The perks of putting stuff on a boat
We’ve all shopped online. We see a few items, choose the one we want, and click on the button to make the purchase. It’s so easy to buy things that are produced offshore, that we don’t even think about it. Where was this item produced? An European country? The United States? China? India? Who cares? Things are as easy as typing your credit card information and clicking on the purchase button. Easy, huh?
We are used to see shipping fees on the detail order. Those fees mean that, somewhere in the world, there will be a guy carrying a package with our purchased item inside of it; or maybe a machine will do it, or a guy driving a machine. Then that package will end up inside a ship, and the ship will sail across the ocean towards us. The package will be delivered and we will - hopefully - open it up in our houses and get our hands on our item of choice.
For as simple as it sounds, shipping companies face lots of challenges and complicated issues, most of which remain unknown for the customers. Few have heard about shipping trouble besides some delay or, in the worst of cases, a damaged item. However, there is much more to this business, from logistics to international regulations.
Waters of no law
All national governments have the right to rule their own countries, and no right to rule other countries. In an attempt to achieve global organization, international bodies such as the Untied Nations were created. These organizations mean to propose measures and regulations for the countries of the world to apply. However, they have no actual authority on those countries; in other words, they can only come up with ideas and make suggestions, but each nation is free to accept those suggestions or ignore them. However, this is the closest thing that exists to an actual international authority.
This is important for shipping because this activity usually means to travel from one country to another, and different nations have different laws. The sea area around a country is considered a part of the country’s territory, and therefore, that nation’s laws are on effect. Some laws will apply to vessels and trade in general, such as quality and safety requirements, and paperwork regulations.
Some of these regulations have an environmental weight, such as Co2 monitoring for shipping companies, and therefore have inherent importance to the eyes of international organzations. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) was created to regulate these aspects of shipping and creating an even field for this activity. Its conventions for safety and environmental measures are the closest thing we have to an international shipping regime for global shipping, but as stated, they will only have effect on those countries who choose to ratify them. Even if DTI want shipping charges regulated, international consense will be needed to extend the measure to other nations.
The case of Germany
Germany has for long been the synonymous of efficiency and hard work. However, all countries have economical challenges here and there. In Germany the shipping industry has problems, with a credit crush about to hit at any second and bring many shipping companies down. The shipping industry has actually seen bright days at the early 2000’s, and strong investment boosted this industry even more. The port of Hamburg, where most ships arrive or depart from Germany, is currently facing an overgrowth issue. There is over-capacity in many units and they can’t find enough demand to fill up all their ships. The industry has seen better days, and there is great conflict about whether to save the capital and wait for a brighter situation, or to try different schemes like refinancing and third party investment to bring the business afloat. Even if banks are more willing to wait, private lenders put pressure on ship owners to get their money back, and as a result they’ve even started collecting entire floats of ships as payment.
However, the German people are used to undergo difficult situations and rise again, morally and economically. Even in this challenging climate, some industries find their way to expand their business. For example, TNT in Germany are becoming more efficient by enhancing their logistics with a surprising move. Many of TNT’s offices in Germany are now equipped with 3D printers, which they can use to craft the products that their clients demand on site, thus significantly lowering the costs and complexity of shipping. As these printers can also be used to 3D print spare parts and other useful items for the company itself, TNT is stepping up its game. It is noteworthy that a huge company like FedEx has expressed interest in purchasing TNT.