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18 February 2021
Ahead of Intermodal Connect, March 16-18, we spoke with Container xChange's (CEO & Co-Founder) Christian Roeloffs and Dr Johannes Schlingmeier. See what they had to say below:
1. In your view, what does the outlook for the industry look like?
We have a rather positive outlook for the industry. This is however highly dependent on the COVID-19 situation and vaccine distribution. At the moment, there is still lots of chaos across the industry whether equipment shortage across Asia, port congestion and so on. In the US, container shipping supply chains have been under pressure since last summer and now the Port of LA is coping with an outbreak of COVID-19 and labour shortages. In China, specifically Shanghai, our Container Availability Index reached record lows in December 2020. In January however, a growth of 37.5% for 40HCs and even 200% for 40DCs was recorded. This shows a positive trend for shippers and forwarders who are looking for equipment in Shanghai, and we also observed similar trends in major hubs across Asia like Singapore, Nhava Sheva and Port Klang. Additionally, we’re seeing an increasing demand for digital products, transparency and digital collaboration. One thing is for sure, the supply chain chaos has at least increased the speed of digitalization in our industry significantly, which is certainly a good thing!
2. Has your firm launched any innovative products or new initiatives over the course of the pandemic?
We launched a Trading marketplace to remove frictions when buying and selling containers and make it possible for parties to do so on a neutral online marketplace. Over 200 companies already use the trading marketplace regularly for their trading activities. This includes payments guaranteed, background checks, as well as full support from our xChange service team.In addition, we launched Public company profiles to increase transparency and trust within the industry. Especially during the times of COVID-19, being seen is more important than ever. Hence through our public company profiles listings, all companies in transportation and logistics can now sign up for a free company profile to increase visibility and see how other companies perform operationally, as well as receive ratings from previous partners.
3. How well do you feel the intermodal industry as a whole has reacted to the pandemic?
What we hear from our members is that everyone is giving their best to cope with the situation, showing again that the intermodal industry is indeed the backbone of global trade. Although this may sometimes turn out to be difficult especially since many tasks cannot simply be done remotely (eg: daily tasks of port workers). Also., due to the chaoses across the industry (eg: sky high freight rates and instabilities in container availability), we see that the industry is adapting at a rapid speed and that digital solutions are growing. We are a testament to that → At Container xChange itself we tripled our customer base in 2020.
4. What key trends do you see shaping the industry over the next few years?
For sure, digital collaboration - like never before, companies are working with each other without having to meet up in person. In a time characterised by great change, having choices and innovative solutions to achieve our goals are crucial. Online platforms such as Freightos or Container xChange and the Digital Container Shipping Associations (with their approach to standardize and simplify how stakeholders within the industry communicate with one another) contribute to that ideal. Transparency is key! Instead of making decisions based on gut feeling, operational performance and partner reviews/recommendations will become the main driver of why companies choose to do business with each other. This is a consequence of trends in digital collaboration and transparency will be needed for companies to keep up the momentum.We believe that the digitalisation of the industry will allow SME forwarders to have a larger stake in the game. With an increase in digital collaboration, SME forwarders get access to tools & services through networks and digital platforms that at a time only the big guys had. If SME forwarders choose to step up and leverage on digitizing their businesses now, it presents a huge chance for them to step up.
5. How has your business responded to the COVID-19 pandemic?
At xChange we help companies find equipment to buy or lease - hence we were able triple our growth in 2020, as companies have been looking for alternatives to source and lease containers as well as a demand for transparency. Mainly due to the speed that our platform offers, it has provided our members with a competitive advantage. With our new public company profiles, xChange has for the first time opened its services to the public in response to the crisis. We are proud of the fact that we help our members remain competitive in such chaotic times and are on track to innovate the industry further.
6. Why is exhibiting at Intermodal Connect important for your business in 2021?
We love meeting up with our partners in person and the Intermodal gives us that opportunity to meet the entire industry in one place. It's like meeting up with friends and family . We’re very much looking forward to that!