Delivery by design

Headquartered in the seaside town of Felixstowe, home to the largest container port in the UK, and with regional offices in Dubai, UAE and Mombasa, Kenya, the Seafast Group today comprises of a number of companies dedicated to providing efficient, innovation, cost effective and bespoke global logistics solutions. Services provided by this global organisation include, but are not limited to, international sea and air freight, refrigerated shipping, project forwarding, customs clearing and duty deferment, and domestic and international road transport.

The history of the group goes back to the formation of Seafast Logistics, at the time in association with Grange Shipping, in 2000. Its operations at the time comprised of providing shipping and logistics services in hostile environments, under contract with the British and Dutch governments, as well as general warehousing activities in the ports of Felixstowe and Tilbury.

It was then in late 2007 that the group took the strategic decision to diversify its activities, and for this purpose it engaged David J. Halliday as its new Chief Executive. “Almost immediately we took the decision to exit the general warehousing sector, instead investing in establishing a presence in the more specialised field of handling temperature controlled products,” David begins. “We did this through the opening of the only port-based, commercial temperature controlled handling facility in 2009, within the boundaries of Felixstowe port.”

Around the same time, the group also formed an extensive, global NVOCC network and positioned itself as a ‘Virtual Shipping Line’, going far beyond just port-to-port services by offering a wide range of value added logistics and other related skills. This network was inaugurated in April 2008, and recently celebrated its tenth anniversary of global operations at a specially held event in Dubai in April 2018.

“Simultaneously,” David continues, “the Seafast Group made the conscious decision to offer services in geographical areas not already saturated by the larger international forwarders as a further specialisation. These markets qualified for inclusion in our business plan by virtue of their remoteness, the difficult terrains they possess or by being emerging markets. This decision was another that encapsulated the very concept behind our business plan, which was to establish Seafast as ‘Specialists’ and not ‘Generalists’.”

Such markets represent an integral part of the group’s growth plan, and one that it intends to remain very loyal to going forward, as displayed in its decision to underpin its presence in East Africa through the formation of a joint venture company, Seafast Africa, with its long-term Kenyan partners. “Our confidence in our own ability in such areas is mirrored by that of our customers,” David enthuses. “For one company, we started by delivering vehicles into Kurdistan, Iraq, around seven years ago, before then moving into Afghanistan. As confidence and mutual trust developed these activities then spread into countries such as South Sudan, Uganda, DRC and most recently Ethiopia.

“It is important to remember, however, that we will never risk our reputation by attempting to take on business in territories we are unfamiliar with, or have doubts about our capability to deliver exceptional levels of operational and customer service. It is for this reason that we devote considerable time to visiting such territories, getting to know local processes and selecting to work with local partners that share the same values and commitment to service excellence.”

The group has also found it to be the case that by visiting these locations and engaging with local British embassies it is able to uncover further opportunities that fit its areas of expertise. An example of this in action is a project currently under development in Djibouti and Ethiopia, which is aimed at designing and implementing a logistics cold-chain of international standard, linked to a port-based facility to support the growth of Ethiopian beef exports.

Turning closer to home, the group’s focus upon its refrigerated shipping, logistics and handling facilities, as well as increased customer demand, has led to a need for Seafast to expand its UK capacity. “We are currently in advanced discussions aimed at obtaining significantly larger facilities within the UK,” David explains. “It is expected that we will soon be committed to long-term, port-based temperature controlled functions, which will remove some of the existing space constraints, and in turn broaden the range of services we can offer our customers to improve the efficiency of their supply chains.

“We are able to work on such solutions with individual customers to the extent that the final delivery is very much bespoke. We are also skilled at being able to identify and develop opportunities at speed and with attention to finer points of detail. As a matter of fact, we take particular pride in quietly delivering service excellence, to the point where we see no need for an advertising budget.”

For David, the stand-out achievement during the last financial year, which ended on 31st March 2018, was the group’s ability to increase its operating profit by 4.5 times that which it achieved in the previous 12 months. This, he says, was a result of a combination of increased sales and tightly controlled administration costs. It follows a pattern of success over recent years, which also saw the group being presented with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, International Trade in 2015, and is one that David is determined to retain as it grows.

“Our business model has already proven itself to be a source of success and we see no reason to significantly adjust it at this time, rather we plan to work hard on innovating and broadening our service offerings in consultation with our customers,” David adds. “Our five-year business plan is clearly defined and seeks to grow our business over the period of 2018-2022. In this time, we will be looking to develop our airfreight capabilities and investigate the possibility of entering into the pharma sector, which is one that fits within our temperature controlled model. Geographically, Africa and India are areas of immediate focus, but in keeping with our DNA, we are constantly monitoring regional developments for new opportunities to innovate.”

Seafast Group
Providers of specialised and bespoke International Shipping and Logistics solutions
Focused on: Reefer shipping ,handling and distribution
Difficult to serve, remote and emerging markets