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Africa Outlook

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Forwarding
Clearing
Elite

ELITE CLEARING & FORWARDING

A clear winner



Elite Clearing and Forwarding (Pty) Ltd is an expert international shipping company offering comprehensive logistics & freight solutions.

Writer Chris Farnell
Project manager Stuart Shirra

Whatever industry you work in, the chances are that at some point you rely on logistics. Whether it's a question of importing essential supplies, or getting your own products to foreign markets, virtually every company has to, at some point, entrust the cargo that makes it possible for them to do business to someone else, often over a long distance with plenty of potential hazards along the way. Elite Clearing and Forwarding is a company dedicated towards making that part of your business as painless as possible.

As Ben Van Rensburg, Elite Clearing and Forwarding's Managing Director explains, "We see ourselves as a logistical management company. We manage the process from A-Z, making sure everyone involved does whatever is needed to get cargo from the start to the end of its journey with the least possible risk and in the most cost effective way."

The movement of cargo doesn't just involve one component; it may involve trucks, ships, warehouses, harbours or planes, each run by a separate company with its own procedures, rules and communications channels. This creates a potential minefield of problems as cargo is passed from one company to another. Elite Clearing and Forwarding's job is to make that transition as smooth as possible with no or minimal delays at the lowest cost.

"We act somewhat like a musical conductor," Van Rensburg says. "By making sure everything happens when it needs to happen, as it is supposed to happen. We see to it that the cargo is properly insured, with documentation done at the loading and discharge points in time, and the cargo delivered in a timely and safe manner. We cover the entirety of South Africa and do regular imports and exports to all major harbours and cities in South Africa. We also move a lot of cargo into the African continent, as South Africa is largely seen as the gateway into Africa."

The company handles all types of cargo from containerised and heavy machinery through to small air freight consignments. "By us managing the entire international logistics process, it allows our customers to focus on their core business, the manufacturing and/ or selling of their goods. We take away the concerns of international logistic risk management. All they need to do is the buying and / or manufacturing of their products and the selling, and we'll make sure it gets to the right place at the right time," Van Rensburg says. As we've already mentioned, logistics only works well when a whole host of separate organisations are able to communicate and interact well, and Elite Clearing and Forwarding specialises in creating the relationships that allow this to happen. It is the mutual factor that ties the entire international logistics process together. "Our niche is that we provide a personalised logistical solution for our clients. We believe relationships get things done, so it's important to us to have the right relationships with our service providers and customers," van Rensburg says.

"There are a lot of people and companies involved at various points along the way, and it is essential that they have the good relationships that will make sure things go smoothly. So we make sure communication channels are always open and that we work with the right people."

However, because Elite Clearing and Forwarding doesn't run any vehicles of its own, it can often be challenging having its cargo customers' cargo entirely at the mercy of its service providers.

"The biggest challenge we've faced is that we are not in direct control of the harbours, vessels or aircraft so we're sometimes dependant on third parties for the movement our clients' cargo," Van Rensburg admits. "But the reason we exist is that we specialise in sorting out the problems that often arise with shipping lines, airlines, customs and harbours, to make sure there are no undue delays. This we do through good relations with both our clients and the stakeholders in the various stages of the cargo movement."

But delays can be hard to avoid, not just because of local bureaucracy, but also because of problems out of everyone's control like the weather or unexpected events like vessel breakdowns or strikes.

"One of the main issues that we have struggled with is harbour delays both in South Africa and overseas, especially this past year," Van Rensburg explains. "I had a conversation with the chairman of the Harbour Carriers Association of South Africa who said they are having huge problems with climate change in Durban. Weather conditions especially winds are playing havoc with the loading of vessels departing and arriving vessels in ways that we didn't see even last year. Another big issue is we're still seeing delays due to strikes at various points along the cargo's path, and the impact we're still feeling from general world economy."

To combat these problems, Elite Clearing and Forwarding needs good people, both among its service providers and its own staff, and the company has exceedingly high standards when it comes to picking its own team.

"We recruit as widely as possible to attract the best candidates," Van Rensburg says. "We want to make sure we have good employment practices so that we attract talented people that want to work at our company and make sure that the staff are properly motivated and competent as well as trained to handle any shipment that may be handled. At the end of the day we're in a service-based industry. We don't sell crates or containers; we sell a service provided by people, as it is people that make sure cargo moves. Our business is only as good as the person you speak to at the other end of the telephone line, so we make sure every employee is a shipping and usually a product expert as every product has different regulatory and movement requirements. We have in-house training in operational and logistics procedures, including refreshers and ongoing procedural training to identify any gaps in our people's training to improve our staff as necessary."

Of course, if you're investing that much in your staff, you want to keep hold of them and so Elite Clearing and Forwarding provides plenty of incentive for them to stay with the company. "Our staff turnover is low because we believe that to retain staff you have to look at the entire package, not just salary but work culture, and ensure that although we're busy and sometimes require long working hours, we make sure people can live a life outside of the office," Van Rensburg says.

So what for the future of Elite Clearing and Forwarding? "There's huge opportunity for growth, especially in Africa," he explains. "We believe we're doing something right because a lot of companies have stayed loyal with us over the years and new clients come continuously on board. As long as we continue what we're doing, we will always have a competitive edge and the company will keep on growing. It is important that our clients are at all times informed of the exact status and locations of their cargo and for that we use various technological systems because we believe that we're a communications company as much as a cargo company. We can't control the weather or the harbour conditions but we can control our communication with our clients, so we're always working to make sure that our clients are constantly informed and up to date regarding their shipments."

To learn more visit www.elitecf.co.za.