On 3 October forwarders from every corner of the globe will converge on Dublin for their world body’s annual congress. Much needs to be done. The meeting will focus on challenges the industry is facing worldwide, and on the Irish and British transport and logistics sectors.
The welcome is hearty and genuine. Tom Thornton, president of the Irish International Freight Association (IIFA), wishes forwarders from around the world Céad Mile Fáilte – Gaelic for a hundred thousand welcomes to the historic city of Dublin, where the next Fiata World Congress will be held (3 to 8 October). Thornton, who is the owner of the medium-sized transport and logistics enterprise Wells Cargo Logistics, expects a great deal from this event – both for the industry’s overall image as well as for its greater public recognition.
Thornton sees workers in this industry as “unseen and unsung everyday heroes, who enable global trade to take place and make the interplay between individual economies function smoothly, day in, day out.” Forwarders and logisticians really have their task cut out for them when it comes to raising their sector’s profile as well as public perception of the tasks it performs – even though Fiata has no less than 40,000 forwarding and logistics member firms, employing approximately 10 million people and organised in more than 150 countries – a truly global network.
Well-known speakers and issues
Recognised experts and renowned industry personalities will be in the limelight in Dublin. Thornton was delighted that Kunio Mikuriya, the secretary general of the World Customs Organisation (WCO), will attend the association’s gathering as guest of honour at the opening ceremony.
Thornton believes anti-corruption efforts, competition, compliance, customs, innovation, multimodality, regulations and security are the key themes at Fiata 2016.
There is a plethora of complex issues that need to be addressed, but there is simultaneously also plenty of grounds for optimism. Thornton cited the roller-coaster Irish economic development of the last few decades as an example of this dichotomy. Ireland’s Celtic tiger economy of the early 2000s was then the poster child of Europe; between 2009 and 2012 then, a devastating financial and economic collapse brought the country close to ruin. In a remarkable turnaround, however, Ireland has once again transformed itself and is now forecast by the European Commission to become the fastest-growing economy in Europe in 2016, with projected GDP growth of 4.9%.
“Exports have been central to this recovery,” Thornton elaborated. “Ireland is home to nine of the top ten pharmaceutical companies in the world. Across the River Liffey from the Convention Centre Dublin (CCD, the congress venue), you’ll find the Emea headquarters of Google, Facebook, Ebay and LinkedIn in a newly-developed area that has already been dubbed the Silicon Docks.” The conference’s official programme is augmented by social events being organised for delegates and partners.
The Brexit at the top of the agenda
On the other side of the Irish Sea there is naturally a massive debate concerning the effects of the Brexit – when it then finally comes. The national Freight Transport Association (FTA) is also keeping an eagle eye on the subject. As the political and legal framework for the big change is not clear yet, the body offers monthly webinars with updates. The greatest worries concern a negative impact on customs tariffs and fees, as well as other new barriers between the UK and the EU’s domestic markets.
Impact on supply chains
It remains to be seen whether the United Kingdom’s high balance of trade deficit – at 5.4% it was the largest amongst industrialised states in 2015 – hampers the country’s further development. At least pound sterling’s fall – it has slipped 14.2% vis-à-vis the euro and almost 9% vis-à-vis the US dollar since the vote – has had positive effects too, easing acquisitions, for example.
It is still too early to say what the processing of international traffic in and around the UK will look like in future. One thing is certain – many a firm that set up its European headquarters in the UK with one eye on access to EU markets will probably move abroad. The same can surely also be said of warehoused goods and stocks whose main sales areas are in continental Europe.
The tenor seems to be that the transport and logistics industry will cope with the forthcoming changes – whatever they may be. The slide in share prices of companies such as XPO or DSV after the vote for the Brexit have been put in perspective over the last months. We are very interested to see how business develops.