Release Date:
Release ID: 142


As a trade association promoting the interests and public image of Britain’s freight forwarding community, the British International Freight Association (BIFA) welcomes the BBC’s innovative project to educate the general public on issues relating to containerisation by tracking an individual 40’ container as it moves around the globe.

However, Peter Quantrill, BIFA Director General, is keen that the BBC’s project demonstrates the full complexity of the modern supply chain in which BIFA members, the freight forwarders who fill many of the containers, play such an important role.

“BIFA applauds every effort to educate the general public on how the modern supply chain operates. As the cost of transport has started to hit the headlines, many members of the public are beginning to realise that the containers they see on the road or railway line could have travelled half way around the world or just down the road,” says Mr Quantrill.

The BBC project involves a BBC-branded 40’ container being tracked by GPS for a whole year, to demonstrate the actual movement of products around the global economy. The project, ‘The Box’, is a collaboration between the broadcaster and the Container Shipping Information Service (CSIS).

The container’s first movement is from Southampton docks to Scotland to be loaded with whisky prior to being shipped to China to satisfy growing demand. The box is expected to arrive back in the UK next summer having travelled around the world. BBC listeners and viewers are invited to see a real-time location of the container on the BBC website.

Mr Quantrill says: “We hope that The Box will not just concentrate on the hardware of the supply chain and overlook the role of the freight forwarder. Afterall, BIFA members are responsible for filling many of the containers that the shipping lines move around the globe.

“Broadcasting producers like to focus on the physical elements of any story. I can see why modern container shipping, with its massive ships, double-stack trains, 24-hour operations and sky scraping gantry cranes will appeal to broadcasters and viewers. But they should not ignore the less photogenic services that BIFA members provide behind the scenes to companies involved in international trade.

“The decisions taken by our members directly affect container shipping and activity. They work as facilitators for their clients to get their commodities from factory to customer. At its most basic, without forwarders many of the containers would have nothing in them to move!”

BIFA also suggests that the project needs to explain how the consequences of containerisation have spread far beyond the physical handling of goods to altering the very nature of consumerism and the dynamics of shipping.

Mr Quantrill says: “The focus on one individual container, which after all might be lost if it is swept overboard at any time in its year-long odyssey, might lead to the bigger picture being missed. Can one container really demonstrate how retailers and distributors use the supply chain to keep inventory? Does it say anything about how many products have been turned into commodities where the pressure is always on to stock shelves in a timely manner to prevent rivals’ products being chosen?

“Nonetheless, I applaud The Box and wish it well. The producers have emphasised the box will have to earn its keep throughout the year-long project by moving revenue-earning cargo. That is exactly where BIFA members come in,” concludes Mr Quantrill.


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