Within the framework of the opening of its office in Dakar, Hapag-Lloyd granted an exclusive interview to Africa Logistics magazine through Mr. Dheeraj Bhatia. Below is the full interview.
Mr. Dheeraj Bhatia is the CEO of Hapag-Lloyd’s Africa, Middle East and Indian Subcontinent based out of Hapag Lloyds Regional Head Quarters in Dubai.
Dheeraj has a vast maritime experience from sailing on board ships around the world to have managed various aspect of the container shipping business in Asia, North America, Middle East and Africa.
The covid-19 pandemic has changed the future of shipping industry, how have you been dealing it with in Hapag-Lloyd?
We like everybody else, were taken a back with sudden outbreak of Covid-19 last year, we started to see the initial impact of Covid-19 in April, as it began in the Far East and slowly started to spread west wards.
Varied intensity of lockdowns across the world started to impact our business due to severe drops in demand.
We reacted quickly, to change our product offerings to react to the changing demand patterns across trades. However, since June the trade demands began to soar in waves across the world which again lead to us adjusting our capacities. Hapag-Lloyd’s world class systems allowed our staff to swiftly shift to work remotely and continue serving our customers with minimum delays.
Till this date the Global transportation back log, increased demand, lack of airfreight capacity, varying disruptions due to Covid have led to the current situation where the transportation demand is far more than what can be met by the shipping industry.
Incidents such as Suez Canal have only further added fuel to the fire.
There is an enormous pressure on us to cater to the demand, which has also in turn affected our staff that has relentlessly worked from remote locations to ensure a good service. Not only those, on shore in different countries but also our sailing staff, who in some cases, have been stuck onboard the ships for long periods.
Our staff on the shore and at sea are showing incredible resilience.
In my view, Covid has helped to improve automation and digitization of our Transactions and this will stay forever. Our customers and partners are increasingly using all our e-channels from Quotation to BL release.
I encourage everyone to use more and more digital tools to improve our industry which has somehow lagged the Digitization drive that several other industries have adopted over the last decade.
Hapag-Lloyd has recently acquired Nile Dutch carrier to strengthen its presence in Africa, what are your ambitions in this continent?
Hapag-Lloyd has been in African continent for almost 20 years. Our growth in Africa has not matched our global strength in presence and coverage. About 5 years ago, we began an ambitious journey to improve our business intensity and coverage across Africa, both organically and inorganically.
So, Nile Dutch acquisition is basically helping us to achieve the target to offer our more services and more choices to our customers across Africa.
Nile Dutch business is also very complimentary to our current presence in Africa as it allows us to access South West African Coast. This acquisition not only gives us leading a presence in some of the Key markets on SW coast but also several new colleagues with vast knowledge and experience in Africa. Which in my view is Key to our success.
In turn the current Nile Dutch customers will benefit from High Quality Hapag-Lloyd services and a Global network.
After several years, Hapag-Lloyd has finally decided to open an office in Senegal, what are your motivations and why now?
As I said, we’ve been working on establishing and improving Hapag-Lloyd presence and business across Africa for the past few years. In 2018, we began an ambitious plan to put more services into Africa.
As part of that plan, we’re establishing several offices across many countries in Africa and Senegal is one of the top five offices we are establishing now. We believe this will strengthen our ties with our Senegalese customers and help us understand their needs even better
Is Hapag-Lloyd planning to play a key role in the oil and gas sector in Senegal?
We’re a transport company, not just oil & gas; we carry all sort of commodities on our ships. We are also strengthening our position to offer our global network to satisfy the demand of Senegal businesses but Hapag-Lloyd is not involved in any kind exploration of Oil and Gas Etc.
As the oil sector grows in any country, there will be more demands to carry equipment’s from various countries around the word and Hapag-Lloyd is best suited to offer those services to Oil and Gas sector.
What message to deliver to logistics community and suppliers generally in Senegal?
My message to logistics and transportation community in Senegal is Hapag-Lloyd intends to be World Number One carrier for quality and with our own office, this is the step in that direction.
We will use all our knowledge and Global experience to provide improved services. Customers can expect a variety of digital means of transacting their business with Hapag-Lloyd.
Source : Africa Logistics