The Global Pandemic and a Path Forward for Inchcape

As COVID-19 has unleashed havoc on businesses worldwide, the shipping industry has not been unscathed. Understanding how the restrictions and economic downturn that have hit countries around the globe have also impacted the shipping industry can also provide a clear look at how the major player, Inchcape, plans to move forward.

What does a shipping agent do?

A shipping agent helps businesses manage their shipments worldwide. Shipping Agents act of behalf of ship owners, charters and ship managers, to ensure that all port operations, crew changes and services are carried out smoothly. Services include full cargo agency, dry-docking, survey and inspection, husbandry and crew logistics, financial management, and bunker calls.

The agent will then make sure that all of the documentation for the ship and cargo is taken care of with  the authorities, including customs and immigration, before the ship arrives. The appointing company prefunds the agent,  so that they can ensure that everything has been paid for as this ship comes in. The details from port dues to tugs will all be managed by the agent to minimize any delays as the ship comes into port.

Throughout the process, the shipping agent will communicate with the vessel and the client to ensure that everyone remains updated on the process and the progression of the cargo operations.

What impacts has COVID-19 had on the shipping industry?

As the pandemic has spread globally, it caused a drastic reduction in shipments and the decimation of certain industries. ISS CEO Frank Olsen has reported an estimated 20 percent reduction in shipping activity across April and May, though trends have begun to slowly pick back up. Some analysts project that despite this slow recovery, there will be an estimated 5-7 percent overall decline while the global economy works to recover from the effects of the pandemic and decreased consumer spending. Certain industries, such as cruise ships, have experienced devastating slowdowns.

What sets Inchcape apart to withstand the pandemic?

By working with an established, global company that proudly boasts a 170-year legacy, companies working with Inchcape get the stability and service that cannot be found elsewhere.

Inchcape has spread to 68 different countries with 240 offices and covering about 2,500 ports. Through its immense network and the local teams they coordinate on the ground, they can help businesses manage operations for ships coming into port around the world.

Despite the downturn, CEO Olsen feels confident that the business is in a position to grow. As potential clients begin to realize the value of a global specialist, a single shipping agent who can help them around the world and who has the stability to weather economic changes, Inchcape hopes to bring in more clients. With many smaller companies in the industry struggling financially, prefunding agents become more of a gamble for the client. With a large, international company, brands can feel more confident that their money is safe.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted industries globally, including shipping agents. As businesses begin to prepare for economic recovery and growth, Inchcape can see the path for growth and the benefit of being a leading global player within the space.

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