Shipco TT sails ahead: Navigating challenges one step at a time


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Nov 28, 2023

Shipco TT sails ahead: Navigating challenges one step at a time

As Caribbean economies slowly but surely recover amid the covid19 pandemic, the

As Caribbean economies slowly but surely recover amid the covid19 pandemic, the presence of reliable and efficient shipping networks are needed now more than ever to help bolster trade.

With more companies moving into Guyana to provide their services in their flourishing energy sector, a steady flow of equipment and goods will be needed to support their activities on the mainland.

But while new opportunities rear their head, so do challenges as rising covid19 cases in China, one of the world's largest economies and economic challenges in the US, leave shipping stakeholders concerned for the future.

Despite these challenges, general manager of Shipco Transport Ltd Julian Sammy says it's not an entirely bleak picture as local businesses can still expect quality service with a few new additions from his company.

Shipco is a subsidiary of Denmark based Scan-Group, whose history in shipping and logistics dates back to 1969.

From Scan-Group, Shipco Transport was founded in 1988 and has organically grown into the world's leading neutral non-vessel owning common carriers (NVOCC's) headquartered in Chatham, New Jersey. Shipco Transport operates more than 80 offices in over 30 countries across five continents.

Shipco is also a founding member of the Worldwide Alliance, an association of the world's leading neutral NVOCCs, and the AirCargoGroup, a global organisation of neutral air freight wholesalers.

With such a widespread presence it was only a matter of time before Shipco set its sights on TT to enhance their Caribbean presence.

The company also has offices in Jamaica and Puerto Rico.

Their entry into TT came at a turbulent time in November 2019, just before the beginning of the covid19 pandemic which ground shipping worldwide.

Despite this, Sammy says his office has worked hard to secure its place as a leading provider of shipping services, working with freight forwarders and customs brokers to keep businesses supplied.

Speaking with Newsday at his Mulchan Seuchan Road, Chaguanas, office on Monday, Sammy says one of Shipco's key principles has been to understand the business environment of whatever country they set up shop in and develop models local companies can use.

"Any region or country that we operate, our goal is to provide clients with tailor-made services to meet their demands.

"Shipco Transport is a neutral NVOCC, which basically means we do not target direct customers/consumers, as our target market are only the freight forwarders and customs brokers. Being the only company in the Caribbean whose foundation was built on neutrality, our customers feel secure on doing business with us."

The type of cargo transported by Shipco and other shipping agencies can fall under two categories; full container load (FCL), less-than container load (LCL) and air freight.

While FCLs are a quantity of goods that can fill an entire shipping container, LCLs may consist of just a few items, with the goods of multiple customers being transported in the same container to make up the space.

Sammy says in recent times more customers have requested LCL services owing to the tough post-pandemic financial environment.

"With the local foreign exchange situation, the small and micro enterprises do not or cannot access the foreign exchange needed to buy large quantities of goods, to fill an entire container.

"So they opt to purchase smaller quantities from their global suppliers and do more frequent LCL imports.

"So we're seeing the LCL market growing in that aspect."

Sammy says as shipping rates gradually return to pre-pandemic levels, there are signs of a gradual recovery.

In 2021, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean's (ECLAC) Bulletin reported that there were early signs of recovery in the regional shipping sector.

The report noted that while these signs of recovery were evident, it was not seen throughout Latin America and the Caribbean as trade volumes on ports along some coasts did not rebound to their 2019 levels.

It stressed that competition must be maintained as a market regulator to strengthen the sector.

Sammy says the introduction of Shipco's direct Houston to TT (LCL freight) service in February 2023 would go a long way towards providing TT and Guyana's energy sectors with much needed tools and equipment at a lower cost without the inconvenience multiple stops.

"Based on the demands of supplies for the energy sector, and with most coming out of the US Gulf Coast, that's why we decided on starting the direct LCL, Houston-Trinidad service. In that service, we also offer it to Guyana and Suriname where we will transship in Trinidad and move things across to those countries.

"Inland costs in the US, has increased tremendously so the usual method of moving goods inland, from Houston to Miami is not feasible.

"Our new direct service will mitigate that, where the cargo will be loaded in a container in Houston and the next time it will be opened is in Trinidad, providing clients with an all-in direct rate."

Sammy says even with Guyana's energy boom, TT is still well positioned to benefit from the increased economic activities in Guyana and Suriname.

"Trinidad is a very mature nation in the oil and gas, energy sector and our human resource and our upstream competencies will be an asset in those countries."

One of Shipco's main services, Sammy says, is their mobile app and freight forwarders can access real-time tracking of their goods at any time using their mobile.

But even as shipping in TT continues to benefit from the activities in South America, shipping stakeholders are also aware of the challenges posed by the use of legal channels to transport drugs and weapons.

Last year, police found and seized a cache of high-powered weapons at customs bonds in Trinidad in October and December.

Sammy says while these incidents are cause for concern, he believed that adequate measures and security checks were in place at the port of origin where containers were loaded and in Trinidad to minimise exposure.

He said while port officials and local authorities had a responsibility to check and monitor what was being transported in containers, it would be worth re-examining how the checks are done to ensure a smoother, less cumbersome process.

"Shipco has CTPAT (Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism) certification and compliance is something we take extremely serious globally.

"Our clients range from small local forwarders to the largest global forwarders in the world, so we need to ensure that we always offer a safe and compliant transport for them and their customers."

While Shipco continues to navigate these uncertainties, Sammy says the company has also faced challenges in setting up its office in TT.

Referring to lengthy delays and excessive bureaucracies, he said more should be done to attract Foreign Direct Investment.

Shipco's Trinidad office offer a wide range of direct LCL services to it's customers. Since the commencement of their Trinidad office, they have successfully launched several direct LCL services to Germany, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Mexico and India to augment their portfolio.

Just as bad weather and other unforeseen circumstances can delay the arrival of cargo, so can other factors.

But whatever the future holds for the shipping industry in the Caribbean, Sammy says Shipco is ready to help steer business back to port.