Exporters ‘miss boat’

WA exporters are missing the boat to markets in North Asia and the Middle East, according to a survey commissioned by the Fremantle Port Authority and the Sea Freight Council of Western Australia.

The survey, undertaken by an independent research company, found 20 per cent of shippers have experienced difficulty obtaining space to some ports in Northern Asia and the Middle East.

This space shortage is attributed to the freight rate war of the late 1990s and the losses incurred by shipowners as the scramble for cargo forced them to think about either withdrawing services or amalgamating with other lines.

“There has, however, been the introduction of two new Asian services in recent months and it is hoped this will help alleviate difficulties encountered by exporters,” the survey reports.

The research group interviewed 74 exporters, who accounted for 63,302 TEUS – or 60 per cent of the port’s total full export containers. It found the majority of shippers are happy with the level of service out of Fremantle.

“While the great majority of exporters are satisfied with the level of shipping services from Fremantle, it is significant that nearly 20 per cent of exporters who accounted for around 20 per cent of exports were not satisfied.

“It would seem that the dissatisfaction largely reflected difficulties in obtaining space to some trading regions, particularly Northern Asia.”

Sea Freight Council of WA executive officer Michael O’Callaghan said most of complaints were about the lack of direct shipping services to chosen markets - something which high-lighted a lack of shipper awareness.

“Frankly, the depth of ignorance is almost unplum-mable,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

“And, the most disturbing feature of all is that shippers don’t know that they don’t know about this extremely important part of their business.”

Mr O’Callaghan said informed shippers could tap into the vast array of transport options available through transhipment services.

This involved using shipping services to transport goods to world hub ports like Singapore where they were then transferred onto another vessel which travelled directly to that market. An increasing trend towards transhipment services would mean a reduced availability of direct services.

“There are very few direct services,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

“For instance there are no longer direct services between here and Northern Asia. All the Bakke ships that once served this route have gone.

“Transhipment is not a bad thing. You can arrange to efficiently transport your goods to most markets with judicious use of this sort of shipping.

“Importers and exporters need to spend more time in educating themselves about this.”

The survey found that 88 per cent of exporters transhipped their goods en route to their final destination with Singapore being the main hub port.

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