Customer service has been shelved by the shipping lines, as shippers grumble that it is getting increasingly difficult to book cargo with them, let alone know what rate they will be charged.
Many complain that carriers are refusing to answer booking desk phones and are “ignoring” e-mails.
“We spend hours trying to contact the lines and they just let their phones ring out,” one frustrated forwarder said. “It’s demoralizing for our staff – to whom we preach the gospel of customer service – that they cannot give a sensible answer to clients,” he said.
Despite what the carriers say publicly, they are “not interested” in talking about signing new contracts until after the Chinese New Year holiday, when the lines believe, they might start to need to ask shippers for cargo.
Some have reported how carriers are changing the ‘shipped on board’ dates of containers to take advantage of rate increases. One shipper claimed his carrier had ‘ignored the bill of lading date’ in preference to the sailing date of the vessel to take advantage of an interim rate hike.
And he said his long-term contact at a major shipping line had admitted that carriers had now adopted the same pricing policy as the budget airlines – adjusting the rates continuously as ships become booked up.