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Maersk Line in China – The business of big volumes and big responsibilities

This month we have been talking about trade in China, one of Maersk Line’s biggest markets, and the socio-economic evolution China is undergoing. Maersk Line has been operating in China since the beginning of the 20th century. David Williams, Managing Director of Maersk Line East & Central China explains more about the social set up from the business point of view.  

DWI 02Talking about how the culture in China is a bit different when it comes to running an organization, David Williams comments, “When it comes to the work culture in China, there is an intense focus on delivering the deadlines on a week in and week out basis. That’s something that keeps the pressure on to a large extent. The team believes in clarity of objectives and how they are to be achieved. Proper directions and support is something that keeps high quality execution. Also, there is more emphasis given to the recognition to the team, not just an individual.”

Speaking more on how to go about getting your business right when in China, David explains, “Expectation management plays an important role in determining your rapport with your customers and counterparts. One needs to be precise about what you can deliver, your requirements and how would you go about getting it done. This involves truly understanding our customer’s needs with a lot of probing questions and being explicit, it’s still the preferred choice over ambiguity in the discussions.”

Conducting the business in an environment that’s evolving this fast is no mean feat. David mentions about that one thing that keeps him and his team on top of all things, “Delivering the right volumes on the week in and week out basis is something that’s unique about working in China. Because the volumes are big, if you miss a week you don’t often get the opportunity to make it up.”

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“Once you put on that white shirt, it’s the rank that speaks not your gender” – Maersk Line’s female captains


20130530_lisa-gaarslev_articleIt’s undeniable, Lise Gaarslev Hansen radiates authority and leadership. But on the other hand her softly spoken and at times quixotic nature seems like an unlikely pairing with one of the most covered jobs in the Maritime industry – Captain of the Morten Maersk, one of Maersk Line’s Triple E vessels.

Like her counterpart, for Pia Jensen Christensen, Captain of the Luna Maersk there is no doubt: a love of the seas is something you’re born with. Pia’s sense of adventure was something even her mother noticed at a young age while Lise’s pursuit of a maritime career started as a young girl when she would go sailing with her father and sisters. Both women climbed through the ranks working on Maersk Line ships for most of their careers, culminating in the ultimate honour and responsibility – a captain of a Maersk Line vessel.

When reflecting on her early days as a mariner, Lise never imagined that she would receive this level of success. “I just thought small. I didn’t have any grand plans – I just wanted to get on board, that was my goal. I never even thought becoming a Captain would be possible” says Lise modestly. Not only did she get on board, but she was supported by Maersk Line throughout her career and climbed the ranks culminating in the ultimate post as a Captain of one of Maersk Line’s renowned Triple E vessels.

At this stage of Lise’s career, the work of a captain is now second nature. “You don’t get nervous, the adrenaline kicks in and you remember your training. That’s important and it keeps you on your toes and you never forget the immense responsibility you have towards the ship, your crew and the cargo” says Lise.

“Once you put on that white shirt, it’s the rank that speaks not your gender”


Female captains are still in the minority within the industry. But according to both Lise, Pia and Zetta Gous-Conradie, Master on the Safmarine Kuramo, it’s the rank that speaks volumes, not gender. “In my experience a captain is a captain is a captain. There is no difference in how we get treated” says Zetta. Lise agrees and states that “once you put on that white shirt, there is a level of respect that you receive.”

‘While handing over the controls of the Luna Maersk to an Egyptian pilot in the Suez Canal, he suddenly handed me a cell phone and says ‘my wife wants to talk to you’. When I got on the phone his wife was full of praise saying ‘well done, we’re so proud of you!’ It’s nice to know that people are cheering for my success” says Pia.

A pursuit of passion

For Lise, working at sea is a pursuit of passion: “I couldn’t spend half my life at sea if I didn’t love it. You need to take pleasure in the small things; a beautiful sunset, a whale sighting, it’s being out in nature that I really love.”

Zetta agrees saying that “sitting in traffic to get to work would drive me crazy. I wouldn’t give up my job for any other job in the world. Well, maybe a chocolate-tester” says Zetta with a laugh.

*Luna Maersk image credits: Ron van de Velde for shipspotting.com

Maersk Line in China – Keeping up the momentum with the evolving economy

China’s international trade has grown rapidly in the past few decades. This has had a significant impact on China’s economic growth and raised income levels in the country. China is now the world’s leading trade nation. As one of the first foreign shipping lines given license to operate in China, Maersk Line has serviced the country since the beginning of the 20th century. Today, China is one of Maersk Line’s biggest markets.

