The thread about China’s growth WRT containerized shipping made me think of this.
Yes, I understand you put stuff in big metal boxes, these get stacked on big ships, and moved over the oceans. If you think that is all there is to it, you have obviously never tried to access this system. If you have just one container worth of widgets and want them taken across the ocean…good luck with that.
Turns out you can’t just look up shipping in the yellow pages and arrange to have a container delivered to a foreign port.
I have a friend who has had occasion to ship several aircraft across both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. According to him it has been a colossal pain in the ass each time. This from a man who has navigated the maze that is the FAA and the BATF many times. In each case the Aircraft were disassembled, and either crated or in a purpose built trailer that was known to fit in a Given sized Container, and he has the means to move them to any continental US port. He had already worked through the customs issues for each end, and it didn’t really sound like it would have been any easier if he had been shipping something more common.
I forget the whole long involved story, but apparently he had to work through a long series of middle men in order to get it done. Shippers, shipping agent, broker, and probably a couple of more I probably forget about. Each middleman would refuse to work with him, and refer him to a lower/different level middleman, and I think in a couple of cases there was a circular pattern of referrals. It seems shipping on the high seas has its own terms and customs that make the legal profession look transparent by comparison.
So suppose I want to ship a large, legal, stable, benign article from the USA to Great Britain. Who would I, Kevbo Schmoe, need to speak with so that I only needed to appear at a designated point with the item and pay the shipper without transporting documents and referrals between a number of players? And what sorts of paperwork would be involved?
I assume that if WalMart had to put up with the hoop jumping my buddy has done, they would either own their own shipping line, or there would arise a competitor with streamlined procedures. So there must be some point at which you become a big enough fish that these folks want to work with you. So what size entity are they set up to work efficiently with?