“There goes our container,” says Gwen Casama, a marketing executive of Gothong Southern, as she surveys Bonifacio Drive from the doorstep of Citadel Building, where the Manila branch of the cargo shipping line has its office. Five minutes later, another truck-borne yellow box inches its way amid the 3pm traffic buildup.
“There goes another of our box. It’s elating to see our containers pass by, it’s good for our company,” Casama said.
“Good” is how Rex Yuvienco, Vice President of Gothong Southern who heads the Manila operation, describes the company’s performance in the past year.
“Last year was good, but we think we can still improve some more,” Yuvienco said in an interview with PortCalls Asia.
The growing economy contributed to the revenue surge in 2012, Yuvienco said. But that optimism was shaken in the first three months of this year, when Gothong Southern’s revenues slipped as rival shipping lines increased capacity and new operators entered the sector, keeping local freight rates under pressure.
“Although the volume may have increased, capacity also grew, he said. “Such growth in volume has not really resulted in excess demand in our company, because many shipping lines are emerging.”
Despite the setback, the Cebu-based company is pursuing fundamental changes began last year with focus on its people, improving its systems, guided by one of its corporate values “safety and security” as it sails through 2013, which it calls the “Year of Synergy.”
Yuvienco said Gothong Southern, an offshoot of the WGA (William Gothong Aboitiz) breakup in the early 2000s, has a fleet of five ships that ply four ports, namely Cebu (its headquarters), Manila, Cagayan de Oro and Tacloban.
Instead of adding new ships, the company said it will re-fleet by replacing its smaller vessels with faster and bigger vessels.
“Currently, what we want to do is emphasize on strengthening our capabilities. We have been very focused on safety and security. You will see ‘Think Safety’ stickers on our containers.”
“Once we are ready, that’s the time we will venture on opening other ports.” Yuvienco said.
Yuvienco said the firm has ordered an additional 800 brand new containers and four trucks to provide haulage in case its third-party contractors fail to deliver.
“The challenge now is finding the volume for the return leg of the liner’s routes, where the head-haul/back-haul gap is great. “Perhaps the ratio is 70-30,” Yuvienco said, in favor of ex-Manila cargo, admitting this is not cost-efficient especially as bunker fuel accounts for 60% of every shipping company’s expenses.
Set up in 2005, the company is not in a hurry to expand its network and sail to a foreign port. For now it is concentrating on the business at hand.
“We have plans of going overseas by 2013… to be really one of the big players in Asia Pacific,” Yuvienco said.
After its “transformational year” 2012, the company is focusing on improving its service to customers in this “year of synergy”, with the battlecry, “One Team, One Goal”.
“We have recently invested on upgrading our front-end systems. We are working on becoming ISO-certified,” said Susan Nemeño, Assistant Vice President for Finance. “Our target is to finish the project by the end of the third quarter of this year. We are also looking at acquiring a more sophisticated cargo traffic system, because we want to provide our clients real-time information about their shipments,” she said.
Image from www.gothong.com