MAERSK Customers World China 01

From being the ‘factory floor of the world’ to emerging as the centre for global consumption, China’s socio-economic set-up is in the midst of change. David Williams, who is responsible for Maersk Line’s activities in East China, speaks about what it takes to deliver consistently in the highly dynamic environment.

“The GDP has declined over the past couple of years and the overall sentiment is a bit uncertain. Production is also shifting within China resulting in South China stagnating while growth opportunities still exist in North and East & Central China. However, we need to recognize that it’s not feasible to continue the growth of double digits going forward. There is a lot of focus on reform and the quality of GDP in China and we can be positive of the growth opportunities that exist out there.”

“With changes like some  manufacturing jobs moving back to the US, near sourcing, lower value production moving to Vietnam and Bangladesh, the volumes exporting out of China have seen a decline in growth. However, there has been positive impact on intra-Asia cargo volumes” he explains further.

In other economic factors, China’s ambitious Silk Road project can be seen as a potential factor that can impact the business such as sea freight. David, however, doesn’t see it as a development that will affect sea freight for a foreseeable future. “The rail capacity is currently limited to only three trains a week with a capacity of 50 – 70 FFE each. Considering that we ship with Maersk Line 21,000 FFE a week out of the 4 East China ports, there is a considerable difference in the volumes.  As of now, it seems that rail freight will be competition for air freight on high value products such as electronics more than sea freight.”

Maersk Line’s new East-West network will have considerable positive impact for our customers in China. Although it’s a little too early to comment on the overall feedback on the new East-West network, we do look forward to  fantastic new opportunities for export and imports. In terms of implications to our customers, the perception overall is really good. There  is some apprehensions about how would it impact our biggest differentiator  – reliability. However, we are positive that in a few months,  concerns will be allayed and the East-West network will add to our existing capabilities.”

When we talk of the evolving social – economic background, an interesting aspect of business in China is the customer service solutions. In China, the majority of booking communication to the customers is through online platforms. “In terms of the e-commerce revolution in China, Our customers have taken a giant leap and have gone to mobile platforms skipping the laptop  ‘phase’. 99.9 percent of all of our bookings are done online platforms like Inttra, EDI or maerskline.com. Interestingly, we also use the social platforms like WeChat as a communication tool. For example, during the course of Q3 we faced an issue of equipment shortages and wanted to guide our customers regarding the equipment availability. We started communicating to the customers via WeChat and it was an efficient solution. We are constantly looking at the latest innovations on the e-commerce front to enhance our customer experience.”

One of the key aspects that can influence the business in China is the social focus on the environment. Environmentally sustainable development is a key priority in China’s 12th five-year plan. Maersk Line’s sustainability endeavours that contribute to the country’s logistics performance and reducing carbon in the supply chain therefore become one of the differentiators. “Our sustainability efforts are very well received by our customers and they are keen to know more about them.”

Maersk Line awarded the ‘Best Global Carrier 2014’ from Kuehne + Nagel

Maersk Line has won the ‘Best Global Carrier 2014′ award from one of its largest customers Kuehne + Nagel for best interaction with the freight forwarder’s operational staff worldwide.

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In January, global freight forwarder Kuehne + Nagel presented the Best Global Carrier 2014 to Maersk Line.

“I see this as a sign that the work done by our front line staff to improve our customer service performance is working” says Karsten Kildahl, Regional Chief Executive for Northern Europe and Kuehne + Nagel Executive Sponsor.

The honour of being named ‘Best Global Carrier’ comes from the great performance across several service categories of electronic booking process, performance, documentation, sales coverage, customer service and billing.

Maersk Line Chief Commercial Officer Stephen Schueler commented, “With the launch of our new CARE program and the progress made with our Customer Charter, it is a positive sign from one of our largest customer to be recognised. Congratulations to our Kuehne + Nagel  team and our frontline organisation across the world who enable our customer relationships.”

The recognition does come with the feedback for further enhancement of our services. Karsten says, “We won, and we should be proud about that, but that doesn’t stop us from aiming for higher and better. We need to not only keep our momentum going but also improvise to ensure better services.”

In the pic: Maersk Line CEO Soren Skou receives the award from Otto Schacht, Executive Vice President of Seafreight for Kuehne + Nagel