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   Vol. 23 No. 6
Friday February 9, 2024

2024 Trade Shakers And Movers

Year Of The Dragon

     FT just published the FIATA Past-Presidents’ wishes for the New Year, but we shall not stop at that: we all know that the New Year starts on January 1st in many areas of the world, but not everywhere. In China the New Year starts on February 10th 2024 and this day will introduce the highly revered Year of the Dragon. As you may have guessed by some references made in the past, both Sabiha Arend and I were born in 1952, under the Dragon’s wing. We shall see what this coincidence brings. I hope this will be a favourable occurrence not only for us, but also for our readers.
     Let us the turn the page to another selected group of discussants and hear their views. These are personalities who have been kind enough as to share their thoughts with us every now and then. FT sent them some questions and received many inspiring answers. We remain open to hearing more views and comments if available and would be glad to publish these observations in future.
Nicolette van der Jagt     For the time being, we share the following four sets of answers with you, starting with Nicolette van der Jagt, Director General of CLECAT, the European federation of freight forwarding and logistics. We asked Nicolette how she saw the EU landscape developing in 2024, considering it is an election year also in Europe.
     “As the DG of CLECAT I find it imperative to address the challenges that our industry faces as we approach 2024. The expectations for the upcoming year are intricately linked to the geopolitical situation, and the ongoing trends of slowbalization, energy transition, and inflation will shape global and European trade, necessitating the logistics industry to showcase resilience once again. Elevated costs and workforce shortages in the logistics sector intensify concerns about competitiveness, prompting the sector to navigate troubled waters strategically. The implementation of the many legislative initiatives in recent years demands careful evaluation, placing the European business community and its competitiveness at a critical juncture. The EU's commitment to economic security and sustainable global growth is reflected in legislative measures compelling shippers and freight forwarders to report not only financials but also social and environmental aspects in global sourcing. This necessitates a transformative shift in companies' systems to align with evolving expectations. Simultaneously, the anticipated surge in toll prices in some European countries presents challenges. Governments commendably aim to promote electric transport through toll discounts for e-trucks, addressing price disadvantages. However, concerns arise regarding the timing of tax increases for diesel-powered transport, given the limited availability of e-trucks and infrastructure challenges for battery-powered international transport. Recognizing this evolving landscape, CLECAT is in the process of developing a new Memorandum for the Next European Parliament and Commission. This document will articulate the expectations of the freight forwarders' association, emphasizing the imperative for a collaborative approach to address multifaceted challenges and ensure a resilient, competitive future for the European logistics industry.”
Antonella Straulino     Another lady follows in the order: our good friend Antonella Straulino, who is Chairwoman of the FIATA Regional Body Europe as well as Secretary General of CLECAT. Antonella works for FEDESPEDI, Milan. No wonder she was happy to take respond, considering Fedespedi’s interests in the next couple of years: “Brussels 2023 was quite momentous for Fedespedi as you managed to take the 2026 FIATA centennial congress. Other than additional work, which is understood, what do you expect 2024 will bring to Italian logistics and Fedespedi in particular?” This is Antonella’s reply: “2024 will undoubtedly be a busy year for myself and our youth group, which has received the assignment of the FIATA centenary congress. It is a source of great satisfaction for us to host the most important event in our associative world. Entrusting its direction to those who represent our future is an important indicator: it means trust and high expectations, which we know will not be disappointed. 2024 will probably be a difficult year for our members, with a highly uncertain economic situation globally and its inevitable repercussions. These are already being felt in parts, even if inflation, for example, has almost been brought under control again in the last few months, at least in Italy. On the other hand, I also think that, if there is a category that can do great, that will be what our members represent, because forwarders are capable of adapting and finding practical solutions. Our sector is able to re-invent itself, as the Phoenix is reborn from its ashes, ever again. This is our true strength. Best wishes to all in 2024 from Fedespedi, Italy.”
     Let us continue with our good friend Glyn Hughes, the Director General of TIACA. Glyn really is the heart and soul of his organisation, after his splendid past career in IATA. If there is one person who can be considered close to our core business, Glyn is that person. The 2023 summit in Brussels was extremely successful, but TIACA surely looks forward to a roaring exploit in Miami in 2024. We asked him what were his expectations in terms of the topics able to attract the interest of the participants. “Would you agree that we shall have to deal with greater regulatory pressure and focus on that point, in particular with regard to the environment?”
