Cost, utilisation, the environment and legislation – all issues facing today’s fleet manager. But MSC is no car fleet.
As one of the world’s largest shipping companies, it uses road haulage, trains and vessels to enable goods to be transported around the globe while working towards greener efficiencies and staying compliant with new legislation.
No easy feat, but all in a day’s work for Michael Collins, general manager of UK exports at MSC.
Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) was founded in 1970 as a privately-owned shipping line based in Geneva.
The company has rapidly grown from a small conventional ship operator and now operates a fleet in excess of 400 ships.
Flexibility is a key strength
Collins started his career at MSC in 2000 as a pricing co-ordinator in the US trade before progressing to Far East trade manager for five years, a period which saw the company experience substantial growth.
Collins and his team are responsible for all of the global exports from the UK, managing the trade managers and customer service staff and ensuring budgets and deadlines are met.
MSC can facilitate almost any equipment or product with various container types and temperature-controlled units. Products vary from household appliances to food and drink.
“Our fleet has grown over recent years,” said Collins. “One of MSC’s biggest strengths is its flexibility and its ability to find solutions to meet with clients’ demands.
“It is still a relatively new industry which is still growing, but it is an industry which has made the world a lot smaller. If you think about all the things that we have in our homes, they come from all around the world and are usually brought to this country on a vessel.”
Matching jobs to journeys
Managing costs starts on the landside operation, matching up jobs and journeys.
A ship sitting in berth waiting to sail is costing the company money, so Collins works hard to make the process as efficient as possible.
One major local initiative MSC has invested in is the regional port concept.
Felixstowe is the company’s main port, but it also offers Tilbury, Bristol, Liverpool, Greenock, Grangemouth and Teesport as ports of exit, bringing cargo closer to its final destination.
“It has an environmental impact and saves a substantial amount of road miles each year,” said Collins.
MSC has four daily train services from Felixstowe which take cargo closer to the ports, further reducing road mileage.
The drivers are told when to be at port ready for departure, while the drivers keep the team informed with any delays when they may experience.
“Problems occasionally happen due to the nature of the business,” said Collins.
“It is important how we deal with the client so they are told before they even have to ask where their cargo is.”
Challenge of staying compliant
Legislation is a key challenge. Different countries operate different regimes, and they are constantly changing. Remaining compliant is a real issue.
MSC will ship to all locations around the world unless there is a safety risk which the Geneva head office will take a view on.
Scheduling is crucial: MSC has to meet set berthing windows. However, ports can become congested and bad weather can cause delays.
“Trying to keep to a schedule if you have a 60-day round trip is very difficult,” said Collins.
“Some companies will cut and run to meet schedules. We will stay and wait to make sure we have all of the cargo and ensure the safety of all our crew.”
For the future, MSC aims to build on its growth aspirations, finding an edge on the market and different solutions for clients keeping it one step ahead of its competitors.
“The relationship we have with our clients is only successful by working together to find solutions in these challenging times, finding competitive pricing and delivering the best service,” concluded Collins.
- Find out how MSC manages its company car fleet – www.fleetnews.co.uk/MSC-case-study/