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   Vol. 19 No. 24
Friday March 20, 2020
FIATA Door Open To Busan Fall Meet
Basil Pietersen

     “I know what you want to ask me,” Basil Pietersen, President of FIATA smiled, “you wonder if our FIATA Annual World Congress will take place in Busan, Korea October 19-24?
     “At this point in time I am not able to answer your question definitively.
     “That said, expectation that the pandemic will importantly slow down by the summer is grounded on solid science and seems to work in our favor.
     “What remains to be seen is whether the ability to travel for FIATA will resume to normal by the summer.”

New President New Era

     Basil Pietersen was named FIATA President last October when FIATA held its big annual World Congress in Cape Town.
     That Congress from all reports was among the biggest, most successful events in FIATA’s 94-year history.
     Basil is the first FIATA President from South Africa and the third from the continent to achieve this position since FIATA’s foundation in 1926.
     As usual, Mr. Pietersen was generous and open as we spoke. Asked what his view was on our business’s ability to deal with COVID-19, a gigantic challenge to say the least, his statements were characteristically direct and always right from the heart.

First A Soliloquy For Italians

     “Marco,” Basil said softly, “you are speaking to me from Italy, the country that so far has taken the highest per-capita toll of this pandemic.
     “I have great respect for the Italians’ reactions that we have seen in the news: orderly shopping, improvised, touching music from your terraces and a spirit that will surely help your country out of this terrible crisis.
     “I am impressed by the way Italy is able to successfully treat such a huge number of infected persons and take such a terrible strain on the health system.
     “I pray most countries’ health systems can do the same.”

The China Rebound

     “China was extraordinary in avoiding an unprecedented toll of historical proportions and we can only hope the same pattern will apply elsewhere in the world.
     “I am reassured on the numbers in South Korea, which seemed to have been able to contain the infection rather effectively and (to say it once again at this point) remains the destination of our next World Congress in October.”

Continuing Operations

     “We know that charter flights are being employed to assist in the vanishing belly hold capacity of passenger flights that have been cancelled.
     “This has serious impact on our business and the evolving picture is not clear yet.      “Airlines have so far been caught by the rapid spread of the infection in particular in Europe.
     “In Europe, we have seen a resurrection of borders, which everyone thought were history and I am pleased to hear that the EU institution are urging member states to abstain from segregating their territories.”

COVID-19 & Fake News

     “We all know,” FIATA President Basil Pietersen said, “that the virus knows no borders and does not need a passport to travel.
     “It is essential that logistics in Europe and in the world is maintained at a reasonable level of efficiency to avoid shortages of biblical proportions.
     “Everyone is called upon to show wise behaviour, thoughtful statements and confidence in our science.
     “We have heard so much fake news, my view is that we should not waste too much time trying to establish whether it is actually true or not: we should merely ask ourselves whether any suggested practice is either damaging or dangerous.
     “If it is either or both, then we should drop it, if not, the risk of trying it is minimal and we should do it.”

Change Is Going Forward

     “This would be my approach.
     “I am more than persuaded that our industry will change dramatically as will trade in general, but I am afraid it is a bit too early to draw a picture of the changes our industry will go through in the next months and years,” Basil Pietersen declared.

Forwarders Adapt Play It By Ear

     Basil Pietersen lays it on the line:
     “This is an industry that constantly evolves and adapts, so I am not concerned that we shall have to play it by ear for a little while.
     “The role that FIATA can play in these troubled waters is pivotal, but we were already on the front line of changes in a way.”

Onward To Remote Training

     Talk about thinking not in or out of the box, Basil Pietersen reveals:
     “FIATA is actually marching on to a vocational training program’ revolution and we stand in the middle of re-arranging all our work to a so far untested remote mode paradigm.
     “My colleagues and I are fully committed to make this transition possible and I am sure a new FIATA will emerge out of this, more agile, more resilient and knowledgeable than ever.”

New Era Of Expansive Thinking

     “Urged by the circumstances,” FIATA President continued, “I think our
companies will be slightly less conservative than in the past.
     “Much depends on the financial options that our industry, as well as trade and commerce in general will be given.
     “There is no easy fix for this protracted slow down.”

Determination To Prevail

     Finally, President Pietersen declared, “I want to share this thought:
     “I have one certainty in all of this, the only thing that is greater than the confusion all around, is our determination to prevail and this will help us through the storm.”
Marco Sorgetti
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