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Making the most of the downturn

November 16 - GAC Group president Bengt Ekstrand noted during a recent managers' conference that the company is pushing for greater innovation and flexibility in order to cope with turbulent global markets, and has maintained a solid balance sheet despite

"Disruptive forces are reshaping our markets almost on a weekly basis but in the process, new opportunities for growth are coming into view," said Ekstrand.

"Companies that are willing to rethink their business models, put their customers first, and take advantage of new technologies will find ways to prosper in these turbulent times."

Ekstrand noted that the challenge is to "evolve in a smart way" while not discarding traditional values.

He added that GAC has continued to invest in capital assets such as vessels and warehouses in key locations around the world despite the difficult conditions. In 2016, total investment commitments reached over USD65 million.

"We need to keep our focus on the long term," he stated. "It's important not to get swept away by the disruptive forces in our markets and start making wholesale changes just for short-term effects."

GAC has begun construction of a new distribution centre in Dubai, with similar developments under way in Indonesia and Thailand. The company has also formed a joint venture for the operation of a terminal in Cyprus and has ordered five new ships for its marine fleet.

Ekstrand explained that the biggest challenge was to ensure the skills, values and attitudes of GAC management and staff remained strong and responsive to changing market conditions.

It is no secret that the market is currently experiencing its most prolonged downturn since the start of the financial crisis, with the shipping sector suffering from rock-bottom freight rates and market overcapacity, while the project forwarding community struggles in the face of low commodity prices and project delays. But there are still opportunities to be taken during this slowdown.

Ekstrand's comments resonates with a speech Mammoet ceo Jan Kleijn made last year, encouraging heavy lifting and specialised transport providers to embrace disruptive technologies in the wake of slowing economic growth.

Of course business for many in this sector has suffered at the hands of a number of negative factors and it looks like there will be no quick or easy recovery from this crash, but the ability of project logistics providers, shipping companies and heavy transport specialists to adapt in this environment will be paramount to survival.

As Kleijn asked last year, "are we driving change or does change happen to us?" 


Bengt Ekstrand.

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