JULIAN RICHARDSON Assistant business co-ordinator email@example.com
THE recent recession opened up new markets inside and outside the Caribbean for DHL Express's business in the region, says the courier service provider.
DHL Express vice-president for sales in the Americas, Andrew Williams, said the company has seen a dramatic increase in parcel volumes to and from the Caribbean over the last four years, as the world, in most part, suffered from an economic downturn. What's more is that shipment volumes from the Caribbean to Central and South America and from Central and South America to the Caribbean have grown by double digits, he said.
"We see that, overall, the global economy has been a challenge but, with those challenges, there are also tons of opportunities, and a big way that a company can climb out of a challenging situation is to open up new markets," Williams told the Business Observer yesterday.
Williams, along with DHL Express Caribbean managing director Reiner Wolfs, and Donovan James, general manager for the Jamaican operations, spoke with the newspaper at the Observer's Beechwood Avenue headquarters yesterday.
According to James, a particularly key revenue stream that has emerged for DHL is the trade linkage between Jamaica, the company's largest market in the Caribbean, and Asian countries such as China and India.
"Here in Jamaica, because of the recession, people have been looking around the world for different opportunities, and one of the key areas is Asia," said James, adding that "a lot of businesses are looking to Asia to reduce costs and stuff, and we are helping to facilitate that."
DHL Express, a division of the German logistics company Deutsche Post DHL, has been operating in Jamaica for more than 20 years. The local operations handle 100,000 packages daily, has four service units across the island and 42 point-of-sale stations, said James, who leads a team of 74 employees. Six planes come in and out of the country daily, and the company has a fleet of
20 trucks to deliver packages here.
DHL said it was forced to increase prices in Jamaica at the beginning of the year because of the impact of price inflation on input costs. And among the challenges the company now faces are higher Customs costs -- effective April 1 — and depreciation of the Jamaican dollar against its United States counterpart.
While the company will have to absorb the increase in Customs duties, James noted that DHL customers can protect themselves from the dollar fluctuations by opening an Import Express account. DHL Import Express Worldwide allows customers greater control with one fixed price, agreed to upfront, and one invoice in their local currency.
"So if you're doing a third party shipment from anywhere in the world to any point in the world and you have an account in Jamaica you can actually get one cost to ship that product door to door, with all your Customs fees and everything paid, and you pay in the local currency," said James, noting that the company is currently ramping up awareness of the product in Jamaica.
Meanwhile, Wolfs noted that the development in other markets represents a change in the traffic lanes of its local operations, which traditionally handled packages to and from the United States.
"What we have seen is that the lanes are changing a little bit, it used to be very much US to Caribbean and back," said Wolfs.
Against this background, DHL Express is strengthening its air network intra-Caribbean and between the region and Asia and other non-traditional markets, in terms of capacity and connectivity, he said.
"What we are looking at is how can we redisign our network to provide Caribbean customers with a day quicker service or in some cases a two-day service," said Wolfs.
"We assess how the network is set up — how the flight schedules are set up — and match the connectivity," he continued. "We also expand the infrastructure and transit points, so that we can put more material through the transit points in a smaller amount of time."
DHL Express announced last week that it had improved its overnight offering to customers in the Caribbean and Central America, reducing transit times across the region by 24 hours. The improved service, which began at the end of January, provides faster service, linking customers in major Caribbean markets — Freeport and Nassau in The Bahamas, Grand Cayman, Kingston, and Montego Bay in Jamaica, and Port-au-Prince, Haiti — to other countries in the Caribbean and Central America region.
For example, shipments from Jamaica to Panama will now be handled overnight at no extra cost, instead of requiring two days as they did before, the company said.