8 June, 2017
Tips for successful shipping
Bay imports 95% of our raw materials, and we
export large proportions of our finished
product, as do many of our customers.
As a result, we understand that shipping is as
integral to industry as blood is to the human
body. However, it is surprising how little is
understood about shipping. In this story, our
operations manager Thinus Ferreira unravels
some of the complexities.
Shipping is generally not difficult, but it
requires a thorough grasp of the potentially
long lead times, and planning well ahead for
an uninterrupted supply of stock, he advises.
"It is important to take the lead times into
account," he says. "For example, if the
sailing time is 14 to 18 days, one might
expect to receive your goods after 14 days.
But there is a tremendous additional lag.
"The shipping time itself can constitute only
about one-quarter of the total time before
your goods arrive. The total time is greatly
affected by several other factors, including
the inspections required on both sides."
If you are importing or exporting from African
countries, they might require your goods to be
inspected by quality boards first in South
Africa, and then upon arrival, as well as
clearing customs. The South African quality
report is sent to the destination country,
whose quality board can accept it, query it,
or even cancel the shipment.
Quality assessments like these are not as
common with European and Asisan countries as
what it is in Africa. While it can pose an
administrative hurdle, the upside is the
assurance that you are sending or receiving a
product whose quality has been verified by a
specific standard that was set in place by the
To the dread of the recipient, bad weather can
also delay arrival by up to two or three
Hazardous goods, including wood preservative
chemicals, can only travel on ships classified
to carry them. If they miss the scheduled
vessel, the shipping line might hold back your
cargo until the next suitable ship arrives,
which could take anything up to a month. This
is less of a risk for direct sailings between
two ports, than when connections are
You can track your cargo online but this
information, which should be updated daily, is
sometimes only updated every two or three
days. "You might check on the day of arrival,
and suddenly find that a delay of another five
days is expected," says Thinus. "This delay
might even be recorded only after the expected
date of arrival," says Thinus.
The upshot is that importers and exporters
should plan for the worst-case scenario,
taking the potentially long lead times into
account. In our experience, these can be up to
eight weeks, when complexities such as
connection vessels are required.
Our advice to customers is to ensure that they
carry sufficient buffer stock if in any way
possible. Monitor this usage and your
projections, as well as the progress of your
shipments, daily, making the necessary
Communication is crucial, as information must
be shared timeously between the shipping agent
and companies concerned, to ensure that stock
does not run out. "Take your potentially busy
months into consideration," advises Thinus.
"We also advise that our clients work very
closely with their forwarding and clearing
agent. Some companies don't want to engage
with an agent, but they play a pivotal role.
They will engage with the shipping lines and
the authorities for you, and keep you
up-to-date regarding the applicable tariffs,
inspection processes, and lead times."
Many companies do not have a dedicated
planner, logistics or supply chain manager,
instead expecting other staff to incorporate
the job into their own tasks. This does not
work. Dedicated, knowledgeable staff are
necessary to manage the process successfully,
"The system in Africa is not as efficient as
in European, or South African ports, but for
companies that take all the considerations
into account it can work very well, providing
invaluable outlets for your business,"
Source: Dolphin Bay Chemicals