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Has Container Shipping Become a Commodity?

(Robert J. Bowman – SupplyChainBrain)

There was a time when ocean carriers fashioned themselves as providers of premium, door-to-door transportation. Not anymore.

After that first flush of intermodalism in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, the big container lines shed their stack-train and inland transport units. More recently, they exited the chassis business and have been selling off their interest in marine terminal operations.

What’s left? Huge, slow ships that travel from port to port, ferrying the containers of multiple lines in space-sharing arrangements that muddle the distinctions among nominal rivals. And, when it comes to service, conjure up that dreaded word: commodity.

As least that’s what Martin Stopford thinks. Speaking at the recent TPM 2015 conference in Long Beach, sponsored by the Journal of Commerce, the director of Clarkson Research Services Ltd. wondered whether carriers have fulfilled the promise of containerization. Click here to read more.