Tuesday, 27 September 2016

SOLAS Container Weighing Regulations - Authorities Signal End To "Light Touch" Approach

Good afternoon All

If you recall we posted a few articles here on our blog and on LinkedIn ahead of the new SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) container weighing regulations which came into effect on 1-Jul-16.


Our article on SOLAS from July

During the first 3 months the shipping lines and port operators signalled that they would adopt a light touch approach to the new laws so that exporters (and all in the supply chain) had a chance to adjust their procedures so that international trade was not disrupted.

A reasonable stance by the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) who brought about the new SOLAS regulations however we're now a few days away from a firm approach on compliance, so that means no VGM (Verified Gross Mass) declaration, and the container will be rejected. Of course some ports around the world (eg DP World at Southampton, UK) are providing weighing facilities at the port which helps immensely, but for those that don't this change to 100% compliance may see some disruption for those exporters/forwarders who haven't taken SOLAS seriously.


Lloyds Loading List Article

Time for you to check whether you, if you're an exporter are compliant, and the same applies if you're an importer - is your supplier compliant? If not, you may see delays if containers are rejected.


Kind Regards



Andy Cliff



Andy Cliff is an industry professional who launched Straightforward Consultancy Ltd (SCL) after a 30 year career in international logistics, having worked for leading logistics providers including DB Schenker, Kuehne & Nagel and DHL Global Forwarding in operational, sales and management roles. He has a unique understanding of this area and uses his knowledge and networks to dramatically improve landed cost, service and Customs compliance.

Want to learn more about what we do? Please visit our website here


Andy felt that, in an increasingly complex and confusing world of logistics, UK importers and exporters needed a company alongside them which could help them to reduce costs, lessen their workload and provide expert advice and support each day.



Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Latest update on Hanjin bankruptcy - US court gives go ahead to unload Hanjin vessels

Good afternoon All

The collapse of Hanjin is causing serious disruption for many importers and exporters as you may have seen on the news and our last blog post gives an in depth overview of the situation since the news last Wed 31-Aug.


We’ve just heard of some very welcome news as below.


Below please see our last blog post from yesterday with full background story.

If you import or export by ocean freight, be that LCL or FCL, you may be affected by the news that Hanjin Shipping filed for bankruptcy last Wednesday 31-Aug. Hanjin are number 7 globally so this is big news. Here's an excerpt from our LinkedIn post from last  Wednesday and we immediately wrote to forwarders involved with our customers' ocean freight movements to ascertain the exposure. I am pleased to advise that we have limited exposure and for any shipments which are caught up in this, we learned today that several LCL shipments in consolidated containers are already released so we're very satisfied with this outcome of course.

"Top 10 shipping line Hanjin files for bankruptcy after failing to secure USD 450 million cash injection. All goes to show that times are tough in the global container market, especially in the fiercely competitive Asia-Europe trade. Time to check if your freight forwarder has any cargo moving via Hanjin as creditors may seize vessels and ports may refuse to accept Hanjin vessels which may then make it difficult to take delivery of your containers/shipments. Contact your forwarder now to see if you're affected, and if so what they're doing to facilitate release"

Please be aware that your cargo could be caught up in this even if your full containers (FCL) or part containers (LCL) are moving on other shipping lines - why? Because it's common for shipping lines to share space on each others vessels. For example, you could have a shipment booked on a Hanjin contract but moving on K-Line or Yang Ming so either way, the cargo will get caught up in the bankruptcy. So what could happen? What we're hearing is that global ports are refusing to handle Hanjin ships as for example, they may be owed money for berthing and unloading charges and want to recover money whilst they have some leverage. I suggest the first thing you should do is contact your freight forwarder / logistics provider to assess what exposure you actually have - and then get a clear statement on their recovery plans.



Andy Cliff is an industry professional who launched Straightforward Consultancy Ltd (SCL) after a 30 year career in international logistics, having worked for leading logistics providers including DB Schenker, Kuehne & Nagel and DHL Global Forwarding in operational, sales and management roles. He has a unique understanding of this area and uses his knowledge and networks to dramatically improve landed cost, service and Customs compliance.

Please do visit our website here

Andy felt that, in an increasingly complex and confusing world of logistics, UK importers and exporters needed a company alongside them which could help them to reduce costs, lessen their workload and provide expert advice and support each day.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Hanjin Shipping bankruptcy - are you affected? Time to take action.

Good afternoon All

If you import or export by ocean freight, be that LCL or FCL, you may be affected by the news that Hanjin Shipping filed for bankruptcy last Wednesday 31-Aug. 

