Episode 19: How can you be a shipper of choice? A discussion with Chantal McRoberts

Aug 31, 2022

Shippers are still constantly battling the complexities of the ocean market and it isn’t going to get better any time soon.

So how should shippers position themselves to stay on top of the volatile market?

Tune into the latest episode of Freight to the Point where Chantal McRoberts, Head of Advisory at Drewry Shipping Consultants joins Helena to discuss her views on the ocean market and how it is impacting shippers.

They talk about:

  • What it means to be a ‘shipper of choice’
  • How to become a shipper of choice
  • What shippers should look for in a partner
  • How should shippers look at their data and information

Chantal McRoberts
With over 20 years of experience in the maritime and container shipping industry, Chantal McRoberts has worked for a range of companies including P&ONedlloyd, APL and Maersk in trade management and operational roles. As Head of Advisory at Drewry Shipping Consultants, Chantal is a qualified project manager and oversees core deliverables for bid events and advisory work.


Helena Wood Hello and welcome back to another episode of Freight to the Point, a podcast from Zencargo. I’m Helena Wood and I’m absolutely thrilled to be joined today by Chantal McRoberts, the head of advisory of Drewry Shipping Consultants. It’s so great to have you here, Chantal.
Hi, Helena, nice to meet you.
Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood If you’ve not heard of Drewry, they’re a leading independent provider of research and consulting services to the maritime and shipping industry and I know Chantal’s got an absolute wealth of knowledge that she’s going to be sharing with us today which is such a treat. So, let’s get Freight to the Point. Chantal, tell us how you got into the shipping industry.
Well, it was all by accident, actually. I was at university and I graduated and I moved back to home and I needed to earn some money. So, I started temping and I was given a role at P&O Nedlloyd working on the transport booking desk. And so, started doing that, really enjoyed it, I now know never to let a phone ring longer than three rings, that was the first lesson I learned. And from that point onwards, by accident, just really got into the ocean freight side of things. So, stayed in Southampton booking transport for a while then moved into special equipment. So, open tops, flat racks, all the interesting things and repositioning and then was offered a marketing job up in the trade department in London at their head office and that was Beagle House at the time.

So, went and did that with a lady called Julia Thomas who was my mentor at the time and learned an awful lot about trade pricing, ocean freight, capacity management, yield management, contribution management. And after doing that for about year and a half, I was promoted to trade manager on the Mediterranean to Asia trade. So, a great time to be working in that industry in London and in my early 20s so really enjoyed it, travelled, and then my career just carried on from there. Then moved to APL to do the north Europe to Asia lane, did a couple of years there then went to Maersk in Sweden and did foreign feeder operations and then moved back to the UK where I moved into the consultancy space predominantly in the M&A due diligence space on ports with a couple of American engineering companies, Moffatt & Nichol and URS.

And then, in 2013, moved to Drewry where I continued with the ports consultancy. And then, last year, April last year, I moved over to head up the supply chain side of the business, obviously, at a time of a lot of disruption and a lot of stress for everybody. So, it’s certainly been a career where I’ve seen highs and lows in the industry.

Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood Gosh, I’m exhausted hearing it, what an amazing experience. And what was it that triggered you to move from being in the industry to working on the industry in the consulting positions?
I think, when you are in the industry, you are just focused on what’s happening at that particular moment. Obviously, a lot of it is firefighting even when there’s not global disruption in the supply chains. When you take a step back into consultancy, you are really looking forward or you are looking to solve those immediate problems for people and I really like doing that. I like the challenge of that, I like the challenge of different people with different problems with different needs as well. A shipper’s need who I deal with right now is very different to an investment banker’s need who I was dealing with before so you have to be able to adapt and think how can I help this person or this organisation as best as I can. So, it has a wider remit with a wider lens and you are the independent voice of alleged reason, I suppose.

Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood Amazing. And for anyone that maybe doesn’t really understand the role of a consultant, could you help give our listeners a bit of insight to what Drewry do and specifically your role?

