The reluctance of most shipping lines to share information is the main obstacle preventing carriers finding a viable solution to repositioning of containers globally, industry sources say. Information technology (IT) can be used to provide effective solutions only if shipping lines are more transparent. It will be a long time before that can happen, the sources say. Imports to Asia have fallen due to the Asian financial turmoil and many carriers have to transport empty containers to the region to meet rising exports. While the problem was plaguing most American and European shipping lines, China Ocean Shipping Co (Cosco) had been able to find sufficient imports to fill its containers to Asia, the sources said. Most United States and European lines, which traditionally had shunned bulk cargo such as waste paper and metal dust, were filling their containers with bulk cargo for the return journey to Asia, they said. For merged companies such as P&O Nedlloyd and NOL/APL, the solution was simpler. Shipping lines within alliances also were sharing space and vessels but not other aspects of their business, because each wanted to retain a separate identity. Cable & Wireless Nautec (C&WN) provisioning director Aksel Nielsen said the reluctance of alliance companies to share their information was one reason his company dealt with individual lines rather than alliances. C&WN, a joint venture between Cable & Wireless and Maersk Data, is looking at ways to offer shipping lines its integrated services in Asia based on its IT, communications experience and container industry knowledge. It is conducting forums to promote its services in Asia and is looking at knitting operating systems and communications together. Set up with a capital of GBP10 million (about HK$130 million), it serves the majority of the top 20 global shipping lines with global support in some form. Chief executive Peter Stallibrass said, for example, it provided tailor-made solutions to customers such as Maersk Line and P&O Nedlloyd. Sales director Peter Bell said the company provided voice network services for Cosco and was discussing other applications and networks with the carrier. C&WN is based in London and has operating units in the US, Copenhagen and Hong Kong. It said it was focusing on Asia because six of the top 10 global carriers were based there. Mr Bell said that because growth factors for Asia carriers were strong, he was confident they would begin adopting more technology as outsourcing of services among manufacturers became more prevalent. This trend was growing in the US and Europe as well as Asia and opened more opportunities for IT development. Mr Bell said a study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed that companies using integrated services had achieved improvements in intermodal business of 40 to 70 per cent. Efficiency in repositioning containers had improved 8 to 10 per cent and huge reductions in operating expenses had been achieved. Mr Nielsen said repositioning of containers - especially the importing of containers to Asia - was a global problem. C&WN would produce a solution for the problem by the end of this year.