Hanjin are number 7 globally so this is big news. Here's an excerpt from our LinkedIn post from last Wednesday and we immediately wrote to forwarders involved with our customers' ocean freight movements to ascertain the exposure. 


"Top 10 shipping line Hanjin files for bankruptcy after failing to secure USD 450 million cash injection. All goes to show that times are tough in the global container market, especially in the fiercely competitive Asia-Europe trade. Time to check if your freight forwarder has any cargo moving via Hanjin as creditors may seize vessels and ports may refuse to accept Hanjin vessels which may then make it difficult to take delivery of your containers/shipments. Contact your forwarder now to see if you're affected, and if so what they're doing to facilitate release.

Lloyds Loading List article here


I am pleased to advise that we actually had limited exposure and for any customers' shipments which are caught up in this, we learned today that several LCL shipments in consolidated containers are already released so we're very satisfied with this outcome of course. You should not assume however that every freight forwarder will adopt the same approach or be able to get their containers released. 

In our case, the forwarder made a commercial decision and paid an extra USD 3000 to secure release from the port. It was a wise commercial move as they will most likely recover the money down the line but it means their customers are not faced with delays or extra costs and they showed leadership.

Please be aware that your cargo could be caught up in this even if your full containers (FCL) or part containers (LCL) are moving on other shipping lines - why? 
Because it's common for shipping lines to share space on each other's vessels. For example, you could have a shipment booked on a Hanjin contract but moving on K-Line or Yang Ming so either way, the cargo will get caught up in the bankruptcy. 

So what could happen? What we're hearing is that global ports are refusing to handle Hanjin ships as for example, they may be owed money for berthing and unloading charges and want to recover money whilst they have some leverage. 

I suggest the first thing you should do is contact your freight forwarder / logistics provider to assess what exposure you actually have - and then get a clear statement on their recovery plans.

Good luck and let me know how you get on.

Kind Regards



Andy Cliff


Andy Cliff is an industry professional who launched Straightforward Consultancy Ltd (SCL) after a 30 year career in international logistics, having worked for leading logistics providers including DB Schenker, Kuehne & Nagel and DHL Global Forwarding in operational, sales and management roles. He has a unique understanding of this area and uses his knowledge and networks to dramatically improve landed cost, service and Customs compliance.

Please do visit our website here


Andy felt that, in an increasingly complex and confusing world of logistics, UK importers and exporters needed a company alongside them which could help them to reduce costs, lessen their workload and provide expert advice and support each day.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Going the extra mile - sure about that?

I realized something the other day about this time of year, when companies see their staff taking the bulk of their holidays between Jul and September to take advantage of the school summer break, and leaving departments pretty stretched.

Some would say, well, it's ok because business is quieter in summertime however, from what we see, working in really close partnership with UK importers and exporters, there's still plenty of business activity and of course there's always the urgent customer orders which need to be fulfilled regardless.

And this takes me to the light bulb moment, and how, sometimes, you can underestimate the value you add to customers beyond your core services or offering. In our case, we help companies to reduce their international logistics costs, ensure they're Customs compliant and act as a virtual logistics manager managing the logistics area so they can focus on their core activities.

Although this has happened many times, it suddenly became apparent to me last week, when the contact at one of our USA import customers advised he was taking his summer holiday which would span two weeks. We work very closely with this person day to day and are in the loop on communications with their USA suppliers so we follow each order from when it's placed to when it's finally delivered, measuring and monitoring service levels.

Mark advised me mid-week that he had 4 urgent orders from 4 separate USA suppliers on the go which would all be moving by air freight. These suppliers were in Texas, Tennessee, Illinois and New Hampshire however Mark would be on holiday with cover by a colleague who wasn't that familiar with the mechanics of the US shipments.

When Mark finished on Thursday 28-Jul, the most urgent of the 4 orders, which was needed on Monday 1-Aug was still not packed and the Texas one was just being collected that day. The other 2 were in motion and we knew they were set to arrive on Sunday so they were lined up for Monday delivery.
What we did here was fill the space Mark vacated and communicate directly with the factory in New Hampshire as we knew it absolutely had to be picked up Friday to achieve Monday delivery. At 2100 hours on Friday evening (1600 East Coast US) we got the reply we wanted and made sure the order was then assigned to a direct Saturday evening flight. 

To summarize, what is interesting here is that most freight forwarders work from say 0830-1730 so the UK office of the forwarder (the one who would generally update the client) had finished however they have their own holiday period challenges too, and our usual contact was on holiday on Friday which left another gap so we dealt with another less familiar contact until close of business Friday.
On Saturday morning, we wanted to ensure everything was still on track and checked that both the Texas and New Hampshire shipments were moving as planned, which they were.

