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Interview with an Expert

Addie Russell, Logistics Coordinator for OEC Group’s rapidly expanding Liquid Logistics Division, gives insight into the fast-moving bulk liquid landscape.

How has the liquid logistics division adjusted to congested supply chains around the world?

The situation is intense, but fun. We have had to think outside the box and look for other options, like different routings, different steamship lines, and even different rail strategies. We’ve come up with some very creative tactics to help our customers with the urgent demand that has become more common throughout the industry.

What do vessel omissions at the Port of Houston and the Port of New Orleans mean for bulk liquid exports?

Regarding our office, which is very export heavy, these omissions have made things very difficult, and they have made huge impacts on shippers’ delivery windows and deadlines. We must be very proactive once an order is in motion. As soon as we know a port of interest will be skipped, our team immediately confirms the location of our client’s cargo. If that cargo has already been delivered to the port, we secure space on the next ship that’ll be stopping at that port. If it is still at our client’s warehouse or in transit with one of our trucking partners, we will prepare to get the next booking while also exploring secondary routing options through other ports. It’s a challenging situation, but it has given our division a chance to stand out by being one of the only players in the bulk liquid industry that can operate efficiently and deliver under these market conditions.

Can you explain the strategy behind skipping those ports?

When it comes to carriers adjusting vessel schedules, there are a few different objectives. First and foremost, carriers are trying to maintain calling schedule integrity. Congestion related delays cause a backlog of vessels and equipment at certain ports, as well as a deficit of vessels and equipment somewhere else in the rotation. Carriers have to make the difficult decision to omit or “cut and run” from certain ports, often gateways that handle smaller volumes, and focus on the bigger ports. Carriers have already introduced extra vessels into each rotation to accommodate the delays, but a global shortage of available vessels means this is no longer an option.

How are current conditions impacting the import side of the bulk liquid market?

America is an import driven market rather than an export driven market. The US import market is susceptible to extremely high rates and extreme shortages of both space and equipment. Upon arrival in the US, cargo is facing intense congestion and a severe lack of chassis and trucks. Everything is hard to come by on the import side, and all shipments are subject to historic congestion and additional detention and demurrage charges that the industry has never seen before, making it nearly impossible for importers to control their costs. With global demand for high-end imports as high as it is in the current market, it’s difficult to secure equipment and space for bulk liquid shipments.

Overall, what advice would you have for shippers of bulk liquid in the current environment?

Understanding the current market situation and its limitations is fundamentally important to making the right logistical choices. Being flexible and practical right now is also essential, along with a willingness to consider alternative routings and the costs associated with them. Holding out for your optimal solution or the typical routing you’ve employed for past shipments may result in far greater delays and even higher costs. Get your orders in early and coordinate closely with your customer support representative, especially when considering alternate routing options. Remember that there are so many roadblocks that can potentially pop up between your freight and your final destination.

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