Maltacourt selected to contribute to The Parliamentary Review

Maltacourt are delighted to have been selected as thought leaders in the logistics and transport industry and to contribute to the latest direction of Parliament through this years Parliamentary Review.

Logistics is an industry with a rich history – one of the first ever registered companies in the UK was a shipping business. From its humble roots, with hoteliers organising the onward carriage of guests belongings to sole purpose freight forwarders arising to tackle the increasing demand for goods from Europe and North America to today, where an ever shrinking and increasingly globalised world, see’s demand for commodities and materials from any corner of the globe to be at your door in less than a week. The industry is expansive.

If you were to glance at your surroundings now, how many of the things you see have been imported, exported and travelled the world to sit in front of you today. It may come as no surprise then; given freights global importance and all-encompassing nature and with the industry etched into our very own history, that freight is one of the most saturated markets in the UK. There are over 3,000 freight forwarders in the UK alone. Apart from a select few global, international and intermodal forwarders that operate in the upper echelons of the sector, the remainder of us compete ferociously to offer logistical support to Britain’s businesses. The level of saturation and the fiercely competitive nature of the industry raise a number of questions over anti competition, a fair market place and protection to some of the smaller more bespoke forwarders out there. Only recently our industry was shocked but perhaps not entirely surprised at The General Court of the European Unions decision to uphold fines over collusion and price fixing mechanisms within the air fright industry for some of the world’s biggest forwarders.

As an island, the importance of the freight industry to the UK cannot be underestimated, although it is often overlooked. As a growing and aspiring business, we place a great emphasis on our employees, however, we’ve seen first-hand the struggles in finding dedicated support for training and developing our staff, beyond that of the British International Freight Association (BIFA). BIFA are the trade association representing UK freight forwarders - a body that we certainly advocate – and although offering a range of courses to support the industry, they struggle as a trade association funded solely by member subscriptions it’s not unusual to see courses cancelled, rather than them being run, dare I say it, at a loss. It’s clear that the industry is still struggling to find its feet in terms of providing academic support to an industry notoriously built on practical experience. The freight forwarding industry is inherently old fashioned and often progression is made not through academic qualifications but through experience. That's not to say one is greater then the other, but there are very few courses and organisations that support development, there’s very few university degrees or modules around international trade or freight forwarding and it seems its lost ground against more modern, in vogue academic qualifications, does the UK really need the number of lawyers and MBA students currently in education. There’s a major concern that we could be hampering the next generation of freight forwarders and losing talented young staff to other more ‘fashionable’ industry sectors. A big concern; especially given the recent EU referendum result, for an industry so prominent.

Firmly a UK business, we have a substantial presence in Hungary, offering a central European hub for our clients; supported by a growing manufacturing industry and prompted by a shift in demand from the Asia to Central and Eastern Europe. In Hungary we’ve seen extensive support from banks, investors, academic institutions and regulatory bodies that has allowed our business and the industry to flourish. We’ve acquired two business in the last 18 months and are celebrating an award winning year, having secured European Business Awards for ‘Company of the Year’, ‘Growth Strategy of the Year’, as well as picking up a ‘Deal of Year’ award for one of our most recent acquisitions and now an ‘Investors In People’ award. The market seems less bureaucratic and doesn’t suffer from the same saturation levels, allowing smaller organisations the opportunity to grow and compete on an even keel. Our success in Hungary and growth in Europe raises another pertinent question that will have a significant impact on our industry, perhaps more than any other – BREXIT. Over 200,000 UK businesses trade with EU countries and it’s home to almost half our exports as a country. Although we hoped to see no immediate change after the result of the EU referendum, one of our most significant customers has already taken measures to offset the risk and uncertainty surrounding the UK’s exit from the EU – taking a large part of its warehousing requirements to The Netherlands. Previously our customers EMEA client base was serviced from the UK, now this will be controlled from The Netherlands. The UK, as an access point to one of the biggest open markets in the world was a desirable prospect for multinational corporations looking to set up a European hub, without it, we could see a number of them exiting the UK in favour of working in an Ireland, Germany or Netherlands. It’s a major talking point with our clients at the moment and will no doubt have impact on our industry.

For the 200,000 business that trade with the EU, we expect the cost of transporting their goods into the EU will increase; at present we do not need to raise any custom entries for moving within the EU, this will change once we evoke Article 50 and we're already seeing the value of sterling effecting the economy and our customers. I’d like to caveat the referendum concerns by stating that the UK has some excellent services and facilities, although there’s a greater need than ever to keep pace and green light pending infrastructure projects, most prominently Heathrow’s additional runway. We have a world renowned airport but it runs the risk of falling behind if we don’t invest. We need to invest to maintain a competitive edge that keeps us relevant to the market. It’s clear to see there’s a lot to consider within the freight industry at the moment and it could well be facing a major turning point in its long history, what’s important is we act to ensure that its future is as world changing as its past.

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