The coronavirus pandemic has forced companies to explore how they can survive fighting with a crisis of enormous proportions and in parallel achieve strategic goals and customer requirements. More rigorous prevention measures in the workplace, limited travel, reduced customer spending, delayed investment, supply chain disruptions in various industries and general uncertainty in the financial market are just some of the changes that businesses around the world have had to face.
We talked to Nebojsa Djekic, Sales and Development Manager of cargo-partner Srbija about how the crisis has affected everyday business activities, how the new circumstances reflect on the transport, how cargo-partner has responded to the current situation and the company’s plans for the upcoming period.
How has the crisis changed your daily business?
– In the event of a crisis, companies have to react immediately in order to protect their medium-term and long-term goals. Like any company that has adapted quickly to change, cargo-partner has an established crisis management plan. Our priority was to ensure the safety of our employees and to run our business without interruption. At the same time, thinking long-term, we had to make sure to maintain the financial stability and good reputation of our brand while adhering to the legal frameworks and norms.
How do the extraordinary circumstances in which we still find ourselves affect the transport of goods?
– The global pandemic has changed the business operations of many industries and disrupted entire supply chains. Our task is to enable our customers to get their products where they are needed within the set deadlines, thus for our industry, this global disruption has caused certain complications. Uneven supply and demand, lack of human resources in logistics, new rules and regulations have greatly affected our daily activities and the solutions we can offer. In response to the new situation, closely monitoring the market situation in contact with our offices around the world, we have created alternative transport solutions to optimally respond to the demands of our customers. To compensate for the reduction of passenger air traffic capacity, we introduced regular weekly charters intended for urgent airfreight shipments. And with the New Silk Road, we have a further flexible solution for the China-Europe route by means of rail transport. Due to the reduced frequency of passenger trains, rail transport proved to be a relatively stable and reliable option during this period, as it was relatively unaffected by anti-epidemiological measures. With the optimal ratio of price and transit time, this alternative option for transports from the Far East has put the New Silk Road in the foreground, and this service is something that makes our company stand out in the market.
Most recently, we introduced a new service called Adria PRIORITY Express, which is a premium seafreight service for imports from Asia via the Adriatic ports of Koper and Trieste. Transit times from Far East main ports to Adriatic ports are on average 5-8 days faster compared to North Sea ports like Hamburg. Thus, this allows us to provide yet another reliable alternative to circumvent lack of shipping space and container equipment.
In your experience, has there been an increase in imports or exports in certain countries and what are the reasons for that?
– It was expected that China’s economic downturn would affect the whole world – on one hand, due to the shutdown of production chains in certain parts of China, but also due to the reduced production in countries that imported raw materials from China. On the other hand, many shipping companies decreased their departure frequencies due to reduced transport volumes. Once production resumed, the irregularities of export and import led to a massive imbalance in transport equipment, so now we have a situation where Chinese ports are simply faced with a lack of empty containers.
How does the imbalance in transport equipment affect freight forwarding operations?
– We are currently in the traditional peak season for import shipments from the Far East. Diligent and long-term planning is recommended, keeping in mind both our holidays and the Chinese New Year in February. After the sudden restart of the economy in many countries, and trying to compensate for the previous several months of stagnation, many companies have decided to strengthen their import capacities. In practice, the increased demand for imports has resulted in the rapid exhaustion of shipping capacities and to the previously mentioned lack of equipment. It just takes time for the containers from European ports to physically return to China, so that they can be used for the further import of goods. For these reasons, as well as holiday breaks for Chinese New Year, the transport of goods by sea, as the most economically viable option, has been practically overbooked until March next year.
In situations like these, how does cargo-partner ensure the responsible treatment of its customers?
– Our company motto is “we take it personally”, and we live by these words. For us, this means that we do our best to satisfy our customers in every situation. We are in constant contact with our offices and agents around the world and strive to provide the most adequate solution at all times. Although there are some things we simply cannot influence, we go the extra mile to create flexible solutions, because we are aware that many companies really need them. Container transport by rail on the Trans-Siberian route proved to be an excellent option with a very favorable price-transit time ratio. Our new Adria PRIORITY Express service offers another faster alternative for seafreight shipments which puts us and our customers ahead of the competition. And with our charter solutions, both to the most important airports in Europe and directly to Belgrade, we can also respond to requests for high-priority shipments and thus ensure that all urgent deliveries are organized as quickly as possible.
What are your forecasts regarding the normalization of the domestic economy? Is the situation slowly stabilizing?
– First, the health and safety of citizens should be taken care of, and on the other hand, economic stability should be preserved as much as possible. The situation has not stabilized yet and the end of the epidemic is obviously very uncertain, both in the world and in our country. From our daily contact with domestic companies, we can see that the so-called first wave has already had great economic repercussions. The government measures to preserve jobs, which many companies opted for, were important, but there are also many businesses that simply could not maintain solvency and fulfill their obligations. Many sectors have suffered huge losses, and there is a fear that they will be additionally affected due to the uncertainty and impossibility of predicting the further course of the overall situation.
In your opinion, how will your industry continue to function in the future and what are your company’s plans?
– As always, we are intensively monitoring the development of the situation and trying to adapt to market trends in a timely manner, but we are very careful when it comes to giving long-term forecasts. It is obvious that our customers from certain industries might be faced with devastating consequences if this pandemic situation continues much longer, which would also have an adverse impact on our business. As cargo-partner, we are ready for any challenge and do our best to stay one step ahead. We strive to be innovative in providing a range of alternative transport options. At the same time, we continue to work on the training and certification of our staff at our logistics and distribution center in Dobanovci to maintain our competitiveness in terms of our staff expertise and service portfolio. As part of the global cargo-partner group, we are present in 40 countries with 130 offices around the world, which allows us to be flexible and always available for any inquiries and information, as well as to respond to all customer requests in the most adequate way.