XSTAFF BCO Conference

BCO Conference 2021: Cooperative with good prospects

BCO Conference 2021 celebrates successful comeback as face-to-face event after two-year break

For years now, and especially with the outbreak of the Corona pandemic, the ocean freight market has been suffering from capacity bottlenecks, delivery failures and massive cost increases. XSTAFF GmbH shows how it can nevertheless succeed in staying on course for growth in these troubled times. At the BCO Conference 2021 in Düsseldorf, the purchasing association presented the latest results of its collaboration to its members on September 28. The number of registrations alone shows how great the desire for personal discussion is again among many players. Despite the restrictions of a 2G event (vaccinated or recovered), more than 50 representatives mainly from member companies came to discuss the current status and the challenges of the future. “This level of interest shows us how important face-to-face interaction is to people. Ultimately, even video conferences and other digital tools cannot replace these benefits,” said Antonios Rigalos, a new member of the XSTAFF team as Chief Growth Officer and member of the Executive Board since March 1, 2021, drawing an initial positive interim balance early on.

Fully on course

The results that Antonios Rigalos and Sergio Marmol, Managing Director of XSTAFF Iberia, were able to present to those present were also encouraging. The alliance, which currently comprises around 40 companies, will move more than 100,000 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) of cargo volume in its network for the first time in 2021. In light of further additions this year, including online furniture retailer Home24, among others, XSTAFF plans to increase the goods and commodities moved to 180,000 TEU in 2023. But even this is just an intermediate stage on the way to the ambitious goals envisioned when the company was founded in 2016. “We are aiming for a cargo volume of around 350,000 TEU in the long term and, especially in view of recent developments, we are confident that we will also reach this mark,” explains Bodo Knop, Chairman of the Board of XSTAFF, without neglecting other important issues. “To ensure that we can continue to supply our customers with our lines in the quality they are accustomed to, the number of XSTAFF members is limited to a maximum of 100 companies. After all, we are not only concerned with bundling volumes, but also with providing the associated transport services reliably and on time.”

Order books are well filled again

It is precisely these criteria that have suffered massively from the market developments of recent months and therefore urgently need to be brought back into sharper focus for shipping companies, says Jan Tiedemann, senior analyst at consultancy Alphaliner and keynote speaker at the BCO Conference: “The liner shipping companies should re-establish reliability and planning certainty across the entire supply chain as quickly as possible, even if the ships already on order cannot be deployed until the end of 2023 at the earliest.” When asking about the profiteers of the latest developments, Jan Tiedemann recommends looking not only at the last few weeks, but also at the past decade: “Of course, the shipping companies are currently earning really good money. However, they have not been able to generate large profits before, at least in the years since 2010. This also has to be taken into account.” He sees the merger of shippers in purchasing associations such as XSTAFF as a thoroughly effective means of countering the growing market power of the shipping companies: “The liner shipping industry has been characterized by an extremely high level of market consolidation over the last ten years. What is there to say against similar developments on the purchasing side? Ultimately, after all, it’s about bringing supply and demand back into a reasonable balance.”

Collaboration is a key to success

One potential development XSTAFF has prepared well for. More than a dozen employees handle incoming orders and inquiries at the three locations in Düsseldorf, Barcelona (Spain) and Katowice (Poland). In doing so, they can draw on a product portfolio that, in addition to sea freight, rail and road transport, has also included air freight services since 2020. Around 40 network partners, some of whom are linked to XSTAFF via joint ventures, support the network worldwide in operational processing. “This is certainly one of the great strengths of XSTAFF: we are not just a purchasing association, but work out logistics solutions together with our members, a competence that is increasingly in demand,” emphasizes Antonios Rigalos, who is looking positively to the future thanks to the positive response from the market: “Of course, we still have some way to go before we reach our goals. But as a cooperative acting together, whose members pursue the same goals and visions without losing their independence, we have an excellent basis on which to build. We want to and will continue to strengthen and expand this cohesion in the future, because it is another important key to success, in addition to costs and capacities. This, too, was impressively demonstrated to us at the BCO Conference 2021.”

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