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10 March 2021
Ahead of Intermodal Connect, March 16-18, we spoke with Boxxport's new CEO, Paul Wolter to find out how they have responded to COVID19 and to understand his outlook for the industry. Discover what he had to say below:
1. In your view, what does the outlook for the industry look like?
The global container scarcity, to be more precise the global imbalance of container supply, has a never seen before influence on global supply chains and production. As Chinese New Year did not have as calming an effect as some suspected, the situation in Europe and the U.S. will remain at least as critical as it currently is. The current situation will continue for a while, at least until Q4 2021. The current situation is creating pressure on all participants to take advantage of the benefits of digital technologies and products. These technologies provide more transparency in the market, flexibility and speed. They generate networks and reduce transaction costs. The industry has always been very competitive but the players who take advantage of digital solutions will have a significant advantage. It is unavoidable to open up to these developments if you want to remain competitive in the future. To make it short: I am convinced that digital solutions will play a significant role in improving the current situation and will lead to a more solidly positioned industry.
2. Has your firm launched any innovative products or new initiatives over the course of the pandemic?
Yes, quite a few. As we are a B2B marketplace for container trading, we already try to support the industry to innovate but during the last 12 months we have launched new features on our platform. Most recently we introduced the full-service upload. Just send us your file with the container information, in whatever format, and we will list it on our marketplace. It has never been easier to sell containers online. Before that we integrated the negotiation tool which makes negotiating as simple as it should be. Due to the container scarcity we also introduced the container radar. This way our users get informed as soon as containers they are interested in are available, i.e. at the desired location, in the desired condition and at the desired price.
3. How well do you feel the intermodal industry as a whole has reacted to the pandemic?
The industry responded as well as it could under the circumstances. We have seen a strong increase in the number of new accounts on our marketplace. This means that the industry reacted quickly and successfully as it sought new sources for containers with BOXXPORT. The acceptance of digital solutions, to make markets more transparent, is also rising sharply. This is not only true for BOXXPORT. We have also observed that local or regional traders or other market participants who need equipment are now sourcing globally via BOXXPORT to meet the market situation.
4. What do you see as the major risks to the industry as it recovers from the effects of COVID-19?
Probably the greatest risk is that we continue as before, that we learn nothing from the crisis we are currently in. It is certain that such exceptional situations will occur again that will have similar or perhaps even greater effects on our industry. The question is not if, but when the next crisis will come. The challenge is for our industry to become more resilient to such stresses, but at the same time not to lose any of its efficiency and performance. For example, the industry lacks transparency of prices and availabilities of containers which leads to great inefficiencies. All market participants benefit from transparency and do better and more profitable business on a transparent market. We want to help the market to get closer to this ideal.
5. What key trends do you see shaping the industry over the next few years?
The logistics and container industry has recently been on the tech world's radar. Tech investors and company builders have been keeping an eye on the (from a technology perspective) underdeveloped market and business models. We will see many players in this industry in the coming years, bringing in methods, technologies and approaches from other markets that are already extensively digitized. That's good, because it's the only way our industry will be able to take advantage of digital tools and opportunities within a short period of time.
6. How has your business responded to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Our business has developed well as more and more players become aware of the benefits of digital solutions. In our case, it’s a B2B marketplace for trading ocean containers. Using real-time data on container availability and price, SO(C) containers can be traded in 184 countries around the world, no matter where they are located - whether in port, on a construction site or on a company's premises. BOXXPORT creates complete transparency - for the local trader, via industrial companies, up to globally operating freight forwarders. The global trade with containers thus becomes faster, more efficient and more convenient. I think that’s what our users liked the most, especially in these challenging times. For example, just last week we helped a local freight forwarder in Europe to fulfill its needs in four locations all over Europe as its regular supplier only had limited resources. Now both, the freight forwarder and his regular supplier do business on BOXXPORT.
7. Why is exhibiting at Intermodal Connect important for your business in 2021?
This is one of the meetings you have to attend to keep in touch with partners and customers and to build up new relationship in our industry. I am looking forward to the experiment of the all-digital INTERMODAL in March. I am sure it will succeed. At the same time, of course, we look forward to seeing our partners and friends again in real life, hopefully in fall.