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The importance of planning your shipments

planning your shipments - shipping and freight resourcePlanning your shipments is very important in shipping..!!!!!!!! Uh, Duh..!!!

As obvious as it sounds, there are several cases where this may not happen due to a variety of factors ranging from lack of planning to incorrect processes followed to tight deadlines to simply circumstances..

People do not realise the number of type of issues that could happen in a shipment and that there are several possible causes for delays however insignificant the reason maybe..

Here is a great live example..

The FIA World Rallycross Championship was held at the Killarney International Raceway in Cape Town on the 24th and 25th of November 2018..

Johan Kristoffersson won this championship in South Africa and was crowned FIA World RX Champion collecting a record breaking 11 wins from 12 this season..

But get this – Johan Kristoffersson almost didn’t compete in the FIA World Rallycross Championship in Cape Town……………… SAY WHAT…!!!

Yes, as per reports, the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden World Rallycross squad faced a real race against time to compete in the final round of 2018 due to their equipment arriving late in South Africa..

On Friday the 23rd November, while the other teams were undertaking final preparations in the paddock at the Killarney circuit, the PSRX garage did not have the team’s title-winning Volkswagen Polo Supercars and equipment..

Their kit, in two containers, were still on a ship anchored in Cape Town, yet to be unloaded..!!!!

According to Motorsport, the title-winning Volkswagen Motorsport-built machines and the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden Team’s equipment had been delayed leaving Europe and were then further held up in Cape Town due to bad weather..

Planning your shipments - shipping and freight resource

As per PSRX team principal Pernilla Solberg

For some reason the containers were not put on the ship they should have been on and they were almost 14 days late leaving Europe. The ship only came to the area here on Wednesday, but since then the winds have been quite strong, so it hasn’t been able to dock to start unloading.

We know exactly where the ship is, we’ve been tracking it since it left Europe,” said Solberg. “We also know what boat needs to leave the harbour in order for it to get in.

The harbour and everybody are fully aware of the situation and will do everything they can when it finally docks. We have our fingers crossed and hoping that the cars will be delivered some time during the night so we can compete this weekend.

The Volkswagen-backed Torsby-based outfit had two containers in the consignment..

It was reported that while the containers carrying the Polos were located and earmarked to be one of the first containers to be unloaded, the second container housing the tools and equipment could take longer to be off loaded possibly due to stowage position..

“The cars are ready to race and they’ve got the carry-over tyres on them that we should bring from a previous event – it will be fairly quick as long as we can get the cars here,” said Solberg.

“Petter [Solberg] and Johan [Kristoffersson] have their gear so they are ready to jump in. “We can get fuel and tyres here and we’re trying to plan for all scenarios in case we can’t get the second container.”

However, thankfully, both of the team’s containers arrived at the paddock late on Friday afternoon, allowing the squad time to set up their garage ahead of the event starting on Saturday morning..

It was reported that the team did however miss its scrutineering slot and the Friday afternoon shakedown, but the cars were scrutineered on Saturday morning and the squad were allowed to start practice..

Possible reasons & scenarios

Events and situations like this highlights the very crucial role that shipping plays and also highlights the importance of checking and rechecking all possible scenarios and preparing for the worst..

Imagine the frustrations of a world class driver and current World Champion like Johan Kristoffersson not being able to do what he does best because his kit didn’t arrive..

As per the news reports “For some reason the containers were not put on the ship they should have been on and they were almost 14 days late leaving Europe“..

Those in the industry have seen many such circumstances and may know the reasons why containers may be short shipped or short landed..

Could this issue have been avoided..?? Most probably yes..

While not much details are available as to the reasons for the delay, the statement that the containers left Europe almost 14 days later than originally planned, points to a few possibilities..

  • Usually container liner services have a weekly frequency.. Means there is a sailing every 7 days.. The 14 days delay could mean possibly two missed vessels with a 7 day frequency or missed one of the vessels with a 14 day frequency..
  • Maybe these containers were not flagged as priority containers with the shipping line..
  • There may have been delays in export documentation which meant the containers missed the stack period for the originally planned vessel..
  • Maybe there was a blank sailing or the nominated ship skipped the port and the containers had to wait for the next available ship..
  • It is also possible that with or without priority flagging, someone didn’t follow up on the status of these containers once it was gated into the port for export..

planning your shipments - shipping and freight resource

Tips to ensure proper planning of your shipments

So here are some points to ensure that your shipments are planned in time and avoid short shipments..

