One year ago, almost overnight, air, road and sea travel ground to a halt. What would have previously been unthinkable soon became a frantic struggle for businesses to keep trade flowing worldwide.
No one could ever have been completely prepared for the seismic change in our daily lives as the UK went into its first national lockdown; however, the team at Petrasco – a leading provider of international logistics solutions – has strived to deliver for its clients in the face of unprecedented challenges.
But the world doesn’t stop turning.
“With the energy industry designated as an essential service, we had to adapt, and adapt quickly, to the ever-changing global situation brought about by the pandemic,” commented managing director Kevin Buchan.
He added: “Due to the nature of our industry, planning and business continuity has long been a feature of every management meeting held in recent years.
“Therefore, how we would operate, communicate with clients, function, and continue to provide our range of services throughout the pandemic had already been considered, so ‘Operation Lockdown Logistics’ went into full swing.”
With operations in the three major energy hubs of Aberdeen, Dubai and Houston and beyond, Petrasco has a wealth of expertise in serving the global energy sector and is well-placed to advise clients on challenging markets from a logistics perspective.
As well as procedures to keep staff and clients safe, Petrasco moved quickly to utilise technology to make remote working as fast and reliable as office working.
Regular communication, including promoting staff wellbeing, came to the fore against the backdrop of a constantly evolving information landscape.
Every freight agent found themselves in the same boat, with increasing rates due to limited capacity and changes in rates on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis as airlines grounded flights.
To find a way around this, Petrasco looked at other routes that wouldn’t normally be considered as well as leveraging its membership of an energy consortium of carefully selected partners.
Kevin said: “We managed to overcome these challenges and continued to deliver freight services around the world thanks to our problem-solving ability and the relationships we’ve built up with industry partners over many years.
“In many cases, these relationships have been strengthened, while even in the depths of the crisis we were trusted to find the best deal and best solution possible.
“At the same time, it was vital to manage clients’ expectations – providing realistic options and timeframes, without making any guarantees given the state of flux and factors beyond our control.”
The experience of its staff came to the fore, adapting to the constant changes and guidance, which allowed solutions to be found through long-standing contacts at shipping lines and airlines.
For instance, Petrasco avoided port congestion and reduction of services with full container load (FCL) and less than container load (LCL) operators through alternative methods, such as utilising breakbulk services.
In some cases, where key members of staff had been placed on furlough or left their post, Petrasco’s team found themselves liaising with new contacts who had to be guided through the process and practicalities of logistics.
With so many projects being delayed, this has led to clients being more reactive – and asking for cargo to be delivered internationally often at short notice. This has created its own challenges with the need to relay the latest service information from the major carriers to clients in real-time.
“On the exact day the UK went into lockdown, we challenged Petrasco with an urgent and critical consignment to be delivered to Las Palmas for one of our clients.
“Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, Petrasco expedited the consignment and delivered it ahead of schedule. Most of the shipments we have despatched during lockdown are time sensitive and the level of service, alternative solutions and communication we have received from Petrasco has been excellent.” Operations Manager, subsea fabrication company.
As confidence returns, more, better-planned projects will come back on stream, and yet, the industry still faces delays with port congestion that would not have existed 18 months ago due to the significant backlog – emphasising the need for contingency plans.
Kevin added: “I’m extremely proud of the efforts of our team and how they have all pulled together over what has been the most challenging year in recent memory. It’s our people who find the solutions needed and it’s credit to their abilities that clients haven’t seen a drop-off in the level of service provided.
“Because of this, and our willingness to respond when others couldn’t, we have also been fortunate to pick up new business for our range of services, including warehouse distribution.
“Now, with light at the end of the tunnel, many of the changes brought to the fore over the past 12 months to help us adapt will remain in place as businesses look to become more resilient and achieve sustainable recovery.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Petrasco operates a public customs warehouse, covering 10,000 sq. ft of internal capacity and 5,000 external capacity.
The Aberdeen customs warehouse is controlled and managed by former HMRC officer Doug Gardner, who started his career at the city’s airport in 1981 – dealing with imports, exports, and the control of passengers and goods.
Gaining valuable experience in international trade and documentation, Doug remained a senior local officer until 2012, when he moved to UK Border Force.
Since joining Petrasco in 2017, Doug’s insight, passion and experience across the full spectrum of customs knowledge have proven to be a valuable and unique asset.
The company’s customs warehouse offers a host of advantages to current and prospective clients, including as a cashflow saving that can be used to delay duty and VAT; paying only when the goods leave the warehouse and go into free circulation.
If goods are exported from the company's HMRC-approved customs warehouse, or transferred to another customs procedure, no duty and VAT are payable.
Storage can be longer term and can accommodate various sizes of products – from helicopter parts to a subsea Christmas tree – while many types of goods can be stored indefinitely.
As well as standard site safety and security measures, Petrasco was one of the first UK freight agents to obtain Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status in recognition of the company passing rigorous assessments by HMRC and meeting on-going assessments.
As a customs warehouse user, you gain access Petrasco’s additional logistics services that can offer complete integrated logistics solutions to keep your supply chains moving.
“We usually have to mobilise our equipment at very short notice to Asia, the Middle East, Australia, USA, Europe as well as the UK. Petrasco always provides fast, cost-effective solutions and remains on the ball 24/7. We are always given clear communication with the status of our shipments, from departure until it arrives at the destination. Petrasco takes the stress and headache out of all our freight movements worldwide.” Subsea Manager, international subsea company.
MIDDLE EAST GATEWAY
Like any new market entry, the key to doing business in the UAE is having the right equipment, technology and people on the ground. This can be a capital-intensive process with significant risks involved; however, Petrasco enables companies to enter new territories with minimal capital expenditure, allowing a staged and steady market entry and growth process.
Through its Dubai hub, Petrasco supports companies in the Middle East by providing:
Petrasco has operated in Dubai for 18 years, with its senior leadership team amassing more than 60 years collectively. With its extensive knowledge of the wider Middle East region, Petrasco is well placed to guide new entrants through the process, so that they can establish their business and personnel first without committing to expensive long-term commitments that may not be suitable for future growth.
It has supported numerous UK firms, including from north-east Scotland, to start their business and place equipment on the ground within the Jebel Ali Free Zone; giving clients access to equipment and the ability to mobilise quickly and cost effectively.
Petrasco often remains with these clients throughout their journey in the Middle East and adapts as their businesses grow and needs change.
“Petrasco’s Jebel Ali Free Zone supply base is a flexible solution that allows us to consolidate and manage our equipment efficiently. With close proximity to the port of Jebel Ali, we can quickly mobilise our systems to service the Middle East and Asian regions as well as other global locations.
“Working with the team at Petrasco Dubai has enabled us to overcome many logistical challenges and meet our customers' demands.” Head of Middle East & Asia, ROV service provider.
Read the latest issue of the OGV Energy magazine HERE.