I don't work in the shipping industry - I never have. But I can't possibly imagine that it is as complicated as it is made out to be by the shipping company we use at work. From the little I do know, I have patched together this rough estimate of how the system works:
Container arrives at the port (its arrival can be tracked online upto 24 hrs before it is due to dock)
The container is unloaded from the ship and waits for clearance - this involves Bills of Lading etc.
Occasionally the Container gets pulled for customs inspection.
The Container "clears" and transport is arranged.
Delivery of the container is made to the intended recipient.
Generally, the time from docking to clearance for transport is 2-3 days, and you would expect that by the time the container is put on a lorry for transport that the difficult part was over.
Well, you'd be wrong.
We had a container booked for delivery today at 1:30pm. This was the time advised by our clearing agent. The container was on a ship that docked at 7pm on Monday, so we knew delivery today was possible.
However, something went wrong. At 11:30 this morning we were advised that delivery would be at 2:30. When I phoned at 2pm to check that delivery was still on schedule, I was told that 2:30 was still the delivery time.
But then, we must have slipped into a black hole, or maybe torn the very fabric of time itself because 5 minutes later (2:05pm) the clearing agent called to say that the container was leaving now and delivery would be between 3:30pm and 4:00pm.
We asked how this could be possible - but no-one seemed to know. At one point we were struggling to get confirmation as to whether the container was actually in transit to us, or whether it was still at the port. We asked for the number of the transport company, but even this was difficult to obtain.
Eventually we were given an ETA of 4pm for the container. So of course, we were not surprised when it arrived at 4:45pm.
I genuinely cannot see how it could be that difficult to get that Container from Southampton docks to Sturminster Newton. The port knew when it was arriving, the clearing agent knew when it was cleared, and we knew how long it should take to drive from the port to the delivery destination.
The clearing agent has the attitude (or appears to have) that there is no rush to get these containers to their destinations. There is a rush, because the stock they hold is needed to be despatched to our customers on a timely basis. The consequences of a late or failed delivery could be disastrous. Because of the lateness of the delivery to us today, we now have a major headache tomorrow in terms of delivering to our customer.
But hey, its only a job.......