Logistics & Beyond: Interview With Christian Leopold

  01. April 2021
Logistics & Beyond: Interview With Christian Leopold

The freight shipping industry is facing a peculiar and unusual situation; the worldwide pandemic has triggered an unanticipated chain of events that have resulted in a global container shortage. One can refer to it as a “crisis”, because a shortage of containers has repercussions across entire supply chains, affecting all parties involved in global trade. Looking at the effect on shipping cost, companies are facing an increase of almost 300%, which is now threatening to hit end consumers.

Today we speak to Mr. Christian Leopold our Project Logistics Alliance partners from CHS Container Group for expert insights into the current happenings, the consequences and to discuss potential ways out of this crisis. In conversation with Christian…

PL-Alliance: CHS Container Group was established over 40 years ago in 1978 and has ever since remained in the family. What has the company’s journey been like over these years? What has been your role in the company?

Christian Leopold: My partner Frank Pöser and I are a part of the third generation in our family business. The company has developed from a depot service provider based in Bremen to a full-fledged service provider for trading, leasing, and modification of ISO container and accommodation units around the globe.

I personally started working about 4 years ago leading the global trading activities and business development of our group of companies.

 

PL-Alliance: You offer various custom container solutions. What is the typical process once you receive a request?

Christian Leopold: It is important for us to understand the exact requirements of our customers. This is why we try to have at least a short chat to evaluate the different products and services that we can offer. There is a huge difference in just temporary storage of goods at a local warehouse or using a modified ISO Container for a plug-and-play solution for a piece of complex machinery.

That is also why we have a variety of specialized employees: their knowledge is based on shipping and chartering, logistics, trading, mechanical engineering, and construction management. We always have the right person in our team to find the right solution for our partners.

 

PL-Alliance: Container shortages are run-of-the-mill talk these days. What is your perspective on the crisis and how did CHS Container respond to these developments?

Christian Leopold: We already saw the impacts at a very early stage and started to secure used as well as new containers from the markets and producers. Nevertheless, the overall situation was a surprise for us as well. The container shortage has just been a first indicator for what happened to the shipping space situation of the carriers and how the one impacted the other.

In general, we are happy that we have been able to supply what our customers requested, even if the prices increased drastically from the supplier's side. We believe that at some stage prices were just on the second position on the priority list as compared to the opportunity to move cargo. So this is why we always had a solution whereas a lot of companies were not able to deliver anymore. This is also based on our long-term relations and contracts with major suppliers of second-hand containers with whom we have conducted business carefully over the past years.

 

PL-Alliance: Chinese New Year (CNY) marks a seasonal time for freighter when rates are renegotiated for the next year.  Are you seeing signs of easing for the current situation or has the timing of this holiday caused even more trouble?

Christian Leopold: There are some signals of relaxation in the market, as the tension prior to CNY was terribly high for many of our industrial and freight forwarding clients.

From our side, we believe that situation may relax a little bit in Q3 of 2021, but this mainly depends on the pandemic situation and the recovery of the supply chain processes.

 

PL-Alliance: From your experience, what would it take to get out of this vicious circle? What is needed to come back to a normal situation and how long do you think this would take?

Christian Leopold: This is a really difficult question. The impact of the corona pandemic on the global supply chain is huge and nobody can really foresee how this will develop. To come back to the level which we had before, the supply chains have to recover, and the processes have to be as fast as before. But when and how this can be achieved still remains to be a big question.

 

PL-Alliance: Finally, are there any lessons or trade tips that you would like to share with our other members, partners, and readers, given that many companies are struggling to survive in these trying times?

Christian Leopold: I just can say that I have been surprised that SOC Container generally is recognized as a useful alternative also for trades which typically counts on the Carrier’s equipment.  Even for general cargo, a SOC can be a better option to be much more independent from the carrier's decisions and changes. All the past experiences, agreements reached are not valid anymore with the prices increasing every day.

In general, I am happy that we as a group of companies are acting in diversified business fields, so that even if one or two companies are facing issues, the others may help with better results. Besides our business activities are based on long-term relations and not on short-term success which especially helps



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