Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Personal and Household Items Require a Specialist Freight Forwarder - not a Logistics Cowboy

Scandal of Underperforming Agents is a Global Problem
Shipping News Feature

US – PHILIPPINES – WORLDWIDE – Mention personal or household effects to any freight forwarder and one is likely to perceive a noticeable wince, often the bête noir of logistics, the best bet for most punters is to choose a specialised company to handle the movement of ones dearest, and perhaps only, possessions. Searching through the Freight Directory of the Handy Shipping Guide should provide a satisfactory bunch of candidates from whom to obtain a quote, unfortunately some in the business of personal removals, both international and domestic, are far from so trustworthy.

The scandal of incompetent and often downright deceitful companies trading in the field is apparently endemic around the globe. Often for the customer this is their only experience of shipping goods of any kind, particularly when sending items abroad. Many an Australian visitor to the UK has selected a company offering cheap deals to send personal items back home, only to find that their precious things have disappeared into a container store somewhere, often no more than a lock up garage, whilst the ‘shipping agent’ awaits enough goods to fill a box to an economic level. Sometimes in these cases the ‘agent’, usually a fellow countryman, fails to achieve the riches he envisaged by setting up his own export consolidation business and simply disappears, with or without returning the goods.

Seemingly the problem of vanishing personal effects is truly international, in a recent ‘Today’ programme on US television a video highlighting one couple’s problems when the entire contents of their house failed to be delivered, explains a typical situation, and ways to avoid it, most succinctly. Also included is a short interview with Anne Ferro at the US Department of Transportation, and who has announced a new task force intended to crack down specifically on underperforming interstate moving companies. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also has a website designed to help avoiding the common pitfalls when selecting a carrier which can be seen here.

Another region seemingly plagued by poor service is the Philippines, with such a huge percentage of the county’s population working overseas, the Filipinos devised a simple system to send worthwhile items back home for a minimal cost. Balikbayan boxes are a purpose designed method of returning several small items securely to the Philippines. Constructed of strong corrugated walled cardboard they can be sent via a freight forwarder by sea yet are small enough to count as luggage on a homeward bound airline.

With so many of the ubiquitous boxes being shipped, the name literally translates as ‘returning people’, it seems that again unscrupulous and unreliable elements have crept in, quoting low rates and then failing to deliver the boxes. In the recent past, the Department of Trade and Industry’s Philippine Shippers’ Bureau has found it necessary to blacklist around fifty consolidators and freight forwarders, ten of them US based, for offences in which Balikbayan boxes are involved. Many of the companies involved ‘specialise’ in Middle Eastern shipments, a region of course where thousands of Filipino’s are employed.

The Philippine authorities publish a regularly updated list of accredited freight forwarders, currently numbering over one hundred and sixty, all of whom are entitled to act as balikbayan carriers. In addition the DTI also publishes a list of over five hundred NVOCC’s with offices in the islands, again accredited by the Department.

Most regular readers will know the pitfalls associated with this part of the industry and how to avoid them but, for any novice readers, the advice is to select several likely carriers, in the case of large moves i.e. if you can’t pack it yourself and don’t have accurate weights and measurements (as with a household move), insist on a personal visit to enable an accurate quotation. Before giving the go ahead check the company’s website for industry accreditations and client reviews and follow these up to check their veracity. Also ensure that any insurance policy in place covers all eventualities, no matter what happens in transit.

Photo: Items going missing sometimes aren’t a worst case scenario for a shipper.