7 tips for avoiding container rollovers—in 2021 and in the future

Container rollovers lead to a lot of hassle, unforeseen costs and sometimes even disappointed customers, especially now that the current rollover rate is at a historical high. Yet the industry is not going to change overnight. So, what can you do to get the upper hand and prevent your cargo from getting rolled? This article gives you 7 practical tips to help make sure your containers are loaded and shipped as planned. We'll also take a look at some trends affecting the current rollover rate, and how these are likely to play out in the future.

1. Book your container early

Global trade is subject to extreme peak periods which have been the main driver behind historial rollover rates in the past. During those periods, four to six weeks may pass between the time you book a slot until the time you receive the cargo. It is always best to book your slot at least 14 days before the cargo-ready date.

Booking your freight early means that you will need to have a clear view of your needs based on your current order volumes, predictions, turnover and upcoming sales and stock liquidation plans.

2. Pay a premium fee for guaranteed space

It’s not ideal, and it’s actually part of an undesirable trend, but many shippers are now choosing to pay extra for an insured or guaranteed space when they book a container for shipping. This adds to the already high price that you pay for freight shipping, but at least you can be sure your container doesn’t get rolled.

3. Choose a flexible departure date

A flexible departure date gives you more options, so you increase the chances that your cargo arrives on time. This is a good choice primarily for non-seasonal cargo.

4. Ship outside of peak seasons and holiday periods

If possible, avoid shipping during peak seasons and around major holidays. Rollovers are always at a high during these periods, when space on ships is booked to maximum capacity. Above all, try planning your shipments outside the peak period between mid-August and mid-October, and during the periods before Chinese New Year (in January and February) and the Golden Week (beginning of October).

5. Work with a reliable forwarder

An experienced, reputable forwarder knows which routes and ports are likely to run into problems with rollovers. They can advise you on which routes to avoid and help you choose the best alternatives. Plus, an experienced forwarder has more sway with shipping lines, so they can often negotiate to prevent your cargo from being rolled. At Shypple, our forwarders typically have over 25 years of experience in this industry, with the network to match.

6. Split your bill into multiple shipments

Shipping lines determine which containers to roll based on the freight bill rather than the physical container itself. So, if you ship ten containers all under one bill, it will be ‘all or nothing’ in case of a rollover. 

That’s why it is best to split your containers into multiple bills. This increases the chance that at least some of your cargo will be loaded as planned, even if some of your containers get rolled.

7. Consider other transport options

Sea freight is convenient, competitively priced, well organised and reliable. Yet it becomes less attractive when you constantly run into rollovers. 

Although sea transport is still the cheapest shipping option, other shipping methods, such as rail, are gaining ground. The New Silk Road, a large-scale initiative launched by the Chinese government, is stimulating transport by rail.

Especially if you are shipping smaller cargo, this option is worth exploring. Find out more about the New Silk Road in our white paper on the topic.

What to expect in the months ahead?

Rollovers are clearly a major obstacle, and there is no sign that they will become less frequent any time soon. In the months ahead, various factors will ensure that rollovers continue to occur at record pace.

Ongoing high demand: In the past, container shipping has been subject to regular peaks and fluctuations. But everything changed in 2020, a year that brought one surprise after another for the industry. Usually, we see a dip in shipping volumes after the Golden Week at the beginning of October. But in 2020, that dip never came. Shipping volumes have remained at a steady peak volume even into 2021.

Unpredictable COVID-19 policies: As COVID-19 measures have continued to scale down in many parts of the world, the industry has been shaken in recent months by a sudden increase in demand. There is a good chance that pandemic-related policies will continue to impact global trade volumes in the months ahead.

Mismatch between supply and demand: Carriers increasingly rely on short-term capacity management to align supply with demand. Yet there is still no sign of an industry-wide solution to this problem, which means shippers and shipping lines will continue to struggle with rollovers for the time being.

Material shortages: Shortages in containers and chassis have wreaked havoc on supply chains and sent prices sky-rocketing. These shortages have created a vicious cycle which is expected to continue to play out for the time being.

Transshipments: Shipping lines are increasingly opting to transship cargo on Trans-Pacific and Asia-Europe routes. Large container ships are only used on specific routes. Other routes are serviced fully or in part by feeder ship companies that operate between container terminals. This results in more transshipments, which are in turn prone to even more rollovers. 

How does Shypple handle rollovers?

Rollovers are sometimes inevitable, even for us. Yet, as a high-tech forwarder, Shypple makes sure you always have a full overview of your shipments. We keep you fully up to date on where your containers are and when they will arrive. 

And we keep track of every change in your container’s route or arrival date, so we can inform you of the exact status of your shipment. This data lets you quickly and easily see whenever a container is rolled.

That way, you can plan for possible rollovers and take steps to minimise the impact of a delay. 

We also use machine-learning technology. By tracking data on shipments and transit times, we can predict future transit times and monitor containers that are at risk of being rolled.

Our platform also provides you with a single overview where you can check the status of:

  • The port of origin
  • The transshipment hub
  • The destination port
  • Estimated departure times
  • Estimated arrival times

Rollovers are not always necessary

Rollovers occur for a variety of reasons. Sometimes practical matters result in delays: your container’s paperwork is not in order, or there’s a technical problem on board the ship, for example. 

In other cases, mistrust between shippers and shipping lines results in predictable, yet unnecessary rollovers. Shippers book too much space and, because shipping lines know that, they allow more containers to be booked than they actually have space for on board. This leads to overbooked and even more rolled containers. Recently, shortages in containers and chassis are another factor that has been driving the high rollover rate. 

As a logistics team, there are some aspects of the supply chain that are simply beyond your control. However, there are a few things you can do to keep rollovers to a minimum. Book far in advance, preferably during the off-season. You may pay extra to reserve a guaranteed spot, or choose flexible shipping dates. Splitting your cargo across multiple freight bills can also reduce the risk that your entire shipment will be rolled. It’s also essential to work with a reputable forwarder that understands the risks and knows how to avoid them.

For the time being, it looks like rollovers are here to stay. That’s why it will be important to do everything you can to minimise your rollover risk in the months to come.

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