From furniture to flowers – there’s a container for everything!

by Raj Kumar, Global Customer Care Lead

Twill was born out of the desire of making shipping simple. We’re constantly developing and improving our product to better satisfy your needs. Now we want to talk about you, your business, your cargo, and give you hints and advice to make your life even simpler with Twill. Introducing our new “This is all about you” weekly series.

Our first blog comes from Global Customer Care Lead, Raj Kumar. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!

Containers are one of our industry’s best inventions. They have remained a constant in the world of shipping since shipping began; and they haven’t changed all that much! They’re simply bigger, smarter, safer and stronger.

I know it can seem daunting to look at your cargo – maybe its toys, clothes, furniture, vehicles or food – and try to figure out how you’re going to get it into a container and ship it across the world. Well, that’s where Twill and our Customer Care Ninjas can help make things simple for you!

What types of containers are there?

First things first, there’s quite a lot of equipment types for you to choose from. Which one you choose is going to depend on what type of cargo you’re looking to ship. Two of the most common you will encounter, and likely use, are dry containers – the kind you’ve probably seen before! It’s called ‘dry’ because it doesn’t have any temperature controls – it’s basic but will do the trick for cargo like toys, clothes etc.

The other is the refrigerated ISO container. This is, as you can imagine, a container that does have controls for temperature – and is perfect for transporting perishables such as flowers or food that need to be kept cold across long distances.

The likelihood is that you will use one of these two, but there are many others for more specific cargo: cylinder tanks for transporting liquids and more hazardous cargo – like fuel or chemicals; or open top containers (like a container without a roof!) which allow taller and more awkward cargo, like vehicles, to still be transported. Even animals can be transported across the sea! Although not in containers – they will get their own fit-for-purpose boat, fully equipped with all they need to be comfortable and safe.

Within the basic containers, there are variants in height and length to choose from – your container could be 20ft, 40ft or 45ft standard, or 40ft and 45ft high cube – these are taller. As your freight forwarder, we can always advise the best and most suitable container for your cargo!

How big is a shipping container?

Making things fit

When you book a container with any freight forwarder or shipping line, you might be faced with terms such as FCL, LCL or CbM. These stand for Full-Container Load, Less than Container Load – which both relate to container volume – and Cubic Metres which is a measurement sometimes used for your cargo.

What this means is that if you have a lot of cargo you should be able to fill a container all by yourself and you will pay the full price for that container – this is FCL.

However, if you don’t have enough cargo to fill an entire container by yourself, you can choose Less than Container Load (LCL). The rest of the container will be filled by your freight forwarder with different customers’ cargo who also cannot fill a container alone.

Using LCL will certainly reduce your costs – and the container will still be shipped to just one destination despite having different customers’ cargo on board, so your estimated time of arrival won’t be affected.

Cubic Metres (CbM) is used to help understand the space you have available within a container. This is where the size and type of your cargo can really come into play. If you want to transport cartons, for example, and the cartons are small, you might be able to get 500 units within the cubic metres available in your container.

However, if you’re transporting bigger items, such as furniture, you’re going to get less cargo in the same amount of cubic metres. This is why understanding your cargo is so important. If you request FCL, and the container is only half-full, you could be paying more than is necessary.

Getting the most out of your container

It is here, where container utilisation becomes a factor and this is a broad topic. Big name brands might have their own tools to ensure they get the most out of their containers – which will be linked to their forecasting, stock, demand etc. For smaller or medium size businesses it becomes important to have a good relationship with your supplier.

A supplier with experience can have huge benefits. As you build a relationship with them over time, they will get to know your cargo better than anyone and they will be able to tell you exactly the kind of container you’ll need for your cargo!

While you, of course, want to get as much cargo as possible in your container, you have to strike a balance. You want to give it room to breathe so nothing gets damaged, but not too much so that it will fall over or move around in transit.

Our key advice

Ultimately, what you want is for your cargo to reach you safely and on time. You’ll want to ask yourself, does my cargo have special requirements? Is it perishable, hazardous, or potentially awkward to transport? Having a good understanding of this, paired with a strong, well-negotiated relationship with your supplier is essential to a smooth shipping process.

If you achieve these two things, getting your cargo in the right container will be much easier and you will save money by utilising that container to its fullest capacity! At Twill we’re here to help make shipping simple for you. Contact the team today – www.twill.net.

When delays strike, Twill is there to help

At Twill, we understand that the most important thing for our customers is their cargo arriving safely and in a timely fashion. One container of cargo being delayed for one of our customers could mean hundreds of their customers being effected.
While almost 90% of everything we buy arrives by ship, delays are still frequent in the shipping industry.

Some things you can’t control

According to Drewry Shipping Consultants only 65% of vessels are on-time on average. This can vary from country to country and across different shipping lanes; but it does mean that a sizeable number of vessels are delayed in the industry. At Twill we’re conscious of this fact and always work towards timely delivery for our customers.

When it comes to delays, unfortunately the causes are almost always out of our control – which can be frustrating. More often than not they are due to bad weather conditions, port congestion, delays at customs and even holidays in parts of the world.

The best, first step in avoiding these delays is proactive planning that takes as many of these factors into account as possible. For example, we encourage our customers to book cargo well in advance of Lunar New Year to avoid any delays. We’ll always look to support our customers with this – especially if they are new to booking shipments.

Transparency, proactivity and honesty

However, if delays do strike, we act quickly and transparently to resolve any issues. This starts by contacting any customers effected immediately. Most importantly, we come to our customers with proposed solutions, so that they can react and adapt to any change in the delivery time.

This isn’t just the case when delays are external. We had an experience with one of our customers, who came to us with the desire to double the number of containers that they had previously booked. This was during the peak season in China and we understood that this would be a challenge, especially at this time of the year. So our customer care ninjas worked together with different teams inside Twill, along with the client, to find a solution.

We started by having an honest conversation about the challenges regarding peak season – and what the client’s actual needs would be for that period. From there, we provided realistic options that would be doable for both parties – these were accompanied by contingency plans so that the client could manage ahead in case we weren’t able to deliver their containers by their deadline.
With these plans, we began reaching out to different carriers in the region – working closely with our Local and Regional Capacity Managers; as well as our Global Customer Care team, who got in touch with our Maersk Line HQ to help.

The result of our work was a happy customer, who was able to secure space with Maersk for their increased cargo and it sailed on the planned date!

Working towards solutions

This is a good example of how sometimes, given our strong connections through Maersk and having local offices in countries around the world, we can ensure our customers are prioritised with our vendors. This comes with many perks and can often reduce the time their cargo is delayed.

While delays may be down to a specific vendor, carrier or supplier, we don’t look to place blame, as ultimately it will take everyone to get a shipment back on track. It is after a shipment has made it to our customer that we will review what caused the delay. We measure the performance of our providers and that’s how we ensure our customers get the best service – if performance from a specific party is consistently low, then we will take action and make changes.

Ultimately, with cargo traveling almost entirely by either sea or air, there are going to be issues from time to time. These environments are not always predictable. But when issues arise, the team at Twill don’t shy away – we confront the problem with our customers’ best interests at heart to ensure timely delivery and minimal disruption.