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Reflections on Multimodal at the NEC April 2017

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Reflections on Multimodal at the NEC April 2017


Bisham Consulting attended a busy Multi-Modal exhibition at the NEC on the 4th to 6th April.  A well laid out Hall 4 contained approximately 200 exhibitors, ranging from transport operators, shipping lines, cargo ports, forwarders and 3PL’s to packaging, handling equipment, software suppliers and training and recruitment agencies.

A broad seminar programme during the first two days covering a wide range of topics, was sponsored by the key UK professional bodies, CILT, BIFA, FTA and UKWA.   These encouraging lively debates on the many key issues facing the industry.


How the market responds to the ‘e commerce’ revolution and the switch in business models and routes to market, in the B2C arena?

How have shipping companies and the container industry responded to years of restricted profits and the collapse of Hanjin?

Air cargo performance will always be under the spotlight, what measures are now being taken to monitor reliability and build on the work achieved by the cargo 2000 initiative?

Will rail play an increasing role in UK inland logistics, or will infrastructure limitations continue to hamper progress?

What new technology and software systems are making an impact in streamlining business, reducing the costs of transactions, and increasing visibility and control?

What preparations are being made to better equip the UK for leaving the EU, and the potential implications for trade flows?  What initiatives are being actioned or considered by government, professional bodies and the industry in response to this?


E commerce, was naturally a hot topic, and clearly driving demand for effective parcel delivery and, airfreight services for exporters.  For the latter, forwarders are reporting that space is restricted and rates have hardened, a situation unlikely to ease in the short to midterm.

In Ocean freight, renewed alliances, the trend to mega ships and the consolidation of freight movement to key major ports, has led to volatile rates and many weeks of delay for exporting shippers to securing container space on vessels.

In discussion with road freight operators and hauliers, a common concern was rising operating costs (particularly fuel), and increasing driver shortages.  However, demand for services were holding up, provided that companies remain competitive.

A wide range of software solutions were on offer and the concepts of digitalisation and future logistics execution platforms were discussed. Access to such technology is now more open to smaller enterprises, however there is also a reluctance to invest, with concerns about business disruption and return on investment cited.

The ‘elephant in the room’ however is clearly Brexit, with a number of seminars devoted to this topic. Naturally this was a topic of great debate, with useful feedback on the plans (or lack of) of government agencies and HMRC, and the implications of some of the worst case scenario’s related to misalignment on the Union Customs Code (UCC), and potential obstacles to freight flows, particularly at known choke points.   Unfortunately at this point in time, in advance of meaningful negotiations, there remain more question than answers related to this topic.


The event was well attended and supported by all the key professional bodies, and the range of exhibitors was good, coupled with a well thought through range of seminar topics.

It was encouraging to see many overseas based businesses promoting their services and investing in the UK.  It was also good to see the number of SME enterprises willing to invest in exhibition stands and promote their business, particularly in times of uncertainty

Some of the key 3PL players were notable by their absence, a decision we would question given the dynamic UK market and the risks and opportunities faced by shippers in the light of Brexit.  Also, the absence of airfreight carriers and air cargo ports, was noted, despite  the current and potential future increasing demand promised from a worldwide export facing economy, and the growth of e commerce and industry sectors relying on this transport mode.

In conclusion, given the changes in the market, and the unpredictability of costs and service, the overriding message is that shippers need to think and plan carefully, when considering how they source, the partners they choose and their routes to market.

In all, it was a few days well spent, and we have definitely saved the date for next year’s event, 1-3 May 2018.


If anyone wishes to share any further observations on the event or discuss any issues raised in this paper, please do not hesitate to contact:

Martin Fleming:  Tel: +44 7831540528             Email Address:  MartinFleming@bishamconsulting.com


Nick Revell:         Tel: +44 7501333164          Email Address:  NickRevell@bishamconsulting.com

We would be happy to receive your call, and may well be able to assist.

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