SHIPPING lines globally spend up to eight per cent of their operating costs on repositioning empty containers, which costs the shipping industry between US$15 billion and $20 billion a year according to Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
Speaking at the Intermodal Europe event in Rotterdam, Johannes Schlingmeier, a consultant at BCG, said the huge number of empty container movements across the globe accounted for 15 per cent of all box movements in the US, 14 per cent in Latin America, 29 per cent in Europe, 16 per cent in the Middle East and 25 per cent in China.
Mr Schlingmeier's colleague, Christian Roeloffs, told The Loadstar that the problem arose from a mixture of structural trade imbalances and liner and network inefficiency. "Against structural imbalances ?such as those seen in an economy that exports more, China's, for instance little can be done," he said.
"However, our analysis shows that 33 per cent of repositioning costs arise from company inefficiencies."
BCG believes these issues can be addressed by increasing transparency between container operators and shippers looking to transport goods through digital interchange platforms.
These platforms analyse markets to find empty units, vessel space and slots to link shippers with goods to move to empty containers, and BCG analysis of its own platform [xChange] shows that each interchange saves roughly $200, on average, for both parties.
Mr Roeloffs said: "Platforms like xChange link people looking for capacity to people with empty containers, much like Airbnb. The goal of the platform is to supply a mutually beneficial system that has the potential to save $20 million a year."
Since xChange was launched last year with 10 customers, a further 57 have come onboard. Mr Schlingmeier believes that with container growth now falling below GDP growth, the pressure will intensify on shipping lines to scale up and improve efficiency.
Source : HKSG.