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   Vol. 17 No. 56
Tuesday September 4, 2018


The man who thought up the idea and then guided leisure Cargo, based in Dusseldorf, Germany onto the air cargo map of the world, with a unique “total management system” for 14 tourist-based airlines, has come back from retirement to once again take the reins of the company he invented.
     Ralf Rainer Auslaender, looking fit and beaming with confidence, returned in early August as Managing Director of leisure Cargo. He resumed a post he held at the company from start-up in January 2000, until ‘retiring’ in 2015, to live in languid Portugal.

Bringing Up Baby

     When Ralf dreamed up the idea, taking over the cargo space for several tourist-based airlines in Europe was among the most completely new and original ideas and LTU took off with it.

Ralf Auslaender and Geoffrey Arend

The Offer You Can’t Refuse

     Although Ralf was happily retired and enjoying life outside of air cargo, there is something about air cargo (you know, what I mean) that has drawn him back to the industry.
     We recall that under the careful guidance of founder Ralf, leisure “the virtual cargo airline” always delivered a solid return and was a bright spot, even during the darkest days of Air Berlin (which ended up acquiring leisure Cargo).
     But during the AB downfall, the company was swept along in the debacle, not unlike an innocent bystander.

The Zeitfracht Family

     Zeitfracht Group, a Berlin headquartered, third-generation, owner-managed family business with about 1,000 employees and an annual turnover of more than 200 million Euros, purchased leisure Cargo out of the AB Bankruptcy.
     Zeitfracht Group is active in real estate, logistics & aviation.
     leisure in 2018 is a network of 14 airlines, with 200 interline partners, serving more than 300 destinations.
     Welcome back, Ralf!

Chuckles For September 4, 2018

Zhao Is One Smooth Operator
If you look for the definition on the web-based Urban Dictionary of a “smooth operator,” the meaning comes up as “someone who tends to be on top of things, and is usually in control of any given situation.”
     That is the essence of what will come to your mind if you have the opportunity to meet with Mr. Huxiang Zhao, who served as FIATA President between 2015 and 2017.
     This is indeed a man in control, believe me.

One Smooth Operator

     In the silky smooth Sade song with the same title, the lyrics suggest that “his heart is cold,” but in this case your impression will be totally different.
     President Zhao’s tranquil presence has always been pleasantly warm in winter, but gently cool in the heat.
     Nothing ever left behind, our meetings always carried a sense of complete accomplishment, which is pretty rare: quite a remarkable impression, considering we are talking of a person who heads one of the global logistics behemoths.

A Powerhouse Patient & Wise

      In my previous job in FIATA, I had personally been exposed to Mr. Zhao’s wise words and serene requests during the long period he was at the helm of the organization.
     This has been a fruitful learning experience for me, and it left a sweet memory of my tenure in Zurich.

As Chairman Of Giant Sinotrans

     President Zhao has been Chairman of Sinotrans & CSC Holdings Co. Ltd since 2011 and he remains as Senior Advisor to China Merchants Group, where he occupied the position of Vice Chairman between 2016 and this year. His role in Sinotrans had been on the rise since 2005; he landed into this crucial position from his previous experiences in the Maritime Bureau of the Chinese Ministry of Communications, the Hoi Tung Trading Company as well as other enterprises subordinate to China Merchants.
     His feet firmly on the seas, his first love in business, delving into finances, Mr. Zhao has deployed all the skills he had learnt both in Chinese and U.S. universities.
     The list of his vital positions is endless, and I shall have to leave it behind in this short article, but it is without doubt a big deal indeed.

Top Of The World

Huxiang Zhao Spotlight     Just to give you an idea of what kind of business we are talking about, as the second-tier subsidiary and single logistics platform for China Merchants Group (CMG), Sinotrans Limited is among the top ten freight forwarder and third-party logistics enterprises in the world; it aims to build a world-class business platform with intelligent logistics services.
     By the end of 2017, Sinotrans had total assets of 62 billion Yuan, net assets of 25 billion Yuan and a total of 23,971 employees.
     This is just one of President Zhao’s tasks, as I learned later on, because he handles without sweat other comparable number of chores in other areas of the massive CMG, the Chinese leading enterprise in transportation, finance and property-development.
     President Zhao handles all of that alongside his involvement and fine work for FIATA, CIFA, the national association, and some top level participation at the UN.

The Steady Hand

     Many people with those kinds of responsibilities might appear overburdened, tense or nervous.
     Not President Zhao, he is always immaculately prepared, serene and ready to listen: he always finds the time for your questions: a smooth operator indeed.

