Following Navis' debut Asia Pacific Summit in September 2018 in Qingdao, China, PTI spoke to Bruce Jacquemard, Chief Customer Officer about the trends affecting the shipping supply chain in the APAC region.
In the first part of a two-part Q&A, we discussed the key takeaways of the APAC Summit, the US-China Trade War, the effects of smart technologies and what the rest of the world can learn from the big industry players in the region.
PTI: How would you describe Navis’ recent APAC summit?
Jacquemard: It was exceptional. We ended up over subscribed for what we had been planning and we had a good cross-section of customers and prospects looking to learn more about what we do. We were very pleased with the outcome.
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PTI: What would you say are the key takeaways from it?
Jacquemard: The trends we’re seeing in the region continue to point towards larger terminal capability and capacity, including larger vessels.
Also, the Belt and Road Initiative, which is may be the next step in answering the question – ‘How do I leverage value in intermodal?’
There was a lot of discussion around how to take operations beyond the yard and continue to get value.
PTI: How would you describe the mood of the summit, considering the uncertainty brought about by the US-China trade war?
Jacquemard: It was interesting. We had a lot of discussion and most of what we heard suggested there was very little material impact on the volume and customer base.
That was kind of a theme, and whether it could materialise in the future, everyone in just keeping their eyes, but the focus is one how to continue to drive value in the next part of the supply chain.
PTI: There have been reports that manufacturers are moving away from China and starting to look towards other economies in the region, was that a theme you picked up at the APAC summit?
Jacquemard: We’ve seen some activity in other parts of the region but it isn’t necessarily at the expense of China. The biggest terminals remain bullish and still have their foot on the gas pedal.
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PTI: What about technical innovation in the APAC region, how optimistic are operators in regards to blockchain or IoT?
Jacquemard: From an innovation standpoint, automation is on the frontline of this. QQTCN has published results that are some of the highest that we have seen anywhere in the world for volume and automation in terminals, so they’ve had some very good results.
If you look at it just from that stand point from a fully-automated to a semi-automated move into auto-RTGs.
In the region as a whole, we’re seeing a lot of interest, not just in China, but we had visitors from the Philippines, Australia, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and there’s a trend towards automation from an innovation stand point.
We also had discussions around blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. The AI in machine learning are natural extensions from an automation stand point because, as the robots are getting smarter every day, you’re capturing all that learning and it gets fed into the algorithm.
That’s a natural extension, I think it’s one of those where someone will always ask ‘how does that affect the industry?’
We’re monitoring it closely and are involved in some initiatives globally, not necessarily in APAC, but globally, and thinking, ‘what’s the value that it can bring to the container and supply chain workflow?’
We haven’t launched anything formally yet but it is something that we think could be material in the future.
PTI: What are the big challenges facing the APAC region? Where are the holes in the supply chain?
Jacquemard: It is similar to what we see in other parts of the world and it isn’t that different in APAC. In APAC you have a bigger geography, so typically longer moves in a service – so we’re seeing a trend towards using large vessels.
I think the trend towards a more efficient service between shipper and terminal is something we’re seeing a lot of focus on in APAC – certainly in terms of feeder efficiency.
That includes really trying to take advantage of skews and shipments, and to get more granular in terms of what is being moved and how it’s being moved. That’s what we’ve seen with a lot of the bigger terminal operators and since many other are based in the APAC region, we’re starting to see some good leadership.
PTI: Are there any parts of the APAC which are particularly strong in that regard?
Jacquemard: If you look at innovation and the things that are being done in Australia, for example, what we’re seeing is some very interesting intermodal rail innovation, which ties directly into the outbound activities from the terminals, including the Moorbank Project [an infrastructure development project with the aim of transforming containerised freight movement through the Port of Botany], which the N4 is a big part of.
In terms of technology, Tianjing, China, is trying to implement a TOS system from an IP standpoint and support the entire manufacturing region and engage the entire supply chain in the region.
We’re seeing movements from all the way up in the north of China down to Australia and New Zealand involving a lot of innovation which we think will make a positive impact and be an example for other parts of the world, including North America and Europe.
Bruce Jacquemard is Chief Customer Officer at Navis, a global leader in supplying operational technologies and services that unlock greater performance and efficiency for some of the world's leading organizations across the shipping supply chain.