The recent opening of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) exemplifies the commitment that the region has to sustaining its impeccable growth. Feeding this need is cross-border activities that bring much needed supplies and goods back and forth between neighboring countries.
An important element to sustaining this growth is building infrastructure to accommodate the growth. Logistics providers in the region are at the front line in developing the techniques and growing bonds between each other to achieve their universal goals. However, very few in the industry have the experience and know-how to provide integrated project logistics management and specialized cargo transportation services to shippers of heavy oversized equipment for engineering, procurement, and construction companies.
CEA Logistics has been around since the very beginning of this boom in heavy transportation and project logistics in the Mekong region. CEA began by providing support services to the lift industry. This eventually evolved into project logistics, while still maintain their knowledge of good operation sense behind the scenes. The next step in their journey is a move towards general freight forwarding, along with expanding to other regions in the area including Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, and all the regions within Thailand. Providing a turn-key solution for customers is the ultimate goal of logistics providers, allowing them to service any of the needs a customer may demand. CEA is well on the way to making this a reality with their multi-service disciplines and ever increasing range of partnerships with other international logistics providers. Andy Hall, Operations Director for CEA, recently sat down with us to discuss further the plans for the CEA Logistics group and his general insight into the project logistics arena.
Thailand and Beyond
Thailand was the first region where CEA broke ground and where their operation has stayed and thrived for over 15 years. Thanks to Thailand’s strategic position and generally more refined infrastructure compared to its neighbors, has allowed CEA to establish a strong foundation in country, while beginning to expand outward. As Mr. Hall says,” I think the focus will always be on Thailand for the time being. This is where our head office and the majority of our operations support for the region as a whole is based. While we’ll always have a focus here, we’ve always had projects and operations in other countries as well. Having this strong base in Thailand has allowed us to expand outwards.”
One of the first and riskiest moves for the young company was to expand into Myanmar in the fledgling years of the country first opening its doors to foreign investors. Going into Myanmar at this time was certainly a high risk move, but one where CEA were able to see the opportunities outweighed these risks. It took a couple years to find their foothold in country and become successful with their operations and projects. While two years isn’t a long time for an expansion like this, financially for a young company like CEA, it was a trying time. They came out on the other end stronger and with the experience needed to take their operation to the next level.
“Myanmar is certainly a difficult country to manage in terms of business,” said Mr. Hall. “We’re still learning ourselves, but our benefit is that we did manage to get into the country in the early years and managed to get equipment on the ground and we’re at least known within the country. A majority of our focus in Myanmar is also to support other forwarders that are looking to have a presence in the country but maybe not commit, but it’s a program were willing to support, along with operational support and providing services on the ground in country. That’s something 4 years ago we certainly didn’t have in the area.”
Recently, CEA released information that they would be expanding their operation into both Vietnam and Laos with the operation of two new logistics bases in each region. Their experiences in Myanmar will certainly help in their expansion to these other countries. Mr. Hall said, “Certainly for Vietnam it had been an ambition for quite some time to begin a venture there, maybe even before Myanmar. It’s of course a much more mature environment than Myanmar so there’s already quite a bit of competition. Purely from a risk vs reward stand point, not understanding exactly how business is run in Vietnam was a big factor in us taking our time. If we go in without understanding the ground rules, we end up spending much more time there trying to learn how it works. With our experience, we’ve found a partner who’s well fielded and well-rounded who understands the industry, operations, and how things work. So when we did enter into Vietnam we entered and started the company off on the right foot by quoting work and starting day one, and that’s exactly what we did.”
A Diverse Portfolio
“Diversifying your core competencies is a key to success,” says Mr. Hall. “We have developed a wide range of specialties from project logistics, heavy transportation, heavy lift, freight forwarding, warehousing, storage & handling, cargo consolidation, engineering, and fumigation services. We’re always looking to expand our services and example of this is with contract logistics. We’ve been supporting this with a number of different customers and it’s an area where we believe we’ve got room for growth in the region. We go into it as a logistician where we look at the process of how our customer is currently operating and we give them a cost benefit or a benefit in terms of how we can streamline their current services.”
Mr. Hall also went into more detail about how the energy sector is a large part of their heavy lift and transportation verticals. Renewables should see a large expansion in the region over the next few years but for now traditional energy means still rule the roost. Gas and coal fire plants are still popping up and the refurbishment or expansions of existing plants is still crucial, but with the oil prices taking a hit there’s been a slowdown. Prices are bound to come back eventually, but when that will be and if it’ll be at the same level is unknown. As Mr. Hall put it, “Opportunities still exist with many operations going live and with the aforementioned refurbishments there’s still a lot of work in the market. Unfortunately, people have to get their hands dirty and work harder to find a value added solution or service to be more competitive in the market to take it on.”
Building Strong Bonds
Another step that CEA has differentiated itself from others in the local market by seeking international partnerships to strengthen their brand both locally and abroad. Concentrating solely on their base in Thailand in the grand scheme of things isn’t the largest market. Attracting international customers and partners is possible by building a strong, well-known brand.
It’s all about building trust and relationships with customers and partners. CEA has also recently branched out beyond contract logistics to now have a team to focus on general cargo and freight forwarding, adding another specialty to their growing list of services. The most recent addition to their partnerships is with the Italian heavy lift juggernaut Fagioli.
“It’s all about relationships, like life, that’s what makes us successful.” – Andy Hall, Operations Director for CEA.
Mr. Hall said, “What Fagioli bring to the table is there competencies and their equipment within the heavy transport and heavy lift industry. The assets required to go into and transport heavy lift equipment is quite considerable. It’s a mutually beneficial for both companies, as Fagioli was concerned entered into areas like Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand on their own. If they go with a partner, there’s a benefit to both sides. It’s all about relationships, like life, that’s what makes us successful. Our company philosophy’s matched and their local experiences have married up perfectly. Being honest and open to our partners and customers, I think in the long run it’s a benefit to all parties.”
CEA is a leading provider of project logistics services in the ASEAN region. Learn more about CEA at www.ceaprojects.com