Drewry canvassed forwarders of all sizes and measuring the time spent acquiring and managing buy rates from ocean carriers, extrapolated their findings across the industry.
Drewry's researchers say some 50,000 forwarders buy 48.4 million TEU of ocean freight a year and spend 24.4 million manhours doing so.
"This exorbitant cost underscores the need to focus on digitising all aspects of rate management, networking and distribution," said CargoSphere president Neil Barni.
"The cost burden of global ocean freight rate processing is a huge weight on the industry as a whole, one that is not sustainable for global freight forwarders, carriers or BCO shippers," he said.
CargoSphere, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, noted that the $500 million represents ongoing operational costs incurred only by forwarders.
"It does not include the inefficiencies and costs incurred by the rate originators, ocean carriers, or BCO [beneficial cargo owner] shippers," CargoSphere said.
"Furthermore, it also does not include the cost of system investments to support or reduce labour costs," said the software providers