  1. Ensure there is sufficient time for your shipment to be packed, gated into port, loaded and also sufficient time for the shipment to reach its destination..
  2. Please remember that this is sea freight, involving those huge things called ships that maybe affected by bad weather, transhipment delays, disasters en-route, and “n” number of other things..
  3. As of August 2018, the global average for schedule reliability was still the lowest it has been in any second quarter.. As per Sea-Intel which tracks such metrics
    • The Asia-Europe trade lane recorded an annual improvement in schedule reliability of 6.2 percentage points and Asia-Mediterranean a 3.4 percentage point gain, reaching 83.6% and 77.9% respectively.
    • But on the Transpacific, schedule reliability to the US west and east coasts fell to 70.7% and 66.6%, down 7.6 and 7.9 percentage points respectively.
    • Westbound transatlantic services recorded 65.4% schedule reliability in the second quarter, an annual decline of 3.3 percentage points, while eastbound schedule reliability fell one percentage point to 67.3%.
  4. What does this mean..?? Well it means for example on the Transpacific trade that there is a possibility that your shipments may NOT arrive as indicated by the schedule – 33.4% of the time..!!! This of course is an average and bit more complicated to explain in one sentence..
  5. So ALWAYS work on the principle that the transit time provided by the carriers is only an indication and it is always good to have some buffer where possible..
  6. planning your shipmentsIf you however do not have the luxury of buffer time and if your shipments are going to be priority delivery like these race cars or time sensitive like exhibition goods etc, you need to have a special discussion with your shipping line, freight forwarder, transporter, clearing agent, documentation teams, banks etc etc as any delay by anyone in the chain can affect the transit time..
  7. For goods like these, as much as possible choose the most direct route and try to avoid transhipments.. If transhipments are unavoidable, then restrict it to not more than one transhipment..
  8. In the case of such transhipment, request the shipping line to flag the shipment as priority transhipment and ensure that the line’s offices and ports at the transhipment port are aware of the importance of this shipment and all documentation is done in advance..
  9. Of course, the shipping line CANNOT afford to flag everyone’s cargo as priority.. Remember that..
  10. Use the right documentation when shipping such priority cargoes.. For example if the shipment does not require any commercial transactions or payment of goods like this example, then use a Sea Waybill of Lading instead of maybe an Original Negotiable Bill of Lading or issue a Telex Release if a Straight Bill of Lading was issued..
  11. Most important point – COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE and after all these communications, COMMUNICATE some more to ensure everything is well timed..


Shipping and Freight is a very dynamic and fluid industry where things can change in micro seconds literally.. The very proud fact that the industry carries 90% of global trade notwithstanding, you may have read in this blog and from other media that the industry is rife with mis-declarations, maritime disasters, fraud, containers falling off ships, ships catching fire, ships crashing into cranes etc etc etc………

While we all need to work together to avoid issues due to man made causes, we also need to be prepared to handle and manage situations that may happen due to natural causes and ensure our best to make sure the propellers of global trade keep spinning smoothly..


Do you wish to add on any points to the above..?? Feel free to do so in the comments section..

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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiarhttps://www.shippingandfreightresource.com
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..


  1. Your articles are always so informative & we can learn a lot from here thank you so much . I have a query .. can you please tell me what is the maximum no of FREE PERIOD we can ask for a container .. we have been getting 14 days or 21 days of FREE PERIOD till now .. is 21 days the Maximum we can ask for ..

    • Hi Tshering, there is no prescribed limits to how much of free time you can ask.. Some customers and lines even have long term arrangements for some way out areas where containers move to.. But of course it all depends on the freight rate and what terms the shipping line can offer..

  2. I agree to what is being said in the article. Planning your shipment is of paramount importance. When looking at container shipments versus the bulk shipments, bulk shipments looks more easy to administer than containers. But all will depend on what your customers packaging preferences are. Containers are really good for small shipments and larger one, bulk shipments work well for me.


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