AfricaLive: Please tell readers a bit about the DNA of Logical Maritime Services and your motivation for starting the enterprise.
Danny Laud: Logical Maritime Services is an organisation that got off the ground in 2012. We wanted to create a niche for ourselves in the shipping industry by developing new and better capacities. It was essential for us to make a name by adhering to lead times strictly and being cost-effective to clients. We wanted to exhibit excellent professionalism and discipline to enable us to compete globally, and ensure we exceed customer expectations. We are also keen on doing our part in the development of our country.
The company has grown from strength to strength, and the learning never stops. Conferences and symposiums within the industry are helping us learn more, but most of all, we are learning from different experiences. We must keep learning and look to tap into new knowledge. We have struck great partnerships with reputable companies across the globe that have helped us learn how to go around challenges. It is also vital that we remain environmentally conscious. We make deliberate efforts to educate clients as they seek to ship potentially hazardous chemicals; to ensure the environment is not polluted.
AfricaLive: Can the creation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, and this investment act as a major catalyst to move Ghana forward as a centre of global trade?
Danny Laud: The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement excites us because our country will get to host the secretariat. Being the headquarters of the initiative could open up opportunities for industry, and position us as a gateway for international trade. The AfCFTA agreement has coincided well with our government’s efforts to upgrade the ports in Takoradi and Tema. Our port upgrades will see them handle more goods as larger area vessels will come our way.
Even more exciting, is our government’s focus on digitising the port systems and making operations easier and more cost-effective. When foreign potential business partners look at Ghana and other African nations, they want to be assured that your IT infrastructure is robust. Business partners also want to ensure that they deal with reliable maritime partners because time is of the essence in this business.
AfricaLive: What are your ambitions, both in the short term and long term, when it comes to trading internationally?
Danny Laud: Logical Maritime Services as an organisation is looking at going beyond what our immediate competitors are doing.
We don’t want to only do freight forwarding, haulage and warehousing, we want to tap into areas that will require global partnerships to grow exponentially. Our ambition is to be trusted globally to the point of becoming local agents for major shipping principals in the world. We don’t want to stagnate and remain a local outfit; the door has to be open to global partnerships and ideas. International companies that want to do business in Ghana would rather not go through the registration hassles to begin operations. It is much easier for multinationals if they can partner with a local firm like us to get what they need done.
Our short term goal, in brief, has to be seeking skills that will expand our capacities. The long term goal, in a nutshell is, becoming a globally acclaimed agency that can handle vessels on behalf of big maritime principals. Ghana has an advantage over its landlocked neighbours because they all import through our ports. Our busy ports are, therefore, prepared to handle even more activity as the government continues to upgrade them.
AfricaLive: Technology has brought a mix of challenges and opportunities to African business. Again, we must align to ensure there is a mindset shift that allows Africa to be home to innovative markets that adapt quickly to disruption and changes in how we work.
How can you ensure you remain agile enough to adapt to changes that technology and the fourth industrial revolution will bring?
Danny Laud: They say change is inevitable. As an organisation we ensure that we are technologically inclined to keep up with changes that occur in the industry. We are continuously looking into making efforts that ensure that we remain ever-competitive by providing efficiency and bringing in more revenue.
There is also a heavy focus on security on our part because it is a significant area of concern for clients. Clients are super sensitive as they should be, about the security of their funds, goods, and information. We keep up with these client needs through constant education because we have to keep re-tooling. We don’t leave it to employees to self-educate; we sponsor them through courses that equip them better to handle changing conditions. We are big on developing employee capacity because the company gains the most from such an effort.
AfricaLive: The expansion of Ghana’s port infrastructure on this level is a significant milestone in your national economic development. What do you believe the impact on your sector will be?
Danny Laud: I strongly believe that Africa, as a whole, will benefit from the changes especially, in the maritime industry. Our continent is still heavily dependent on imports because we are still developing industrial capacities.
We provide a market for industrialised nations who end up needing services like ours, to deliver products. Africa may have many challenges, but I believe that wherever you find many problems, you also find many opportunities. Anyone who identifies the challenges and goes about solving them creates jobs and opens up opportunities for others. Our ports will play a significant role in our development agenda as we seek to boost our infrastructure. Our government reads from the same script as we do if you look at recent developments. It is also worth mentioning that 60 to 70 per cent of revenues the government collects comes from maritime activities, so why wouldn’t they ensure everything is smooth and efficient in this industry?
AfricaLive: Is the industry really prepared for these developments, prepared to increase capacity and increase efficiency – what do you see as the major challenges ahead for the sector ?
Danny Laud: We suffer from a lack of clarity in this industry. When you have more than one agency in the industry doing the same thing, there is much confusion. The confusion often means delays and loss of revenues which only lead to loss of confidence in the sector. Things have improved, but we still have red tape that can only be remedied by strong policy direction.
We must also expedite our processes to ensure that containers don’t spend more than a day, without being cleared. Ports in Singapore and Dubai take thirty to forty-five minutes to clear goods; there is no reason why we can’t go close to those times.
AfricaLive: Ghana faces a significant long term challenge from the twin pressures of a growing youth population and increased workplace automation brought by the 4th Industrial Revolution. In short, as a nation you must create 10 million new jobs over the coming years to avoid mass youth unemployment and possible social unrest.
What steps do you believe need to be taken to empower Ghana’s private sector to succeed in driving economic growth and job creation on this scale?
Danny Laud: Ghanaian ports have improved over the years. We may not be where the likes of Singapore are, but we will get there soon enough. We have to get over our political challenges and interference. Ghana, just like many other African countries, must learn how to transition smoothly from one administration to the next, development-wise. Too often, decisions and developments made by a former government are not followed up on by a succeeding one. Fractures in terms of development, leave so many things half baked. The transitional cracks are being patched up though with the passage of time, and I am sure industries like ours will catch up with some of the best.
AfricaLive: Do you believe, in the long term, Ghana can emerge as a global trading hub on the level of the Singapores and Dubais of the world?
Danny Laud: The government must make a deliberate effort to not only upgrade infrastructure in terms of waterways, motorways, technology, but also skills. It will be of no use, if we have good infrastructure but a shortage of skills. The millions of jobs that we need will only be achieved if we equip our young people with the right skills to make them competitive. A lot of our unemployment issues in this sector and many others stem from a lack of skills. If you don’t have the knowledge and skills, you don’t even realise that there are opportunities.
Ghana Maritime Authority is rolling out measures to ensure that the youth acquire the right skills in this space. The body focuses on training locals to take advantage of available opportunities because if multinationals come in and lack quality human resources, they will have to bring in expatriates. An influx of expatriates means that locals miss out on big employment opportunities, which is unfortunate.
The government is putting in good work as far as expansion and upgrades are concerned. If we fix the knowledge and skill gap issues, our ports will be as competitive as those in Dubai, Singapore, and Antwerp. If we keep up the good work, this can happen in a decade.