“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.”
“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, 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
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
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
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.”
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