Freight Forwarding Q&A with Chairman, Alan Platt
We recently teamed up with Trade Finance Global to discuss the world of freight forwarding. Here’s a Q&A session with our Chairman, Alan Platt:
Please explain your business and shipping services you offer:
John Good Shipping, founded in 1833, is one of the largest, independent ship agency and freight forwarding companies in the UK. We offer a wide range of services in the logistics sector including liner and port agency, freight forwarding, air freight, warehousing, trucking, customs clearance, insurance and cargo inspection. We are a ‘one stop shop’ for customers looking to import or export to and from the UK. As a service provider, we focus on delivering efficiencies and bespoke freight management solutions to our customers to ensure they receive their cargo on time, every time. At John Good Shipping, we have embarked on an extensive programme to implement EDI (electronic data interchange) with our customers, partners and service providers. We know that in today’s world, IT and EDI solutions are a critical part of your business – delivering information at every stage of the shipping process is vital.
We operate from 15 sites across the UK, and also have own offices in Turkey and China. We employ over 260 staff as part of the wider John Good Group which includes shipping & logistics, warehousing & distribution and corporate travel services under our subsidiaries Trans European Port Services, DAN Shipping and Good Travel Management.
How has your business and the shipping market changed in the last 5 years?
As one of the UK’s leading freight forwarding and ship agency companies, we have had to ensure we are able to react quickly to the ever changing market conditions. We have invested heavily in a number of areas including IT, marketing and our people whilst also improving our office environment. This includes building a new, award winning head office and the re-location and modernisation of a number of our other UK offices. We have made a number of acquisitions during the last 5 years which has helped us grow and diversify as a business. We have won a raft of local and national awards in recognition of our growth.
The shipping market has been particularly volatile during the past 12-18 months with freight rates on the key East-West trades hitting all-time lows. This has meant that our business has had to adapt quickly and identify ways in which we can add real value to our customers. A high class service is essential, however our investment in IT enables us to provide customers with full visibility to track their shipments from the moment a purchase order is received through to arrival in port and final delivery at destination. All milestones are automated ensuring our customers are kept fully advised in real time.
Where do you see the most growth coming from?
We have made a number of acquisitions in recent years and this remains a key part of our long-term growth strategy, alongside organic growth, as we strive to achieve our KPIs and also our financial targets. As a result of severely depressed freight levels on key trades, our attention is now turning towards other geographic areas, consolidation,airfreight, valued added services and supply chain logistics. We believe significant growth can be achieved through our warehousing & distribution activities at key strategic locations such as Felixstowe and London Gateway and are confident we can further develop our corporate travel services across the UK.
In terms of companies you deal with, how have they changed – both type and size?
We deal with a wide range of customers, from numerous blue-chip organisations through to individual shippers. No matter what size of company, everyone expects value, flexibility and the highest levels of service. That’s what we base our principles and company values on. Demand for quality services at the most competitive rates is what every customer wants. We very much adopt a ‘partnership’ approach, working with our customers to deliver innovative solutions whilst ensuring transparency so that they understand the entire process and can identify exactly what they are paying for. The need for real-time information is vital and demonstrates how customer requirements have changed. Advancements in technology including automation now mean that we can keep our customers fully advised at each stage of the supply chain which, in turn, means they can run a more efficient, slick operation.
What countries are you seeing more trade to and from?
We have high expectations for the MINT countries (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and India). We already have a range of established FCL and consolidation services to and from India and are confident this market presents a solid long-term opportunity for further significant growth. We have recently established services to and from Mexico to keep up with the growth of this South American powerhouse. China remains a significant player, however the economic slow down has had a severe impact on their export volumes. Customers are starting to look at opportunities to source products from other countries in South East Asia and the Indian sub-continent such as Cambodia, Bangladesh and Vietnam. We continue to expand our activities in Turkey through our offices in Istanbul and Izmir where the cost of manufacturing remains relatively low and the quality relatively high.
What are the current concerns in the shipping market?
The severe fluctuation in freight rates make it difficult for freight forwarders to be able to maintain long-term contract rates and stability for their customers who are preferring to take advantage of the spot market. As carriers continue to focus on economies of scale and unit cost and with significant additional tonnage still to be delivered against a backdrop of reduced volumes, it is unlikely this situation will change in the short term without aggressive curtailing of capacity and laying up of more vessels by the shipping lines. Bunker prices have remained at significantly lower levels than at the start of the year which is helping carriers counteract this situation to a degree, however the current political situation and relationships with key oil producing countries casts uncertainty over long-term stability.