Q&A with…. Rolf Habben Jansen, CEO Hapag-Lloyd
What trends do you see in the near future that could optimize cargo shipping services?
The consolidation and reduction in number of carriers will continue until the supply-demand imbalance improves and carriers can start earning a reasonable return. Once carriers are profitable again, they will be able to afford to refocus and compete again on service quality and reliability.
The reducing number of carriers will also help bring discipline to the market and reduce volatility, which benefits nobody. Together with digitisation, this is also likely to increase the plannability, forecastability and manageability of supply chains – which will in turn help reduce cost and wastage in the supply chain.
Digitisation seems as if it could be on the verge of becoming a key factor. A lot of excitement has built up in recent years about the impact of digitisation on the logistics sector, on supply chain management and on shipping. Some of this excitement is premature and misplaced. Interesting opportunities are however certainly emerging, which will impact cargo shipping one way or the other. However, whatever happens in the digital world, it will not be able to do anything without the expensive real world assets, which still require to be operated efficiently and well for cargo to be reliably and cost effectively moved from one place to another.
How will digital technologies and innovation support container carrier services in the future?
It is important to understand that digital technologies will impact carriers as part of the supply chain – and not in isolation. They will impact customer interactions, supplier interactions and internal processes. There is also the potential for some new business models to appear, which were previously simply not possible.
Customer interactions are about product and value proposition improvement, how to price and sell, how to take bookings and issue and manage documentation, how to issue invoices, take payment and manage disputes and how to manage exceptions.
Supplier interactions are about how to procure and manage inland transportation, container yards and terminals, stowage planning, and the many other services required by a carrier.
Internal processes are about automating how we deliver our products, manage and plan our services, capacity and equipment, and how we use forecasting to improve our service quality and reduce costs.
What challenges and opportunities do you foresee with regard to shifts between different modes of transport?
The challenges and opportunities for different modes of transport are unlikely to change much. The main drivers will as ever be the trade-offs between cost, speed, reliability and flexibility. The challenges and opportunities for different modes of transport will vary as these four factors change. Where are changes most likely? Cost is of course most significantly impacted by fuel price. Another significant factor is environmental regulation. Maybe digitization can help remove some of the wastage in supply chains?
How will cargo shipping services participate in the decarbonisation of the logistics sector?
A lot has been achieved already in the past years. For instance, Hapag-Lloyd has reduced its specific carbon footprint per transported TEU and kilometre by more than 45 per cent since 2006. Environmental protection is still very important and further improvements will come in liner shipping. However, it is of utmost importance that new laws and limits regarding environmental protection are introduced on a global basis. Local solutions can cause a distortion of competition and an unbalanced burden for certain companies. Examples are where goods can be moved by road or by ship – say fruit from Spain to Northern or Eastern Europe or from Turkey to Northern Europe or Western Europe. Encouraging the transfer of air cargo and road cargo to shipping, has the potential to significantly reduce carbon footprints. However, the mode chosen – and the carbon footprint produced – are primarily determined by cost, which is heavily influenced by regulation.