So, on Monday morning (today) at 0730 we requested a status update for the customer, and Mark's relief contact came into work with some great news for their own customer, knowing that we had been working behind the scenes over the weekend to make this all happen.

I'm sure that many customers will experience not only the effect of their own departments being stretched, but also their freight forwarder sometimes struggling to maintain the service levels when they themselves are short staffed due to holiday breaks, or other reasons throughout the year, such as sickness, training, maternity or paternity leave.

I suppose the moral here is, if you say you care about customers, demonstrate this in your actions and secondly, don't undervalue what you do for your customers when you go above and beyond your core offering. For me, I don't think I've ever forgotten what I learned about going above and beyond in my days in forwarding operations and how doing something extra can make such a massive difference to a customer. That's why I love what I do.
If you take a look at our testimonials, I think you will be impressed, companies large and small rate us highly and our very first client from 2010 is still on board today. I have also been a panel judge at the Lloyds Global Freight Awards for 2 years so we're known as industry and market experts.
Andy Cliff is an industry professional who launched his own logistics consultancy, Straightforward Consultancy Ltd (SCL) after a 30 year career in international logistics, working for companies such as DB Schenker, Kuehne & Nagel and DHL Global Forwarding in operational, sales and management roles. 
Andy is part of the  judging panel for the 2016 Global Freight Awards, his second year in this prestigious role. The awards recognize quality, innovation and performance in the field of international logistics.  
Andy felt that in an increasingly complex and confusing world of logistics, UK importers and exporters needed a company alongside them which could help them to reduce costs, lessen their workload and provide expert advice and support day-to-day. 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Confused about SOLAS and VGM rules for ocean freight shipments - this podcast is worth a listen


Good afternoon All

If you're confused about the new SOLAS/VGM rules which came inti effect on 1st July 2016, the this podcast may be worth a listen. You can also of course take a look at our other blog posts on this topic.

Just a quick blog post whilst I had a moment!

Kind Regards



Andy Cliff


Podcast on VGM

Andy Cliff is an industry professional who launched his own logistics consultancy, Straightforward Consultancy Ltd (SCL) after a 30 year career in international logistics, working for companies such as DB Schenker, Kuehne & Nagel and DHL Global Forwarding in operational, sales and management roles.

Andy is part of the  judging panel for the 2016 Global Freight Awards, his second year in this prestigious role. The awards recognize quality, innovation and performance in the field of international logistics.  
Andy felt that in an increasingly complex and confusing world of logistics, UK importers and exporters needed a company alongside them which could help them to reduce costs, lessen their workload and provide expert advice and support day-to-day. 

Thursday, 14 July 2016

UK importers – post BREXIT, your costs just increased by 13% in a week – it really is time to act


If you are a regular importer, you will no doubt be aware that after the EU referendum vote on 23rd June 2016, the UK pound/Sterling fell sharply on the foreign exchanges from around USD 1.50 on June 23rd to below USD 1.30 and it’s remained at this level for almost 2 weeks, so we can assume that this will be the new level for the foreseeable future. 


Looking further back, one year ago the USD was 1.55 and averaged that level for the whole of July-15. So, we are looking at a cost increase of almost 17% which is significant.

I’ve worked in international trade since 1980 and know that most companies will purchase product from regions like Asia and North America in USD however many don’t realize that the major part of their freight costs are also calculated in USD.

For example, if you import from the USA, the pick up charges, terminal handling, freight rate itself and surcharges such as BAF (fuel surcharge) and LSF (low sulphur fuel surcharge) will all be rated in USD. It's also worth mentioning that if you export by ocean, the freight rate is also rated in USD so another area to investigate.



From our experience over the last 6 years here at Straightforward Consultancy (SCL), we know that companies are sometimes reluctant to review their logistics as it can be time consuming, confusing for a non-expert and they don’t really want to place their supply chain at risk. 

This is why they entrust this work to experts like ourselves who take the lead, involving them to ensure their needs are met when negotiating with freight providers and nothing is left to chance. 

The thing that most customers find surprising is the amount of money they have been wasting (the average we have measured since 2010 is a hefty 35%) and sometimes receiving a pretty mediocre service as well!

What we’re about is not just lowering landed costs for our customers, but using the opportunity to refresh their existing model at the same time, making it lower cost, reliable and Customs compliant. 




We also often find that not only are they paying way more than necessary, but also that their consignments aren’t being correctly declared to HMRC, and we’ve had one customer who recovered almost £ 30,000 of overpaid Customs import duty from HMRC because of our expertise.

