight shipping to/from Australia can be a complicated process and the challenges can make it hard to eliminate all the potential pitfalls with limited in-house resources. Partnering with a professional sea freight forwarder can be your best option, so you can leverage their experienced teams, global networks and world-class IT infrastructure and ensure your cargos reach their destination efficiently, cost-effectively and on time.

For more than a century, BCR has continued to help small, medium and large businesses achieve an optimum logistics solution with warehousing and transportation, including air freight and sea freight services to and from the major ports including BrisbaneSydneyMelbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle (Perth).