Medium to small forwarders trying to compete on equal terms with the giant multi nationals, are taking advantage of a simple but effective system available from Cargo alerts, a UK company, run by ex-forwarder Rob Dykes. This is a simple and inexpensive system based on e- mail messages which provides automatic status information on shipments anywhere in the world. Unlike many electronic services used by large forwarder networks with sophisticated communications, Cargo Alerts can be easily acquired by anyone with a PC. The service has been rapidly adopted by agents in various countries, the USA, such as Federal Forwarding, Eastern Shipping Worldwide, Aramex, Ocean International Logistics, and Able Freight Express in the Middle East, as well as several in the UK.

Rob Dykes explains. ‘Having worked as a forwarder myself for a number of years, I know only too well how time consuming it can be telephoning different airline offices to find out where a shipment is and what possible delays or problems have been encountered. Alternatively it might take some time searching the different airline websites to get the data. It can also be frustrating to find that an import shipment has not arrived as booked. With Cargo Alerts the customer is immediately notified of any change. For example, if a shipment expected from Hong Kong the next day is offloaded, the customer would know the afternoon before. Using EDI links with over 80 airlines, we send our customers immediate changes in status direct from the carrier’s own internal system. All we need is the AWB number and we do the rest. Each individual customer will be advised by e- mail and we can even route this to a mobile phone if required.

‘The added advantage of being able to keep your customer up to date gives the forwarder an edge as it means giving better service, so often the unique advantage that smaller forwarders have. We have now upgraded the site to include two additional e mail addresses per AWB so that the shipper and forwarder at the destination can also receive the alert data and follow the shipment from origin to destination. The investment in this service will quickly be paid back in time and phone bill savings but the most important factor is the increased efficiency and better management of the process.’

Kevin Williams of ATC Air Express at London Heathrow is positive about the system. ‘This alert information is saving us both time and endless phone calls, it also allows us to act proactively and quickly with our own customers.’