Third-party logistics services provider Century Distribution Systems has recently started a non-vessel-operating common carrier service to serve shippers in the U.S. trades.
Century Express, the U.S. licensed ocean transportation intermediary, is an outgrowth of the company’s NVO division Century Shipping, which was started in 2005. Century Shipping has operated in several trade lanes, predominantly Asia/Europe and Asia/Australia, but did not hold licenses from the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission and China’s Ministry of Communications to specifically operate in the U.S. inbound and outbound trades.
“Our newest division, Century Express, is meant to round out our pre-existing NVO service, offering and complementing our thriving buyer’s consolidation business,” said Bill McGough, vice president of sales and customer support for Century Distribution. “We definitely see this as an opportunity to win new business outright and, importantly, expand upon the services we can provide to our existing customer partners.”
He added that between Century Shipping and Century Express, the company can service trade lanes globally, including eastbound and westbound transpacific. “We will not be limiting our focus to just transpacific inbound,” McGough said.
Century Distribution has for many decades overseen the inbound logistics services for an array of North American shippers, who are attracted to the company’s sophisticated cargo management technologies. Century’s VMS platform not only supports the day-to-day operations it performs, but provides complete supply chain visibility and control for customers through a Web-based platform.
Century Express is based at Century Distribution’s Richmond, Va. headquarters. The NVO also includes a branch office and centralized customer service center in Iselin, N.J. The service center provides rate quotations, documentation, customer care and accounting.
“All the same owned offices and agents that manage our buyer’s consolidation business will be hands-on with the Century Express business,” McGough said. “That adds up to 48 countries we service out of 100-plus cargo handling facilities in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, South America and Central America.” – Chris Gillis
Good-bye paper liquidation notices
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it will discontinue mailing paper courtesy notices of liquidations to importers who file entries through the Automated Broker Interface system, effective Sept. 30.
CBP estimates this move will save it $3.8 million annually by eliminating 90 percent, or about 6.5 million, of the paper courtesy notices sent to importers. If more than 90 percent are eliminated, savings could be higher, the agency said.
Courtesy liquidation notices provide informal, advance notice of the liquidation date, but are not required by statute. For importers of record whose entry summaries are electronically filed in ABI, CBP provides an electronic courtesy notice to the ABI filer (importer of record or a broker that files as the agent of the importer of record) and a paper courtesy notice to the importer of record.
Only those importers whose entries are not filed through ABI will continue to receive paper courtesy liquidation notices from the agency. – Chris Gillis
Late to the party?
FedEx has joined the differentiated ocean product brigade, as reported in July (“FedEx launches ocean choices portfolio, at www.AmericanShipper.com). But the question is: what is their niche? It’s tough to tell.
FedEx’s forwarder arm, FedEx Trade Networks, is a top 20 transpacific non-vessel-operating common carrier, yet it’s not the first name that comes to mind when you think of the forwarder business. FedEx may offer ocean freight services, but it’d be a stretch to say it’s in its wheelhouse.
It’s tempting to see the development of FedEx’s ocean forwarding services as a way to fill in a gap in its portfolio. The company told American Shipper Associate Editor Chris Dupin the tiered ocean services were developed in response to customer demand. That suggests FedEx was eager to give satisfied customers from their other business units a way to handle full containerloads and less-than-containerloads without going outside the FedEx umbrella (the ol’ one-stop shop principle).
That must be the driving force, because it’s hard to see a niche in ocean forwarding that needs filling. No matter how great the customer service is, FedEx is too big to match the tailored and relationship-driven strengths of small NVOs. If FedEx is going to compete with other big names, like Expeditors, or Kuehne + Nagel, or even another integrator like UPS, it’s a little late to the party.
When Dupin asked whether FedEx was playing catch-up to other carriers, the company responded: “We provide a comprehensive portfolio of ocean services to fit the varying needs of our customers.”
Which doesn’t really explain much.
When asked what the unique appeal of FedEx’s three-tiered ocean product is, the company said: “Our customers are not limited by a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, and instead, can choose the ocean freight forwarding solution that best fits their business.”
Except that concept is well ensconced in the industry already. What forwarder in these times sells their services as “one-size fits all”?
It’s hard to tell, at least from the information given, how FedEx will be able to nudge new customers away from their current service providers. This also speaks to the level of loyalty present in the NVO market these days.
Do shippers value long-term relationships with NVOs who have reliably provided them space at reasonable rates? What can induce them to switch to another company? Is a name brand they recognize, like FedEx, enough to get them to consider switching? To say nothing about the quality of services FedEx provides, I’d like to think shippers today are savvier than to simply rely on a household name as a reason for switching.
Which means FedEx will have to earn its business. Perhaps that means offering guaranteed, time-definite services, a la some of the products that have sprung forth from partnerships between U.S. trucking companies and ocean carriers.
Right now, the notion of three tiers of ocean freight pricing may be new to FedEx, but it’s not new to a well-developed and mature forwarding market. — Eric Johnson