Value-added services create new business opportunities

by Alex Chan

Simon Doughty, director, Wallem Shipping (HK) Limited

Customer-centered philosophy opens up new business segments for one of Asia's leading shipping companies

Wallem Shipping (HK) Limited has found that following the business maxim of satisfying the customer not only promotes customer loyalty but can also lead to new business opportunities.

"We are always looking for new ways of simplifying the process and creating a more enjoyable experience for the customer," says Simon Doughty, director at Wallem Shipping (HK) Limited.

To satisfy customer needs, the company is continuously developing value-added services that are a step away from the company's core businesses - ship management, ship broking and ship agency, moving towards cargo and supply chain management.

The main reason a ship goes anywhere is its cargo, which can be anything from oil, coal, finished goods, chemicals or even passengers. "We want to be more involved in cargo and simplify the handling process to ensure that the customer - whether a receiver, exporter, broker or ship owner - has a better and smoother service," says Mr Doughty.

By tapping into the supply chain management sector, Wallem is entering a huge growth market where many large-scale companies are increasingly outsourcing their logistics needs to companies that specialise in high-volume supply chain management. Mr Doughty explains that many companies have time sensitive advertising campaigns where products must be in stores and on the shelves "just-in-time". To achieve this they need a reliable logistics provider.

Cruising through

Their experience in value-added services has also positioned Wallem to take advantage of the growing cruise market in Hong Kong. International cruise companies that have not operated in Hong Kong in the past are now entering the market and will set up cruises that start and finish in the region. "The cruise market is a huge growth industry here at the moment. Companies such as Carnival Group which owns Costa Cruises, have entered the market and will be running cruises out of Hong Kong and Shanghai. Other cruise companies are also looking to do the same from Singapore," says Mr Doughty.

He explains that the region may emulate the popularity of cruises in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. Whereas, in the past, most cruises simply stopped in Asia as part of a world trip; in the future, they will start and finish in Asia, allowing Asian travellers easier access to cruise vacations.

The opportunity to tap the huge mainland China market means that this sector has tremendous growth potential. Wallem has been working closely with the cruise trade in both inside and outside Hong Kong to determine how they can best provide associated value-added services.

Asia's hub

Mr Doughty is certain that Hong Kong will maintain its status as Asia's logistics hub. "With the airport and seaports, the Hong Kong government has shown a commitment to making it strong," he says. "Hong Kong will remain a hub for main line vessels. The infrastructure of customs and other services makes it simple for shippers to come to Hong Kong, which becomes a feeder port for other countries in nearby area which are not geared up to handle the larger ships."

Such bright prospects are leading to an expansion of operations at Wallem and the company is currently recruiting boarding agents, documentation staff and operations managers. Mr Doughty stresses that the job is very much about people. On the other hand, as a financial hub, Hong Kong's financial institutions have been attracting many top candidates. This, nevertheless, poses as a challenge currently facing the shipping industry. "Although the financial sector is looking for different skill sets, they are also looking for the personable quality that we are and it will be a challenge for us to attract candidates away from finance into shipping," says Mr Doughty.

Smooth operator

  • Commitment to customer satisfaction through smooth and extensive services creates loyal customers
  • Enhanced value-added services increase customer experience and create new business opportunities
  • Strong cargo processing capabilities allows the company to take advantage of the supply chain management boom
  • Wallem's experience in varied services allows it to take advantage of the growing cruise industry in Hong Kong and Singapore
  • Government dedication to the industry means that Hong Kong will remain Asia's logistics hub
  • The shipping industry is people focused and requires individuals who are personable and driven by interaction

Taken from Career Times 21 July 2006
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