Thursday, 30 April 2015

Importing from Asia into the UK (which camp are you in?)

Asia importers into the UK, please do read this (this also applies if you import from the US, just to a lesser degree)

If you import from Asia by ocean freight (full container/FCL) you will probably be in one of three camps.

Camp 1. You have 1000+ containers per annum and negotiated a fixed rate deal (probably in December 2014) to cover January-June 2015 - or possibly January-December 2015 (year round rate). You may deal with a forwarder or could have done a deal direct with a shipping line. 

Camp 2. You import over 500 containers per annum but you agreed a short term rate (say quarterly) or possibly a monthly rate agreement. You deal directly with a forwarder and they update the rates when they expire.

Camp 3. You import anything from 50-500 containers per annum and you rely on your freight forwarder to keep the rates competitive, letting you know when the rates change or possibly, you just an understanding that they will be fair.

If you’re in Camp 1, you may now be regretting your decision to go for a fixed rate deal, which in previous years, worked out pretty well in a volatile market. Why? It gave you peace of mind and you knew where you stood. Sometimes the market rates were lower than your rate and sometimes they were higher (for example leading up to Chinese New Year, or in Peak Season (Aug-Nov) but overall it was competitive and low maintenance. However, rates have fallen and become very fluid and fixed rate deals are expensive.

If you’re in Camp 2, you’re probably thinking this is a good place to be, you have rate certainty but you’re not locked in for too long and if the market falls (and you have access to solid market information) you can re-negotiate to reflect that, although this can be time consuming and gathering market information to aid your negotiation can also be tedious and sometimes frustrating in a fast-changing market.

If you’re in Camp 3, well, you may not really understand the freight market, Customs procedures, freight terminology or how markets like Asia work (and why would you want to!) and your company is often very operational, having multiple responsibilities, working to satisfy your customers, and getting that order shipped. 

Many businesses are like that, flat-structured, very operational and having little time to reflect on whether they’re doing it the right way and not having the expertise either. These customers are the most likely to have no formal rate agreement against which they can check their freight costs/invoices or have little knowledge of the freight  market and how, from Asia in particular, rates can vary wildly from week to week, never mind month to month! 

So what does that mean? Well it means that you could be paying hundreds of dollars more for a container than necessary, which when the pound is so weak against the USD, makes even more of a difference to your landed cost. (The pound reached a 5 year low against the USD this month).

We specialize in supporting the customers who sit in Camp 3 and use our influence, buying power and market knowledge to not only achieve much better freight rates (our average cost saving is 30%), we also raise their profile as a customer, ensuring that they receive the sort of service normally reserved for larger corporate clients. 

We also have Customs expertise and help customers classify their goods much more accurately, often creating cost savings in import duty and putting in place a proper Customs compliance process for them as well. As an example, we recovered 
£ 26,000 of import duty from HMRC for one of our large customers who import from the US (Middleby UK) and this related to an apparently minor difference of 0.5% in duty – but these small variances can often make a big difference to landed costs.

And, best of all, we offer free consultations for customers and once engaged, work on a shared savings model, so we effectively provide our service for no cost, leaving the customer with a significant net saving, then able to use that money to invest in product development, sales or another area requiring

investment. All the savings are measured accurately per shipment and supported by detailed monthly reports.

Please do take a look at our website, our blog and the highly complimentary testimonials from our customers, and I should add that many customers have been on board with us since start up in 2010, so we’re clearly adding value year on year. Most customers say that they couldn’t really envisage going back to the way they ‘managed’ their freight and logistics before which really makes us feel valued, and also, a vital part of their business. A great feeling.

Kind Regards

Andy Cliff

Straightforward Consultancy Ltd
4, Beckett Drive
Winwick Park

Tel : 07934 443492
Email :
Web :
Blog :
Twitter: @AndyCliffSCL

Friday, 17 April 2015

Containerships see an 8% drop in fuel efficiency in past 25 years - hard to believe but true!

Good afternoon All

I just spotted this article and thought it was worth sharing with you.

It seems that even though container ships are getting larger and larger (circa 20,000 TEU), and the lift costs naturally dropping (sorry, logistics jargon is hard to avoid! - the lift cost is the cost to move each container carried) the vessels themselves are actually 8% less fuel efficient than in 1990.

Seems odd to me, as you'd think that with clean diesel technology in our trucks and cars, that this same technology is being employed in ships and shipping lines are very concerned about fuel costs as you can imagine.

Have a great weekend, the weather is dry and sunny here in Warrington and Spring is well upon us!

Kind Regards

Andy Cliff
Straightforward Consultancy Ltd (SCL)
logistics simplified