How Expertise in Securities Trading Will Transform Ocean Freight
By Mark Sweeney
I've always been drawn to and involved in markets. Looking back over the past two decades of my life the type of market has changed yet the basic functions have remained the same: there are buyers, sellers, a product or service that is exchanged, and an arena for those transactions to take place.
Some notable markets I’ve been involved in include:
- Customizing sports equipment and selling to my classmates (1997)
- Trading equities and currencies on global financial exchanges (2007)
- Helping build the digital exchange for all ocean freight at The New York Shipping Exchange (2017)
It’s exciting when buyers and sellers come together in different ways to negotiate for a product or service. I’m the first to admit that most people in the industry have forgotten more about ocean freight than I knew when I joined NYSHEX. My first months here have been a crash course in understanding the many acronyms that this business knows and loves and I'm learning more and more about ocean freight each day. What I lacked in knowledge of ocean freight, I made up for in my knowledge about marketplaces & exchanges.
The more I learn, the more I’m convinced that NYSHEX will provide an incredible value to the shipping industry. One that I’ve experienced before - trading Japanese equities from my kitchen in New York at 1am.
I would log in to the Nikkei and instantly have access to transparency, choice, and immediacy when looking to sell a stock that I’d previously purchased, or buy a security that I would look to later sell. I had confidence that when I clicked “Buy” I owned the shares. When I clicked “Sell” I knew funds would land in my custodial account. The Nikkei, like all exchanges, is highly organized. Trade confirmations are immediate, digital, accurate and provide certainty that each trade is settled in a timely manner.
On top of the ability to trade with confidence, the information housed within the exchange was always useful to analyze when making trade decisions. For instance, I could take historical prices and estimated future prices into consideration when thinking about upcoming events and how they may drive prices up or down. If I knew a pension fund was liquidating a position in a security that I dealt in during Asian market hours I would theoretically be able to buy it at a discount there and sell it on the New York Stock Exchange when that seller was no longer active. For someone whose sole focus was finding a price discrepancy to capitalize on, it was great to be flooded with information that guided my decision making. Access to various exchanges made that possible.
Today’s ocean freight world lacks most of those features. To an industry outsider, the fact that containers can be contracted and not sail is shocking. However, if you’re reading this you're likely numb to it. Take a step back and think about it though – downfall and container rollings both greatly hinder the industry's ability forecast accurately and impacts the timely delivery of freight.
Additionally, the market is opaque because there are limited options for shippers and carriers to interact. The sources of information for both parties are fragmented. A shipper can do her due diligence and negotiate a long-term contract with a steamship line for the upcoming fiscal year. The same shipper can also spend a few days making phone calls and sending emails to get spot quotes for service from SSLs or NVOs that are typically good for 30 days and often include various surcharges that aren't explicitly stated in the quoted rate. Both processes are lengthy and dependent on fragmented information to make a material business decision.
At this point I won’t shove free market capitalism down your throat, but I will highlight what I believe is the greatest attribute of marketplaces and exchanges: they create and foster freedom and choice through transparency.
The NYSHEX Forward is a meaningful step towards the certainty that I loved when trading on the Nikkei. It is digital, and provides a guarantee to both buyer (shipper) and seller (carrier) that freight contracted on the exchange will load onto vessels as planned. Sounds good right? Consider the following scenario:
A Director of Logistics for a major retailer must move 600 containers in a 2-week span from Shanghai to LA/Long Beach to meet demand for peak holiday season. How would NYSHEX come into play? Although he has annual contracts with 3 carriers he may only be able to get 490 of those 600 containers onto vessels in time: the supply chain may have been disrupted due to an unforeseen emergency or maybe other freight was loaded onto the vessels instead while his was rolled to a later sailing.
For this Director of Logistics, it’s an absolute must to get those other 110 containers on the water in time for the holiday rush. Enter: NYSHEX. His team could simply log in to the exchange, search for offers from carriers that met their needs, enter a binding agreement directly with a carrier in only a few clicks and know with certainty that their cargo will load on a vessel to depart within in a specific window. No phone calls, no emails, no negotiations, just results.
The New York Shipping Exchange is adding value to both shippers and carriers. Carriers offering service can plan their vessel capacity more accurately through NYSHEX because they’re able to sell space and equipment in advance. Shippers gain access to more information, free themselves from constraints, and add a new alternative to their ocean freight strategy. Value is unlocked for all parties on NYSHEX and forecasting becomes more reliable.
Interested in learning more about NYSHEX? Schedule a Demo with a member of our sales team!