Four decades in the container sector flying the French flag
French global carrier CMA CGM celebrated its first 40 years of activity, pledging allegiance to Genoa and disclosing its future objectives
Genoa – French global carrier CMA CGM just celebrated (also) in Genoa its first 40 years of activity in the container sector, pledging allegiance to Italy’s main port despite the difficult times due to the Morandi bridge collapse and launching new challenges to the international market.
The top management gathered at Palazzo della Meridiana with a hundred selected guests invited to the cocktail party to celebrate the 40° anniversary of the shipping company established in 1978 in Marseilles by Jacques Saadè, who passed away a few months ago leaving the helm of the company to his son Rodolphe.
The celebrations held in the location managed by Nicoletta Viziano's company, in the claimed most beautiful street in Europe, were attended by CMA CGM Italy Agency Managing Director Paolo Lo Bianco, with his colleagues of the Genoese Head Office, and by CMA CGM Group Commercial & Agency Network Senior Vice President Mathieu Friedberg.
Among the numerous freight forwarders and service suppliers there were also several shipping personalities – Agostino and Enrico Gallozzi, Aldo Spinelli and his son Roberto, Alberto Delle Piane, Gian Enzo Duci, Filippo Gallo, Piero Lazzeri, Oscar Zabai, Riccardo Ricolfi, Iames Pingani – as well as local and port institutions representatives such as Marta Brusoni, on behalf of mayor Bucci, Silvio Ferrando, representing Port Authority President Signorini and Port Commander Admiral Nicola Carlone.
“In only 40 years of activities we achieved amazing results. We work in 160 countries with 755 ship agencies and 34,000 employees; our ships call at 420 ports worldwide, and in 2017 we transported 19 million TEUs, achieving a 21 billion euro turnover”, the Genoese top manager started off.
In fact, the French-Lebanese family started its shipping venture on September the 13th 1978, launching its first service from Beirut (Lebanon) and Latakia (Syria) to Marseilles and Livorno with a small ship and 4 employees.
In 1983, their first ship crossed the Suez Canal, in 1986 they launched the first Northern Europe – Far East connection and in 1992 they opened the first ship agency in Shanghai, being the first ones to regard China as the new international trade frontier. In 1996, they took over the state company CGM, launching a series of take-overs of other companies in the new millennium: ANL, NOL, APL, Delmas and, last summer, the Finnish Containerships specialized in northern European feeder.
“The sector is witnessing an increasing consolidation as the most competitive companies are getting stronger, while weaker ones are disappearing. In fact, we are willing to evaluate new opportunities”, the French Vice President replied to Ship2Shore's question about their next moves, although denying their acquisition of the Taiwanese Evergreen after their failed attempt to take over the German Hapag Lloyd. “We are focusing on digitalization of processes and on investments in logistics, as the acquisition of the first 25% of Ceva Logistics confirms”.
As it is well known, at the end of October the French group launched a public tender offer for the logistic player's capital, with well-grounded hopes for success.
On the other hand, Friedberg is not confident about a further increase in tonnage.
“Naval gigantism reached sizes that can hardly be exceeded, otherwise the gap with port infrastructures would become unbridgeable. Beyond a certain size, economies of scale disappear. In fact, transport chain flows are hindered as mega-ships must remain moored in ports for too many days, with significant costs. Therefore, rather than waiting for a container at the bottom of the hold to be unloaded, it is better to wait for it to arrive on another vessel after a few days”.
As regards additional costs scheduled for 2020, when the strict regulations to limit harmful emissions will enter into force, the French top manager explained: “We are taking countermeasures as all our colleagues, although we have a dozen LNG propulsion units”.
However, Friedberg did not disclose the total cost that CMA CGM will have to incur for the mandatory adaptation of its fleet, confirming only that “the entire shipping industry will spend 60 billion euro, and the container sector will spend 10 billion”.
“As a young boy, I regarded 40-years old men as elderly, but now I must admit that we are young, although in four decades of evolution in the container business we witnessed many changes, from gigantism to consolidation, through mergers and several partnerships. In the next 5 years, we will focus on how to grant higher value to our customers. Being a service industry, we must provide increasingly better services, focusing our strategy on customers. I believe that a shipping company must be like a large hotel chain providing the same services in any city. Therefore, we aim at providing the same high level of services in every ship agency in the 160 countries where we operate. Finally, we are aware that customers do not require only quay services, therefore we must take care of goods also outside the port by providing high value added logistics services. In order to expand our customers portfolio we must focus on the quality and range of our offer, not on its price”, the 48-years old executive Friedberg explained before inviting participants to the 50° anniversary of the French company, which is ready to achieve new goals, as its official slogan ‘Shipping the future’ sums up.
“Thanks to our 200 employees, three quarters of whom are in Genoa, we manage 21 different lines resulting in 2,000 ship calls at 19 terminals in 15 Italian ports. Despite the difficult situation that we are facing due to the collapse of the Morandi bridge, we never thought about moving not even a single ship from Genoa, which will always be our reference port in Italy. By working together as a port community we proved the resilience of our town and of our port in such a tragic situation” Lo Bianco concluded referring to activities in Italy.