The shipping industry got a wake-up call when the trade war with China upset global shipping. Normal shipping procedures became extraordinary shipping procedures when the U.S. imposed tariffs on merchandise that Americans incorporated into their daily lives. And when President Trump decided to slap sanctions on Iran, shippers had to adjust their normal shipping procedures again.
The coronavirus pandemic also challenged shipping agents. When economies around the world went into lockdown mode in March and April, the industry took a major hit. Crews got caught in foreign ports, and the information they received didn’t help them understand what would happen next. But Frank Olsen, the CEO of Inchcape Shipping Services, knew he had to step up and focus on the economic challenges that threatened his company, and he relied on information technology to achieve that goal.
ISS CEO Frank Olsen Developed a Transparency Initiative In 2019 To Strengthen Business Relationships
One of the first things Olsen did was to find a way to stop the economic bleeding by cutting ties with the company’s Middle East freight forwarding operation. That move cut Inchcape’s debt in half, and it gave the shipping agent more economic breathing room during the pandemic.
Mr. Olsen told Seatrade Maritime News his main objection during the pandemic was to strengthen the company’s global office network. Inchcape has more than 240 offices, and it has partnership relationships with shipping agencies around the globe. Inchcape acts as a shipping agent in 68 countries and does business in more than 2,500 ports. That means Inchcape does business with 85% of the world’s seaports.
Olson also told Seatrade Maritime News Inchcape is one of the top three shipping agents on the planet. But what makes Inchcape Shipping Services different from GAC, another top shipping agent that focuses more on logistics, and the highly diversified agent Wilhelmsen is Inchcape’s single-minded focus on ports and shipping. But Olsen points out his company does get involved in other activities, but his main focus is to ship goods with transparency and integrity.
Mr. Olsen said the shipping industry is in a fragmented state due to the fact that 80% of the shipping market share is in the hands of small shippers who may not be as trustworthy as they seem. Even though Olsen took the Inchcape CEO position in 2018, he wasted no time setting up a “Transparency” initiative in 2019. The goal of that initiative was to build meaningful relationships with Inchcape clients.
ISS CEO Frank Olsen provided key information on the company’s website during the pandemic that listed possible flight and crew changes. And he made sure the three full-time Inchcape employees in three different time zones collected and updated pertinent information, so his clients could make adjustments to their business strategies. The Inchcape website received more than 160,000 hits, and a lot of praise from managers, ship operators, and other interested international companies that needed trustworthy information about shipping issues that could have an impact on their economic future.
Inchcape also helped resolve a complex issue in India when more than 3,600 seafarers from four major cruise ships had to disembark. That Inchcape operation proved the company’s mindset is to work with other companies and agents in the shipping industry in a trustworthy manner. Mr. Olsen is a firm believer in information technology. The company just redid its digital database of world port and shipping information. That information is a subscription service, according to Olsen.
ISS CEO Frank Olsen told the press he will continue to develop a corporate culture that demonstrates transparency, trust, and integrity in the shipping business.