Flying easy in the USA With its end-to-end capabilities, ECU Worldwide USA offers the most convenient cargo solutions in the US airfreight market
December 2016 was a special month for ECU Worldwide USA, as air freight rates peaked to a five-year high. Although total freight tonne kilometres (FTK is a metric to measure freight volumes) have been on the rise globally, the US has seen a more sluggish demand.
Despite this, ECU Worldwide USA, one of the biggest neutral freight consolidators in the US, has leveraged its strengths in the cargo transportation business to deliver growth and become a prominent player. And, it has done this by coupling the synergies of its ocean freight, global airfreight and trucking divisions, thus offering customers the advantages of a one-stop shop for solutions.
In fact, ECU USA is among the few co-loaders in the US market to offer a full portfolio of ocean, air and trucking solutions to clients for shipments across the world. This gives the company the flexibility to truck cargo directly to the nearest airport for a fast upload, or to its gateway office, and to offer competitive consolidation rates, regardless of where the cargo originates.
Says Lars Eeg, Airfreight Sales Director at ECU USA, “We cater to more than 10,000 freight forwarders in the country, which gives a diversity of freight and combination possibilities. We are able to customise our product to our customer’s need, as our airfreight products/operations are very lean. And we use the combined buying power with OCEAN to obtain very low trucking rates, which makes us very competitive. Moreover, we simplify the entire transaction for the freight forwarder with one invoice from us v/s multi invoices, which saves on time.”
Connecting the dots
For ECU USA, the growth of the neutral wholesale business has been a natural progression. The concept of a neutral wholesale airfreight forwarder first gathered steam in countries with high airfreight rates and tight spaces. It grew out of the concept of co-loading (also known as sharing of transport solutions). The advent of new IT trends has now made neutral consolidation and co-loading faster, smarter and more convenient. Co-loading reduces costs for the freight forwarder, which are passed on as a benefit to the customer.
The other factor that led to the growth of the neutral wholeseller business was USA’s strict security-related policies. The airfreight business, in particular, has faced challenges of increased security and process compliance requirements. In the US, for instance, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) increased the liabilities of freight forwarders, by requiring them to check shipper records, ensure that only TSA-approved truckers pick up cargo (which means background checks had to be run), screen the cargo being loaded, and have a paper trail with transaction details.
This led to higher costs in the freight forwarding business, and eventually led to a consolidation in the airfreight industry. Smaller freight forwarders surrendered their TSA approvals and licenses, and the space was occupied by a few neutral wholesalers.
This niche market has grown, with smaller players outsourcing their airfreight. As a result, the biggest airfreight forwarders in the US are now among the top 50 biggest players globally.
ECU Worldwide is strongly positioned to tap this emerging window of opportunity. With the opening of four new offices in the US in early 2016, ECU USA now operates from five locations: Miami, Florida; Linden, New Jersey; Chicago, Illinois; Houston, Texas; Los Angeles, California. With over 10 years of experience in airfreight services, mainly to the Caribbean, Central and Latin American markets, this expansion has equipped the company to transport cargo from anywhere in the country to any destination in the world.
As one of the largest consolidators in the non-vessel operating common carrier industry, ECU stands out by offering customers more than 350,000sq.ft. of warehouse in Miami alone, as well as a US Customs Central Examination Station. ECU is also the largest less-than-container load (LCL) consolidator in the Caribbean and Latin American markets, and offers full container load (FCL) services to destinations worldwide. The dedicated projects division handles non-containerised and over-dimensional cargo, while other services include physical handling and storage of freight, and distribution warehousing.
Nationwide coverage, experienced staff at key US airports, and the ability to handle all types of cargo — from hazardous to temperature-controlled to full charter projects — gives ECU a distinctive edge in the airfreight market. Importantly, mirroring the infrastructure of big national forwarders and offering gateway solutions has enabled ECU to stay competitive on rates and service offerings.
ECU Worldwide has secured more than 100 airline contracts and maintains strong domestic airline relationships. The carrier network comprising multiple airlines allows ECU to combine volumetric and dense shipments from customers, and negotiate excellent rates with carriers. In addition, the cargo-screening facilities at major key airport locations are TSA-certified, allowing ECU to tender prebuilt units, and thus help drive down rates further.
In the ever-changing and choppy cargo transportation business, ECU Worldwide remains positive about its ability to weather the challenges ahead, and is cautiously hopeful that, with its strengths, it can only continue to grow.