Executive Opportunities

Shipping industry calls for an international perspective

by Wing Kei

Shirley Chan, human resources and administration manager, Mediterranean Shipping Company (Hong Kong) Limited

China trade is behind expansion of global transport services

As China's two-way trade has boomed in recent years, so has the volume of business carried by shipping services calling at the country's major ports. And with the economy continuing to expand, the prospects have never looked better for companies in the transportation sector, which have global shipping networks and can meet the demands of a rapidly evolving market.

Mediterranean Shipping Company (Hong Kong) Limited (MSC) has moved quickly to take advantage of these opportunities. They are now ranked second among the world's major container carriers and have gained a reputation for responding to customer needs by providing prompt and effective solutions with a true global reach. Their success can also be put down to having a team of talented professionals who are constantly on the lookout for new business possibilities.

According to Shirley Chan, MSC's human resources and administration manager, the key when dealing with global shippers is to demonstrate efficiency and offer services which are reliable. She adds that speed of action is also crucial and that it is important to keep fully up to date with everything from weather conditions to legal regulations and economic changes, all of which can have an impact on the business. She also says that staff should have a global perspective when faced with problems, since potential solutions may involve the input of colleagues at the other side of the world. "Our industry is truly international and you soon learn that time waits for no one," Ms Chan notes.

Business changes

As they plan for growth, the company is preparing to take on young, energetic recruits with the ambition to build a career in the industry and the ability to develop new business leads. "We are generally looking for fresh graduates and will teach them everything about the sector," says Ms Chan. "We have been taking on more recruits each year and our programme combines theoretical aspects with a focus on practical on-the-job training. This ensures all staff have the necessary skills to meet the ever-changing needs of the business."

MSC also encourages internal promotion and provides extensive career opportunities to help employees get ahead. "We offer training for executives at all levels," Ms Chan adds. "Our staff retention policy is very successful as we offer good rewards and opportunities for promotion." There is a deliberate emphasis on encouraging career development and learning good management practices. As someone moves up through the company, they are given the chance to get experience in different departments and to face new challenges. This allows them to acquire essential skills while learning about new markets, different business cultures and the external economic and political factors which can affect competition within the industry. "One of our objectives is to find ways to capture a larger market share. For this, we need people who possess greater flexibility in running the business and can also see things from an operational viewpoint," she adds. Besides that, MSC managers must possess good communication and delegation skills, so that subordinates receive clear feedback and instructions.

There is little doubt that China's market potential will lead to greater demand for shipping space and services. "China has the manpower and mass production capabilities," Ms Chan says. "This means that in global terms it will be a hub for both export and import trade."

MSC currently has over 160 staff based in Hong Kong. They are mainly in accounting, sales, operations, documentation, human resources and management roles. There are also mainland offices in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Zhongshan, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Shanghai, Ningbo, Qingdao, Beijing and Tianjin, employing a workforce of over 700.

Market knowledge

  • China's economic growth is providing new opportunities for the shipping industry
  • Executives must be ready to react quickly to market conditions and other external factors
  • MSC is recruiting fresh graduates and will provide comprehensive training with an emphasis on practical skills
  • Career progression will allow for experience in different departments and dealing with different business cultures
  • The company is looking to increase market share and sees China as the key to future expansion

Taken from Career Times 12 August 2005
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