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June : Tips for successful shipping

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8 June, 2017

Tips for successful shipping

 Successful Shipping

Dolphin 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 country.

To the dread of the recipient, bad weather can also delay arrival by up to two or three weeks.

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 necessary.

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 adjustments.

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, says Thinus.

"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," concludes Thinus.

Source: Dolphin Bay Chemicals

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