Industry association drives logistics developments

by Carmen To

Arnold Lee, treasurer, Hong Kong Association of Freight Forwarding and Logistics Limited

Helping freight professionals maintain Hong Kong's competitive edge

HAFFA, or the Hong Kong Association of Freight Forwarding and Logistics Limited, to give the organisation its full name, has a growing list of responsibilities. The non-profit making body represents more than 330 corporate members, including most of the leading players in the local logistics sector. Its main objectives are to promote, protect and assist the development of carriers of goods by various modes of transport, and to create a better business environment for their diverse interests.

This requires active involvement in many different areas. For example, there is the need to lobby the government and liaise with the Civil Aviation Department, Customs and Excise Department, industry authorities and local operators. It is also necessary to set business standards, provide training, and oversee development programmes to enhance the degree of professionalism in the industry.

In addition, HAFFA is expected to facilitate trade and logistics services by voicing members' views and concerns in international forums. These might be meetings of the Federation of Asia Pacific Air Cargo Associations (FAPAA), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), or the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations (FIATA).

Industry overview

Association treasurer Arnold Lee believes the industry will continue to expand in the future. "The official statistics and forecasts for both air and ocean transport indicate considerable growth," he says. "That will also provide a boost for support services like distribution and warehousing, which are an important part of the entire supply chain. I have to say that the integrated logistics services now available for customers are of a very high standard."

Mr Lee explains that HAFFA's priority is to safeguard members' best interests. "We make a point of initiating discussions with the relevant authorities," he says. "These could relate to overall cost competitiveness, regulations, or the development of infrastructure, all of which can be affected by fast-changing global trends."

Although the competition posed by facilities in Guangzhou and Shenzhen has intensified recently, Mr Lee is optimistic about the prospects for Hong Kong's logistics sector. He says there is still a clear advantage in terms of well-functioning infrastructure, systems, business mentality and experience.

"Other cities in the region may have ambitions to take Hong Kong's position as a leading international hub, but they won't find it easy," he says. "The CEPA arrangement will help local logistics and freight forwarding companies to set up in China, so they will be able to expand their businesses and won't lose out."

Service transformation

The perception remains, however, that when it comes to attracting the top candidates, the logistics industry ranks behind sectors like finance, accounting and IT. Mr Lee is aware of this but notes that, comparatively speaking, logistics offers the chance to build a stable and varied long-term career. "There will always be good jobs because so many companies now depend on efficient logistics services," he explains. "Also, we are offering ever more sophisticated services in supply chains, not just arranging the traditional transportation of goods." Consequently, there is a need for generalists who can sell customers one-stop solutions, as well as for specialists able to handle order follow-up, sea and air freight, customs clearance, warehousing and IT.

In view of the wide range of jobs available, Mr Lee advises people new to the sector to form a good understanding of day-to-day operations. They should take every opportunity to work in different departments and locations. This will allow them to gain experience and broader exposure.

"We expect employees to be disciplined and punctual, since staff should understand that reliability and on-time performance are crucial to the success of the industry," he notes. "Besides that, being creative, inquisitive, and able to solve problems are qualities that will definitely help people in their jobs."

He adds that those who fit the bill should have excellent prospects in Hong Kong and, increasingly, will be highly sought after for management and operational roles in the mainland.

Supply chain reaction

  • Despite the challenge presented by facilities in South China, Hong Kong's logistics industry is still going strong
  • HAFFA has multiple roles in coordinating initiatives, providing education, and representing the local logistics sector in international forums
  • As managing the supply chain becomes more important, new career opportunities are opening up
  • The terms of the CEPA agreement should allow Hong Kong logistics companies to compete effectively with their counterparts in China

Taken from Career Times 31 March 2006
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