Glyn Hughes      Here is what Glyn’s said, rather concise and thoughtful: “As we drew a close to 2023 and looked back on a volatile year which saw significant belly capacity return to the market whilst demand continued to be soft as a result of geopolitical uncertainty, high inflation and concern over jobs. These topics were amongst many debated during the November 2023 TIACA Executive Summit, but what topics will dominate the coming year? We can unfortunately expect the geopolitical turmoil to continue with events in the Middle East causing widespread concern of possible escalation. Additionally, we can expect to see the increasing focus on environmental issues following 2023 being declared the warmest year on record and all industries being challenged to improve their sustainability credentials. Regulatory requirements, such as the EU CSRD which calls for extensive environmental reporting start to become effective for certain categories of business from 2024. On the positive front, the ICAO CAAF/3 meeting, Dec 2023, concluded with a declaration on behalf of ICAO states that the aviation industry is committed to reducing its CO2 impact. The meeting agreed a collective position of achieving a 5% reduction in CO2 by the end of this decade based on increased usage of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) or other low carbon or alternative fuels. That is a 25x increase compared to the 0.2% of SAF used during 2023. The industry’s environmental performance will be one of the key topics addressed during the next edition of the TIACA Air Cargo Forum, scheduled for Nov 2024 in Miami. e-Commerce will also feature heavily as the one area of demand which hasn’t slowed and in fact continues to demonstrate significant increases. But to be successful and agile in response to what the world throws at the industry we need to increase the pace of innovation and technology adoption. These topics will also feature on upcoming industry agendas.”
     We thought to conclude with our valued colleague and friend Bob Keen, Secretary General of FIATA. By the way, he also was born under the Dragon rule in 1952. We asked Bob to reflect on the year we had just finished and the one ahead of us: “2023 was a year of mixed experiences for BIFA’s members. Do you think 2024 will have a negligible impact on the evolving landscape of British freight or do you expect any significant development?”
     In reality, whilst we were asking Bob Keen, who is still FIATA’s Secretary General and well known to our readers, the question was more appropriately taken by his successor in Britain, BIFA’s Director General Steve Parker, who is the Chairman of FIATA’s Customs Affairs Institute. This is Steve’s reply and I applaud its concise completeness.
Steve Parker      “In 2024, the world economy is expected to outperform previous projections according to Goldman Sachs Research, with worldwide GDP forecasted to expand to 2.6% next year, although recovery in the logistics sector may be slower to catch up. Feedback from members of the British International Freight Association indicates that this year has been a reset after the Pandemic, and we shouldn’t expect massive change in 2024 with little growth in the first half of next year. S&P Global’s 2024 outlook report states that supply chain resilience will remain important in 2024 and key to staying adaptable and nimble when planned or unplanned disruption occurs. 2023 has seen the return of more traditional logistics patterns of a cyclical nature with more consistent ordering patterns, and BIFA expects these things to carry over into 2024. We also expect ocean and air transportation capacity to adjust to more traditional levels throughout 2024. However, while the return of cyclical and traditional patterns is a relief, we should remember that disruption can happen quickly and often unexpectedly - even in a traditional market and trends like re-shoring and near-shoring, particularly in Southeast Asia, the Indian sub-continent, Turkey, North Africa and Mexico, will continue to contribute to the shift in the flow of freight. The ever increasing focus on corporate responsibility and sustainability will continue its rise up the business agenda next year and BIFA will continue to help its members to establish a baseline for both their and their clients’ carbon footprints while identifying areas for potential emissions reductions. To conclude, my view is that any real growth is likely to have to wait until 2025.”
     This expert preview ends my conversation with some of our regular guests. Not difficult to see that uncertainty, even more than usual, takes the front stage in their thoughts. We live in a complex period, there is no denial.
     This being said, in so many occasions it has been extremely rare to sit and watch the world spin undisturbed in harmony, or at least in decent balance. Everyone is screaming that European logistics and consequently the economy will be seriously affected by the problems in the Red Sea. In my country journalists seem to have just discovered the importance of logistics and the Suez Canal with it. I imagine similarly in America the tale is told about Panama for other reasons.
     This is all very true, but in my view we should take these alarms with a grain of salt. In my own life span I have seen at least three serious crises situated within, before or after the Suez Canal. What happens there now is indeed a problem, it is surely an event that will be remembered in another fifty years, but keeping fingers crossed it is not the end of the world, at least so far. Our economies will move forward and adapt, we just need all hands on deck and look into the future with hope.
     In fact, at FT we are much more concerned by another issue that inexplicably filters to the backburner too soon: the symptoms of the rapidly mounting climate change and the global consequences this transformation will trigger, both within our environment and our society. These phenomena will probably not erupt in 2024, probably we shall have sufficient rainfall this year, as the year of the Dragon is traditionally generous with rain, but I am scared that sooner or later the water falling from the sky will be too scarce, with the exception of more and more frequent, destructive storms.
     Mankind had developed a well-deserved confidence in science and technology. This is surely positive, but this does not authorise us to throw away the common, traditional and wise behaviours that our farmers and highlanders developed over centuries of careful observation and care for the territory. If we look at what we have done in the last five or six decades, perhaps we have made more than one mistake in our approach to the environment and it would be wise to recognise these mistakes and take measures to make amends.
     My wish for this new cycle is that the rain associated with the Dragon silently, quietly falls on earth to make it clean, fertile and teaming with the life of all the plants and animals. We live here for a period: we do not own the planet and we should always keep this in mind.
     Kung Hei Fat Choi!
Marco L. Sorgetti

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