Unconventional resolutions help tide over the crisis

“Being innovative has been the key for us in mitigating as much impact as possible during this crisis. Understanding the customers’ requirements and finding the right solutions to keep their supply chains moving has given us a great advantage,” shares Steve Felder, Managing Director – South Asia, Maersk

How is the cargo movement on trade lanes like India-Fareast/India-Europe, India-North America? How much down in terms of volumes/percentages?

In the first few months of the year, we experienced an increased trade from India on the westbound trade lanes, primarily because of the slight slowdown in supply from Far East. But as cases of pandemic started rising in the western part of the world, the demand in those markets dropped due to lockdowns. With the markets slowly opening up, there are early signs of volumes picking up, but it is still too early to comment, as the situation is quite fluid.

The trade towards Far East is currently experiencing some spike as a result of lack of demand earlier in the year owing to the Chinese New Year, followed by the extended vacations due to the pandemic.

How is the current scenario of sailing cancellations among ocean carriers – are they increasing or decreasing by the day? Will ocean carriers be able to scale back sailing cancellations in the coming months, what are your expectations?

We at Maersk have been extremely agile with our network in adjusting it to prevailing demand levels, whilst ensuring that our customers’ supply chains are not impacted. Sailing cancellations or network adjustments are mostly dependent on demand, which is quite fluid at the moment. We are constantly monitoring demand levels, so we can ensure we have adequate capacity to serve our customers.

How are the freight rate levels in the current market scenario? Do you foresee any fluctuations in the near future?

Freight rates are largely determined by supply and demand.

How has been the slot utilisation in the sailings that are operational?

The philosophy behind network adjustments is to be highly efficient with the sailings that we do. In that sense, we have undertaken sailings with healthy slot utilisations. On the other hand, we also have had an instance where we have undertaken a feeder sailing just to bring in additional containers required for specific customers.

What are the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 impact?

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented challenges, and with every challenge, there has been a learning. Firstly, preparing for a crisis with any number of business continuity plans is not enough. What really matters is how agile and adaptive your workforce and leadership is to the situation. For example, you can have an IT infrastructure to support 100% of your employees to work from home, yet how effectively and productively your workforce works from home really determines success. I am proud to say that at Maersk, we have had a time when more than 75% of our global office-based staff was simultaneously working from home, yet we did not have any negative impact on the support extended to our customers. Our customers have given us extremely positive testimonies, and that has only encouraged us to keep doing better.

We have also learnt that empathy goes a long way. We derived a lot of strength during the pandemic through the three priorities that we set for ourselves – protecting our employees, supporting our customers and helping society fight the virus. We got back so much more by being empathetic around these three areas – from our employees who have been delivering relentlessly, customers who have shown trust and faith in us and societies who have supported our operations in the toughest conditions.

Finally, being innovative has been the key for us in mitigating as much impact as possible during this crisis Understanding the customers’ requirements correctly, identifying the real pain points and finding the right solutions to keep their supply chains moving has given us a great advantage. Finding alternative and unconventional resolutions has played a crucial role.