Zhao Callout 1

Belt & Road Builds Future

     I asked President Zhao where his Group’s plans stood in terms of the new rail connections with Europe that have been so powerfully promoted by the Belt and Road concept and he has quickly produced impressive strategy and figures:
     “Sinotrans, he said,” started offering block trains in July 2015; after three years’ development, a full network was achieved, covering five areas (South China, Central China, North China, Northeast China and Yangtze River), and three major international routes (East route via Manzhouli, Middle route via Erenhot and West route via Alashankou/Horgos).
     “This investment has formed a broad network of domestic and foreign block trains, allowing Sinotrans to become a rare multi-route and multi-line block train operator in China.
     “We have launched 34 routes in three years, offering weekly train services from main Chinese cities such as Shilong, Shenyang, Changsha, Xi’an, and others to Germany, Poland, Belarus, Hungary, Iran, Vietnam and Central Asian countries. Sinotrans moved 451 international block trains, carrying 36,244 TEU’s through the first half of 2018, showing a growth rate of 153%.”
     This ambitious result was mentioned by President Zhao almost casually, then he continued by saying that “Sinotrans’s strategy and the overall target is to work deeply on the Belt and Road market, to offer competitive end-to-end supply chain services by establishing a sound international and domestic multimodal transport system.”

Masters of Understatement

     One might understand the dichotomy between the impression of understatement in his discourse and the magnitude of the results if one bears in mind that Chinese people perceive life in the perspective of their millenary history and the continental dimension of their national territory.
     Domestic and international are adjectives that describe markets with comparable sizes in this case and it should not be surprising that both have the same importance.

Zhao Callout 2

Stepping Up Brimming Confidence

     President Zhao’s confidence in his country’s results does not impede his perception of the challenges, which he described as follows:
     “As we are now able to efficiently serve geographical areas that are comparatively far away from sea ports at both ends of the chain, along with the rapid growth of China-Europe trains, we are facing some congestion issues, which may cause delays, because the border station infrastructure is not always up to date in some of the countries and customs regions we are traversing.
     “The efficiency of the coordinated border management, of which Customs is a great part, the exchange of data and the performance of the transhipment areas need to be further improved,” President Zhao said.
     “This precisely describes one of the aspects, which have been targeted by the Chinese “Belt and Road” initiative which is starting to produce quite tangible results as China-Europe block trains’ volumes have increased substantially.
     Obviously the most immediate results came in trade lanes that were already suitable for this kind of innovative service: “high-value electronic products, industrial manufactured cargos (e.g. automobiles), perishable goods or short shelf life fast selling products (e.g. foodstuff), industrial parts, such as completely knocked down (CKD) parts for automobile production lines and import of auto parts” were cited among the first ones.
     This is clearly just one of the areas of business served by Sinotrans through block trains, but its innovative potential made it worth mentioning over and above the many other ones.

Hard At Work Smooth & Easy

     By now you have probably understood what I meant when I described President Zhao as a “smooth operator.”
     I started with the intention to celebrate President Zhao’s extraordinary personality, however within a short time I was led by his calm discourse into a miniature dissertation on innovative intercontinental logistics.
     His unpretentious ways prevailed.
     No sweat, it was smooth and easy, as it always is with President Zhao, who is today the Immediate Past President of FIATA. In such role he will attend the FIATA World Congress in Delhi at the end of September together with other Presidency members of FIATA.
     The prospect to meet with persons of such caliber cannot be missed, so my advice is to start making your reservation on the Congress website, book the best airfare you can find in today’s huge airlines’ marketplace and get there in the front line on time to benefit from this great opportunity.
Marco Sorgetti

Huxiang Zhao and Geoffrey Arend
2016—FIATA President Zhao presents Geoffrey his exclusive FIATA Fellow Certificate on March 16, at a lovely dinner inside a 700 year-old restaurant near FIATA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. Geoffrey is the only individual from outside the FIATA membership in the organization’s 90-year history to be recognized in this manner.

   I am running to a breakfast appointment in Terminal One at Frankfurt Airport earlier this summer. Scooting out of the Sheridan Hotel that is attached to T1, I run into a gaggle of German business suits and, smack dab in the middle is Mr. Zhao.
   He stops, looks at me and says:
   “What are you doing here?”
   My immediate reply is, “I guess that we are everywhere.”
   Zhao likes that, and smiles and gives me a couple minutes, softly saying,
   “It might be difficult to imagine how a Chinese man became President of FIATA, but the organization is truly international and global in scope and is well prepared and, most importantly in touch with the world market of today and tomorrow.
   “I became involved with FIATA via membership and my eventual move as Chairman of the Chinese International Freight Forwarders Association (CIFA).
   “In China today there are more than 35,000 registered freight forwarding companies,” Mr. Zhao said.
   “Becoming FIATA President is a long process, involving time and attention for several years, and is the result of CIFA’s enhanced cooperation at the international level, of which I am particularly proud,” Mr. Zhao added.
   “We have a vast policy agenda and we are successfully working on it, and despite limited resources, we have the future of FIATA in our minds and our hearts,” Mr. Zhao said.

Appearing At New Delhi Later This Month . . .

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