Shippers voice dissatisfaction with liner service quality

The service provided by container shipping lines has deteriorated since 2016 and is now seen by exporters, importers and freight forwarders as more problematic, according to the second annual shipper satisfaction survey of Drewry and the European Shippers’ Council (ESC).

The joint ESC and Drewry survey reveals that the 400 shippers and forwarders who took part rated the service of container shipping lines with a score of 3.2 on average on a scale of 1 (very dissatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied).

There were different levels of satisfaction for 16 different carrier activities reviewed in the survey.

Satisfaction with documentation accuracy scored 3.4, but quality of customer service received only 2.9 and transit times and reliability of booking/cargo shipped as booked attracted scores of between 2.9 and 3.

All the service features, in effect, received a poor or medium level of satisfaction score from customers.

Shippers and forwarders also said that carrier performance has deteriorated between 2016 and 2017 in four areas: the range of different available carriers, the range of different available services, the price of service and the overall carrier service quality.

But carrier performance related to sustainability/green and carrier financial stability has improved since 2016, according to customers.

“It is disappointing that, even after the big re-organisation of container services following the start of new alliances, carriers still do not meet the expectations of their customers – on the contrary,” said Nik Delmeire, secretary general of the European Shippers’ Council.

“At the time of the survey, the carriers’ Emergency Bunker Surcharge, which we regard as customer unfriendly, was not yet in place, and it is reasonable to think that the results of the survey would be worse if it was done now,” he added.

Philip Damas, head of the logistics practice at Drewry, commented: “Shippers and forwarders want a balance between service quality and price, but the survey shows that carriers are cutting back on service and offering less choice to shippers.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Working on board ships is one of the toughest jobs in the world. Suggest people complaining should do a stint on board to understand the compulsions.
    With most ships doing slow steaming to comply with CO2 regulations not surprising at all ;till gas engines completely replace HFO powered engines. This will continue and ratings need to be adjusted with this factor, maybe curtail the impatience a bit and do a bit of meditation!

  2. @ Sunil this is not something directy linked to working on ship. However, what ever hard work done by seamen should deliver the customer satisfaction otherwise it is not of use. This rating shows the overall customer satisfaction diminished over the time in last few year.
    For example can you please guide how slow steaming will affect of poor customer service experience, if there is slow steaming the rating for transit ahould be lowest but the fact is rating for customer service is low and it is for an another reasons than actually operating vessel.

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