BY KELVIN KAMANDE
The transit time for shipping container is the period between departure time to the arrival of the container for delivery.
Transit time is important in determining the efficiency of the supply chain. The benefits of a shorter transit time are a reduction in inventory holding, while at the same time reducing the risk of stockouts to businesses. An effective container transit time, therefore, enhances satisfactory customer service and reduces the overall transport cost, lowers the warehousing and shipping costs while creating a competitive environment in an economy for goods and services.
The main factors that determine shipping container transit time and the solutions are –
Complexity of the shipping route and the distance: The further the vessels need to travel the longer it will take for the delivery to get to the destination.
This challenge is resolved by collaborating with logistics partners and shipping lines to synchronize operations as witnesses in the ocean carriers shipping alliances. DP World a global supply chain operator partnered with A.P Moller- Maersk to enhance operational efficiencies. -( DP World and Maersk enter long-term partnership at Jebel Ali ) .
Port Congestion: Delays in port operations – loading and unloading of container due to delays in berth space – determine the transit time. Advance scheduling by carriers is highly encourage globally by port operators. This enhances earlier planning and availability of berth to avoid delays in the anchor. Other strategies would be infrastructure investment, which would ultimately increases capacity and efficient container handling.
Extended gate hours, possibly 24/7, would facilitate for more traffic by pick up and drop off trucks. The use of technology in pre- clearance and electronic documentation would reduce the time spent in the port and thus reducing transit time.
Custom process: Delays in documentation and inspection of containers, especially the international shipping, is one of the major contributors of longer transit time.
Facilitating electronic documentation and pre-clearance programmes would significantly reduce the transit time. Other bilateral agreements such as use of trade facilitation agreements and collaboration with partner territories custom agencies will also ensure the process takes less time. An internal aspect is training the stakeholders on the customs compliance and regulation process, while at the same time engaging the shipping agencies.
Transshipments: While the transfer of container from one ship to another during voyage is a normal and a completely unavoidable process, it results in increasing the transit time, if not handled properly.
The process involves additional processes of container handling. By choosing historically proven efficient transshipment hubs such as Jebel Ali port in UAE, Port of Shanghai, Port of Tianjin, port of Shenzen in China and Rotterdam Port, to name a few.
These ports are proven to have highly streamlined and reliable infrastructure for the process. Other options include direct routing and utilization of intermodal transport (use of different modes of transport).
Geopolitics Factors: Unfortunate factors such as political unrest or wars can influence the transit time of shipping container. Trade dispute between states, blockade or even embargos are some of the influencers.
The Israel-Gaza conflict (2023-24) has rendered one of the most important global shipping routes – the Suez Canal – unsecure for shipping, resulting in longer unexpected transit time in global supply chain.
Diversifying supply chain route by shipping lines by conducting a prior risk assessment to plan for alternative route would facilitate for timely delivery of containers.
Other factors such as establishment of diplomatic engagements and government relations, utilization of trade agreements that leverage international shipping and use of the dual source and supplier’s diversification to reduce overdependency of a single source.
Kelvin Kamande is an expert in international relations, supply chain and container terminal operations, currently working for one of the largest seaport operators