So, to summarize, if you have been meaning to look at this area for some time but it’s been on the back burner, it really is time to act. 


Your managing director, financial director and operations director will appreciate your initiative and it will help to offset the squeeze on your company's margins, brought about by the 17% hike in your landed freight costs.

Just to add one more thing, we are very experienced in this area and offer free assessments for customers who are keen to reduce freight and related costs.


We also offer a shared savings/gain share fee model for our work which means our work is results based, includes everything from review to implementation and a full year of freight management, making sure that your costs stay competitive and you have access to expert advice and our knowledge of the logistics marketplace. 

If you take a look at our testimonials, I think you will be impressed, companies large and small rate us highly and our very first client from 2010 is still on board today. I have also been a panel judge at the Lloyds Global Freight Awards for 2 years so we're known as industry and market experts.


So if you're concerned about your rising costs, do get in touch, it may be the best decision you've made in 2016!

Click here to see our story, case studies and customer testimonials




Andy Cliff is an industry professional who launched his own logistics consultancy, Straightforward Consultancy Ltd (SCL) after a 30 year career in international logistics, working for companies such as DB Schenker, Kuehne & Nagel and DHL Global Forwarding in operational, sales and management roles.

Andy is part of the  judging panel for the 2016 Global Freight Awards, his second year in this prestigious role. The awards recognize quality, innovation and performance in the field of international logistics.  

Andy felt that in an increasingly complex and confusing world of logistics, UK importers and exporters needed a company alongside them which could help them to reduce costs, lessen their workload and provide expert advice and support day-to-day. 



Wednesday, 22 June 2016

SOLAS Container Weighing Regulations - VGM - Full Container Ocean Shipments - just 7 days to go - are you ready?

Good afternoon All

Many UK importers and exporters are hopefully aware of the new SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) regulations coming into effect from July 1st 2016 to ensure that container vessels are not overloaded and don't in turn, place lives and vessels at risk.

The new law insists that shippers take legal responsibility for the declaration of a Verified Gross Mass (VGM) either involving them weighing the complete container (Method 1) or their cargo and the empty container weight (Method 2).

Although these changes have been publicized for at least 6 months, it is fair to say that the industry stakeholders in this change (freight forwarders, shipping lines, port operators) have struggled to communicate / collaborate effectively and in some regions such as Asia and the USA, it is very concerning that the industry is either down to the wire or just plain "not ready" and more importantly, freight forwarders seem to have been slow to advise their customers/shippers how to comply with the law and what they need to do from July 1st.

The region of most concern seems to be Asia, where the industry seems only to have woken up to the regulation change in the last 15-30 day, having said that, the USA is also lagging behind.

So why should you as a UK exporter or importer be concerned? Well, if you or your freight forwarder are not ready to comply from July 1st, your containers will be delayed and in turn, your end customers will be affected with missed deadlines or stock shortages..

Here in the UK, the area we see the biggest area of concern is for UK importers, who may think they won't be affected as they don't load containers however they will be affected, as their overseas suppliers will need to comply and what we've seen ourselves is that this really important area has been missed

From our side, we've been monitoring the situation very closely for 3-4 months and have ensured that all of our customers' overseas suppliers have been contacted and are ready to play their part in ensuring a smooth transition.

If you are a UK exporter or importer and you're not aware or don't feel that your freight forwarder is on top of this regulation change, we suggest you get in touch with them urgently and ask for an update on how they intend to ensure that the flow of containers from overseas suppliers or to your international customers will not be disrupted.

If you need any help to ensure either you or your overseas suppliers are ready for the big chamge, please do contact us. We'll also probably find that you're actually paying too much for your freight costs and given that the USD is very strong at the moment, most companies want to try and reduce their landed costs to ensure they preserve their profit margins. We operate gain share / shared savings fee models which are very appealing to customers as they're results based and the customer doesn't have to spend days of their valuable time carrying out this complicated exercise.

Just take a look at our website if you're interested, it may be the best decision you've made in 2016.


Andy Cliff is an industry professional who launched his own logistics consultancy, Straightforward Consultancy Ltd (SCL) after a 30 year career in international logistics, working for companies such as DB Schenker, Kuehne & Nagel and DHL Global Forwarding in operational, sales and management roles.


Andy is part of the  judging panel for the 2016 Global Freight Awards, his second year in this prestigious role. The awards recognize quality, innovation and performance in the field of international logistics.  
Andy felt that in an increasingly complex and confusing world of logistics, UK importers and exporters needed a company alongside them which could help them to reduce costs, lessen their workload and provide expert advice and support day-to-day.