Alfonso Clerici is looking for his fourth partner
After his past three partnerships, the entrepreneur specialised in fruits logistics is ready to enter into a new partnership
The 64-year old agribusiness logistics entrepreneur, as well as trade broker and terminal operator, Alfonso Clerici was the first one "to make an agreement with thorny Console Batini to combine private terminal operators' activities with port services provided by CULMV's workforce in 1989" recalls the man who in 1995 shared assets left by his father Jack with his brother Paolo, inheriting the fruit business. Since 2009 Genoa's Fruit Terminal (TFG) underwent significant changes.
"In order to make profits, major global carriers entered also our sector, increasing plugs on mega container ships to load more reefer boxes, but we still have an unequalled know-how and an inalienable expertise resulting from decades of experience, as well as a network of relations and technical, legal and organizational skills. Clerici Logistics is neither a customs broker nor a freight forwarder, rather a logistics operator", the entrepreneur explained.
As a matter of fact, this small company, with a dozen employees and a 6 million Euro turnover is still playing its role in the fresh-product supply chain. “We are the one stop shop between import and distribution, the connection in a supply chain that is facing problems due to inefficiencies almost on a daily basis as the fruit industry is extremely complex because of endogenous and exogenous factors such as weather, requiring great flexibility as regards organization”.
Clerici explained that the current scenario involves giant competitors.
“Customers can turn to small enterprises such as ours or to multinational shipping companies. We worked as ship brokers for Seatrade, the major maritime carrier within the reefer sector, transporting bananas to Italy, and on our way back we tried to load dry containers. However, we realized that both ship agents and freight forwarders are facing huge difficulties. Unfortunately, there are no longer boundaries between niche sectors because everyone is trying to seize business opportunities, therefore a survival strategy is needed.
We can offer our 40-years experience within the fruit sector to provide logistics services combining various activities, not mere clearance of goods.
In the good old days in Italy there were the Orsero Group – with an almost 1 billion euro turnover – on the one hand, and Clerici Logistics, with a 31 million euro turnover, on the other. As reefer vessels almost ceased to exist, all shipping lines are trying to do our job, and they are doing so also unfairly. Global carriers can change freight forwarder every six months to gain from service tariffs.
Yet, small enterprises manage to do well: we handle some 5,000 40' containers, 80% of which are imported (bananas from Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia; apples and pears from South Africa, Argentina and Chile). Our customers are multinational companies or large distributors”.
Clerici acknowledged the great difficulties they had to face ten years ago, when their major customer Chiquita unexpectedly left the port of Genoa.
“We affiliated with minority shareholders working in different sectors, establishing satisfactory partnerships. During our history we had three reference shareholders: Poggiali for their Setramar terminal in the port of Ravenna; Trieste-based Pacorini, that wanted to have a depot in Genoa authorised by the LME London Metal Exchange, and Genoa-based Rimorchiatori Riuniti”.
In fact, 100% owner Clerici is ready to welcome a new partner.
“We are not interested in establishing partnerships with financing funds. We aim at a shared business based on specialization and on a network of offices, also abroad, that our future partner might provide. The latter's main objective is diversifying our business, while ours is multiplying current traffic numbers to make our company grow”, he added.
As a matter of fact, Clerici already has a partner. “Given my 10% participation and the fact that I have long been a member of Saimare's Board of Directors (Spinelli Group), we are already collaborating with said company, providing our services in almost all Italian ports, and I hope that this collaboration will grow. We are already working in all the major Italian ports, from Trieste to Genoa, except for Savona-Vado, but the purchase of the Vado Reefer Terminal by APM (and the forthcoming opening of Maersks' platform) created the conditions to expand our services also in this port. With our partner Saimare, from January the 1st we will be operational with our office dealing with perishable goods management”.