In this digital age where people trade stocks, book flights and sign contracts electronically, the notion of checking cargo shipping rates by phone or email should be quaint. Yet, carriers have been slow to adopt digitization, forcing shippers and freight forwarders to wait days instead of seconds to determine rates and confirm vessel space.
The tides are turning, though, as three of the largest container lines, including Hapag-Lloyd, CMA CGM and Maersk, now offer instant quoting and booking through their websites, for at least some container types and lanes.
These three carriers are the only major container lines offering an instant quote tool. Several other large carriers offer electronic quote requests on their website, but responses aren’t instant. Many others have no capacity for electronic quoting.
"The fact that enough larger players have done it, I believe makes it table stakes," said Eytan Buchman, chief marketing officer at Freightos, a digital marketplace for shipping and freight forwarding. He sees the move toward carrier digitization as a steady walk, not a run, but "soon any company that doesn’t have digital quoting and booking will find themselves feeling the crunch on the revenue side."