A shipping conference, also called a liner conference, is an alliance of several shipping firms who agree to offer standardized services and then offer similar services on a particular trade route. It’s an agreement between two or more shipping lines to offer standardized transport service on a particular trade route at usual commercial rates and generally agreed commercial terms. Most often, the rates are specified in unit dollars per load or ton. Some companies offer additional services such as insurance, warehousing, or special items such as oversized containers or refrigerated units. You will find that shipping conferences are most effective for long distance and intercontinental deliveries where the transportation mode and speed of the shipments are important.
It’s often hard for the individual shipper or company to understand the legal aspects of an agreement within a shipping conference system, so it helps to have a professional who can explain the ins and outs. To help you be up to speed on the subject matter, there are several sources available both online and off who can explain in layman’s terms the various aspects of such an agreement within the shipping industry. In some cases, you may even find there’s a section devoted exclusively to this type of agreement. It’s certainly worth looking into when you’re interested in this form of shipping services.
One thing to keep in mind when you’re considering entering the world of shipping conferences is that there is usually a clause attached which says “no other shipping firm may enter into an agreement within such a conference.” This can prove to be quite important, as there’s no telling what organizations, entities, or governments may jump into the business. You don’t want to get in over your head with the legal issues involved and end up having to revise your agreement in one way or another. But these legal issues usually don’t arise, and when they do it’s usually in a section devoted to the question of price.