Frank Olsen, CEO of Inchcape, discusses COVID-19 impact
Inchcape Shipping Services is one of the world’s leading providers of port agency services. It has 240 offices with over 3,000 professional staff and contractors. It covers around 2500 ports worldwide, which is about 85% of total ports in the world. The role of a shipping agent is to act as the representative of the ship operators, owners, and charters at the port. Services offered by Inchcape include survey and inspection, financial management, cargo, dry docking, crew logistics, and bunker calls. The shipping agent is also responsible to handle all paperwork related to immigration, customs, and other documentation required by port authorities to make sure there are no disruptions to the operations of the shipping vessel. Frank Olsen is the CEO of Inchcape Shipping Services. He shared his views on the impact of COVID-19 on the shipping agency.
Frank Olsen is used to a lot of international travel for work. The restrictions caused by COVID-19 have forced him to spend most of his time in Norway. Frank is glad that Inchcape had already established a strong IT infrastructure that has allowed the employees to work remotely without too much disruption in work. However, Frank believes the challenges posed by COVID-19 are real. The months of April and May showed an impact of about 20% reduction but things have been recovering since then. With the lockdown restrictions in certain segments, one of the major hurdles has been the crew logistics. Frank is proud of his team who has been able to handle this unprecedented situation.
The analysts at Inchcape predict a reduction of 5-7% in seaborne trade due to COVID-19. Frank pointed out the 80% of the shipping agents are small local ports, which have been more severely impacted than some of the larger multinational players in the industry. Inchcape has about a 5% share of the worldwide shipping agency. There is a lot of room for growth and Frank believes Inchcape has the potential to double this market share in the next five years. One of the potential areas of growth is through organic growth. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need of using a global specialist as a shipping agent. The stability and security offered by global shipping agents are comforting factors for ship owners, charters, and operators.
Another advantage of working with Inchcape is that you get standardized services on all ports, regardless of location. At Inchcape, there is a strong emphasis on corporate compliance, standards, and regulations. There is a perceived advantage of local shipping agents that they might have specialized local knowledge, however, Frank points out that Inchcape is a global player but it also has a very strong network of local agents that offer live and comprehensive coverage of the ports in the region. Inchcape launched World of Ports (WoP) to facilitate its clients with detailed digital information such as vessel location, port data, operational notes, and more. Clients don’t have to call several different ports to facilitate the operations of their vessel from one port to the other, Inchcape manages all of that as a single stakeholder.
Author Sam Brush is an expert in ports and terminals, shipping, marine and logistics.