Barcelona, 05/10/2022 – The months-long, rapid rise in freight rates has for the time being come to an end – however problems in the global supply chains still remain. What can companies do to protect their supply chains and make them more resilient to external influences in the face of insufficient transport capacity, delayed or even cancelled sailings, and rising operating costs? These questions formed the basis of our BCO Conference 2022, which took place on September 27 at the World Trade Center in Barcelona.
Almost 100 participants from numerous European countries and the Asian region had come to Barcelona at the invitation of XSTAFF and the Port of Barcelona as host. They were welcomed by Damia Calvet, President of the Port Authority Barcelona, who in his opening address not only emphasized the role of logistics as the heart and engine of global trade, but also drew attention to the growing importance of Barcelona for the entire Mediterranean region. For example, the port of Barcelona handled more than 36 million tons goods and commodities in the first half of 2022 alone. Figures that allow Calvet to look to the future with optimism, especially since the course for a successful future has already been set. Further, extensive investments in infrastructure measures are planned and budgeted, for example in the expansion of rail connections to and from the port to the Spanish hinterland and beyond.
XSTAFF expands its portfolio
Companies that want to make their supply chains more secure and resilient need partners and service providers that can organize their supply chains and maintain flexibility, Sergio Marmol, Managing Director of XSTAFF Iberia, gave an in-depth presentation on the strengths of XSTAFF and the recent achievements of the network. During this presentation he mentioned that centrally procuring ocean container freight for the benefit of its BCO members is still the core of the company’s business activities, but there are also corresponding activities in other logistics sectors. These include procuring air freight services, for example via the XBA (XSTAFF by AIR) joint venture recently concluded with MBA Freight Solutions, or the possibility of rail transport, which is to be further expanded in the future as a direct connection from Asia to Europe. Members of the XSTAFF network therefore now have the opportunity to implement flexible, reliable and customized logistics concepts. Sergio Marmol illustrated the resulting efficiency gains achieved by the members of the purchasing network in the last two years, during which XSTAFF members have saved more than 300 million dollars by jointly negotiating freight and transport rates. “These savings are great, especially since at the same time we have kept the availability of goods extremely high at the shelves, as oppose to what regrettably happened to many other companies in Europe and USA, which during 2020/2021 could not always keep their necessary minimum stock. The XSTAFF BCO members did not stock out during this difficult time, which means they could obtain very good financial results these years.”
“Cargo must be the center of the spot”
For keynote speaker Jordi Espin, Secretary General Transprime Spanish Shippers Council, and Strategic Relations Manager European Shippers Council, it is precisely the increased visibility of logistics services that has been one of the most striking developments in recent years. “For a long time, logistics was invisible. This has changed greatly in recent years. Today, people know how important this sector is for them personally, but also for growth, prosperity and employment worldwide.” To safeguard and improve the underlying logistics operations and processes, he says his organization is committed to promoting a highly efficient and sustainable freight transport system both within and outside Europe, and openness and competition in freight transport as a whole. Not an easy job in view of the different interests of the players involved, as he went on to illustrate: “The playing field on which the negotiating partners surely meet usually looks very different, depending on who is pursuing which interests at any given time.” That’s when councils are called upon to get shippers, carriers and other parties involved around the table to define common standards and make binding arrangements.” In this context, it is often a question of what the overriding goal is that needs to be pursued. Here Jordi Espin has a clear opinion: “It should not be about who belongs to which faction. Cargo must be the center of the spot. For this, we as a Council must provide the appropriate tools, develop standards and create more transparency.”
Next challenges are waiting
But the industry is still struggling with the challenges of the present, and they are not exactly small. In his presentation, Jan Tiedemann, Senior Analyst at Alphaliner, drew a picture of the current situation in container and ocean freight. Despite currently falling freight rates and a temporary calming of the market in light of the uncertain economic outlook, he sees the industry as far from being in safe waters. “Despite the downward movement, freight rates are still at a very high level and many problems in the supply chains themselves remain unresolved, despite the increasing number of container ships in service.” He sees reasons for this, among others, in the very strong consolidation of an industry in which the top 10 now have around 85 percent market share. “The major shipping companies have made good profits in the last two years, which they are either using to build their own infrastructures or are allocating to meet the challenges of the future.” For Jan Tiedemann, this includes the issue of decarbonization. “There is a lot coming up for shipping companies here in the next few years, although today no one really knows how the topics of decarbonization and energy intensity will change the market. That’s also the reason why many players are currently taking a ‘wait and see’ approach.”
CMA CGM is not in wait and see mode in this respect. In their presentation, David Lopez, International Freight Forwarder and Global Account Manager, and Alvaro Lanao, National Sales Reefer Manager Import & Export, showed the participants how the shipping company is approaching the topic of sustainability. Driven by the mission to develop fairer and more balanced economic exchanges that respect every human being and the planet, the company aims to achieve NET ZERO CARBON by 2050. To achieve this goal, the company has set aside a budget of 1.5 billion US dollars over a five-year period. This money is to be invested in innovative projects and collaboration projects with industry partners, including the development of alternative fuels, energy-saving drive systems and decarbonization measures. The aim is not only to develop the company’s own strategies and potential, but also to support customers and partners in their sustainability activities. David Lopez: “As part of our “CMA CGM ACT +” program, we offer our customers the opportunity to analyze, reduce and offset their carbon footprint. In this way, we not only help the company, but also contribute to protecting the environment and the climate. In this respect, it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.”
To sum up the conference, a panel discussion was held to expand on many of the issues mentioned during the day. The panel, which included Stefan Baumann, Global Head of Logistics COOP, Paco Fernandez, Global Transport Director Mango, Johan Nanninga, CEO Gangzhou Port (Europe), Conor Henton, General Manager Unistaff, and Jan Tiedemann, was moderated by Antonios Rigalos, Chief Growth Officer from XSTAFF. At the end of a highly interesting day of events, Antonios Rigalos drew a thoroughly positive conclusion: “The BCO Conference 2022 has shown how united and successful we are as a group in an extremely difficult time. We will therefore do everything necessary to ensure that this remains the case in the future.” The members will be able to see for themselves in twelve months’ time when the BCO Conference takes place in Antwerp, Belgium, in September 2023.