So, my role is 100% working in the container ocean freight space or sea freight space, whichever term you like to use, and I am working 90% of the time with shippers and BCOs. We do a number of different things but the main parts of the work that we’re doing right now is helping them navigate all of this disruption, how do they become more effective as a business within this disruption, how do they become a shipper of choice to make themselves more attractive to the carriers these days. How do they run their bids more efficiently? Who do they invite to the bids? What should their contracts look like or what do they need to change to make them mutually beneficial to become that shipper of choice? So, a lot of our time is spent building strategies, looking two or three years ahead.

Again, obviously, everybody’s focused on the right now but you have to start planning ahead because, in a period of hyper change, the hyper change continues but hopefully it will stabilise and what we would like is to help people to be in a stable position when the market stabilises as well. So, that’s what we’re doing on a day to day basis and we have lots of other tiny work streams that we do as well in terms of vast policies and detention and demurrage that’s a very hot topic right now.

Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood How interesting and I think there’s a few things to pick out in what you said. What is that point around, I’m going to call it proper future planning. So, I think, of course, for so many shippers in the industry, everything has been so reactive, so emergent, so challenging for the best part of two years now that actually even thinking about tomorrow, never mind the next year or the year after is too daunting. So, great that you’re working with businesses to do that but also thinking about how to approach things, I can imagine you might talk about how one might approach their rate strategy in today’s market, how one might change the nature of their relationship with the carriers to become a shipper of choice, which actually didn’t really matter quite so much three to four years ago and is now this new phrase that we’re all throwing around and it means something. I’m really interested to dive a bit more into that with you. So, what a fascinating role.

Absolutely. The last, I’m going to say, two and a half years, really, for most of the shippers has been extremely stressful so we do, to a degree, act as therapist to them as well. We listen to their problems, we try to give them real advice. One of the things we like to say, we’ve all got industry backgrounds at Drewry and we’re all people, we’re not machines that come in to tell you you’ve got to change this process, you’ve got to change that process. What we want to do is help the shippers, BCOs build relationships, build that personal touch with their carriers or their account managers to be able to have constructive discussions. In the days gone by, carriers just did what they were told by the shippers, that’s not the case anymore and it’s probably highly unlikely it will go back to that.

So, the building of the relationship and the trust has to happen and that is new to some degree. And if you are a shipper, you have to think about what makes you most attractive to your carriers or your freight forwarders. Or, if you’re a freight forwarder, what makes you most attractive to the carriers to then get given the allocations. So, it’s about building that profile, and it sounds a bit like you’re dating, you need to build a profile that is attractive but also is mutually beneficial to you as well. Hopefully, it won’t always be one-sided. So, we talk about things like forecasting, how best to engineer that to make it stable and attractive to carriers. They might come back and say, “Nope, we’re just going to divide your volume by 52 weeks.”

Okay, that might be the case right now, we know that there’s capacity coming online in 2023, the order book will hit, there will be some latent capacity. So, the issue of forecasting, even for them, becomes even more important. So, have the discussion about what your seasonality is, talk about how you can build your rolling forecast around what your products are around your peak demand areas and then let them know. If you don’t tell people, they don’t know so, therefore, they can’t plan either and then they can’t give you the response to allow you to plan. So, that’s a key thing for us when we are discussing about this.

It sounds almost like common sense, make sure that you don’t have any longstanding invoices, clear it, try and limit your payment terms, limit your request for detention and demurrage because all of these check a box. And it might be that you have to do a lot of work in progress and all of this and it’s not that you’re going to get all of this done for this next tender period, that’s why we talk about the next two or three years in terms of improving your profile, improving your processes to a degree and then actually developing your relationships. Because if you don’t have that carrier management part within your business, then that’s going to make it really difficult for this season’s biz but also the next ones and the ones after that.

So, think about who you want to invite, think about who you need to build a relationship with to be able to invite in year two or year three and then what’s your best fit matrix for your business and that’s what you focus on. And that’s what we try to do is that road mapping and it’s critical right now. There’s lots of new terms going around, whether it’s hyper change or poly crisis, you have to be listening, you have to be adapting but you also have to be planning at the same time.

Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood

It’s really fascinating to think about those changes to the nature of the relationship with the carriers and how people can make themselves as attractive, it really is like a dating profile. Get the right photos and get the right bio and make sure you minimise your additional charges and pay your invoice so how interesting, I suppose, what would you say to a shipper who maybe primarily works with forwarders? How should they be thinking about creating the right profile?

So, it’s always an interesting point when we work with shippers who work solely with forwarders and it will be totally dependent on that business profile and what they need and what economies of scale they can offer. So, if you’re a smaller shipper, this whole go direct to carrier mentality, which is there and that’s what the carriers want, might not be the best fit. And actually, maybe there’s some really good forwarders out there that can really leverage their economies of scale to get you where you need to be. But again, it’s having that open conversation with them and understanding how good their relationships are with the carriers.

We know last year, it was particularly difficult for forwarders, the carriers were holding back on allocation for them until the last minute so, if you were working with 100% forwarders, then that was a struggle for them. And unfortunately, they were stuck in the middle and you can’t hedge either way in that situation when somebody won’t communicate with you because they’d rather go directly. There’s a role and it’s about understanding how much allocation is there and then developing that relationship with the forwarder that positions you both together. Now, whether that’s on a named account basis or whether it’s just on FAK rates is another matter. But again, the same principles apply because they’re the principles that will also get fed back. And if you are a forwarder, then you also have to do all of these things. We don’t tend to work with them on this as a forwarder of choice but you could become a forwarder of choice by adopting some of these philosophies.

Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood

And I do think there’s a lot and it’s really interesting you say that because much of what you’re saying resonated with me in terms of how I know we at Zencargo think about … I don’t think we would ever use the phrase forwarder of choice, not for any reason, but in terms of how we think about our own relationships with the carriers. Because, of course, everything, when you’re talking to a forwarder, does become about economies of scale. But where I do think there’s a really interesting change and room for lots of potential growth in the market is around what you’re scaling. So, of course it’s not just that you’re booking more and therefore you’re looking for the economy of scale and the freight volumes but the story that data starts to tell when you look at forecasting and forecasting trends on a aggregated level and you can start to not only say, well, I know what one shipper or what one business is going to do and what their seasonality looks like and therefore what their volumes over time look like.

But if you can start to identify this for us as a forwarder, as we are able to aggregate the data of multiple shippers, multiple shipments, multiple lanes, multiple trades here, we are able to paint a much richer picture than we ever have before and, frankly, than many of the carriers have seen before in terms of helping them understand what’s coming next, where to focus, where there are weak point. And hopefully, for the digital forwarders out there who do have that wealth of data, because it’s not everyone, it really helps that, to use your phrase, the forwarder of choice profile.

Yes, and I haven’t used that term until right now but I think-

Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood We’ve claimed it today. Let’s make sure it’s ours.

Definitely, definitely, definitely. I’m here for that. This whole issue of data and visibility, it’s critical. The industry as a whole has been lacking on that side and I think, if that gap can be closed or reduced and the forwarders have the visibility and they have the data and you have the infrastructure to be able to manage it in a really efficient and dynamic way, then that helps with that forwarder of choice story. It would be one of those things that you would tick. I can give you visibility, amazing, who doesn’t want that? But the carriers themselves, if you’re going direct, it can be clunky, the shippers really struggle with that, there’s lots of different visibility platforms you can use.

We are agnostic, we don’t have one, we often get asked to recommend and it’s difficult because everybody has a different need. So, we go back to the point of standardisation, being able to forecast, being accurate with your forecasting as much as you possibly can. So, I think that whole digital space is really, really exciting and, if you have the investment behind you to do that, then I suspect you’ll problem to do very well.

Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood And also, I have to confess, as someone who came into the supply chain space and didn’t know much about the space until a year or so ago, I very quickly became allergic to the terms visibility and data because I was so sick of hearing them all the time but with no real definition. Because, of course, my visibility is not the same as your sense of what visibility ought to be and my sense of good data might not be the same as your sense of good data. So, I hope we could all start being a bit more upfront and clear in terms of what we mean because, again, it comes with this increasing digitisation of the space but visibility now, which can be all the way down at a skew level all the way through every single micro milestone of the movement of the goods as compared to traditional milestone tracking, which was basically maybe a container level, if you were lucky.

And just, again, it’s been so interesting because I think you’ve seen … I liked your poly crisis phrase, never heard that one before, but this almost wild matrix of chaos in the industry, all the sorts of stuff that’s been going on but the very, very fast improvement in terms of the data, the digitisation. So, I don’t know whether it’s felt noisier and more stressful because we really know what’s going on in a way we wouldn’t have before. But it’s really interesting to see the two things happening at pace at the same time.

I definitely would agree with that but I think there’s certain people that are doing it better than others. So, there is still that part of the industry that is slightly behind the times, I was wanting for a better term for that. And there’s the likes of the digital forwarders, Zencargo, who are pushing the boundaries to try and make the whole thing more efficient and basically driving that business forward. And what it does is it’s dragging the slightly more dinosaur part of the ocean freight industry that is still there and bubbling under the top, underneath the ocean rather, to try and improve.

So, I think it’s great to see, I think there’s more to do and it ties into so many different aspects of the whole industry whether it be tracking your container or whether it’s understanding your carbon footprint or planning your lead times. It feeds into all of this which is why I go back to the point about investment in this. Personally, I think that’s critical.

Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood That does make a lot of sense. And also, I think the one thing I would iterate, because it’s important for everyone to hear whether or not they’re a … I’m trying not to use phrases like dinosaur or lizard, but whether they are at the old end of the age of the industry and doing things in traditional ways, everyone has to start somewhere. And it’s very possible to work your way, whether you’re looking at it from a shipper’s perspective, whether you’re a forwarder, making a start, building up your data picture, building up from no visibility to some visibility, it doesn’t have to go all the way to the Nirvana of the benchmarking and the forecasting that we all talk about. Even step one is valuable.
Absolutely. I think you can use the analogy of a paper train ticket, can’t you? Still some people using paper train tickets, you can have it on your phone, you can be looking exactly where your train is, what it’s doing and adopting all of that and that’s where we are with the industry. We still have people with paper tickets so let’s try and move and go along this journey together and obviously try and learn from each other but obviously innovate as well. We can’t spend time stagnating, we have to innovate to make sure that the world is changing all the time now so our industry needs to be adapting to that all the time.

And unfortunately, a lot of the things we have to adapt to are black swan events or disruption that’s why it’s even more important to build your roadmap and plan for these things as much as you can or have contingencies and data visibility, adopting the right systems all help with that if they are done in the right way, you don’t want it to hinder your business. And working with the right partners who can do all of these things or at least are moving into that space.

Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood So, if you could give two or three top tips for anyone looking to find a partner and working out how to make the assessment of who to work with, what do you think shippers should be looking for?

That’s a really good question because what you’re looking for and what you want may be two slightly different things. I think, right now, it’s about building a long-term relationship with a carrier or a forwarder where you know that, if there’s a problem, you can pick up a phone and speak to someone to help you solve that. The way that you do that is by picking up a phone to start with or a Teams call or a text or a WhatsApp, whichever media you want to use, and start to build that up. What I would also say is you have to think about what fits your business, think about who your carrier lineup should be. If you were making your fantasy football team, who do you want as your forwarders and who do you want as your defenders?

Start to think about things like that because there is a role for everybody so you should maybe think about the best mix. Maybe I’ll have one alliance, maybe I’ll have two or three key forwarders, maybe I’ve got some niche trades where it’s just a niche carrier or it’s complete niche forwarder and that’s what we do. We sit and we look at this carrier line up and build what’s the best fit on all of this and who are you using right now, who might you use in the future and who might you keep in what we term as a sandbox to go to later and approach later. So, those are the things we’re thinking about but what you need to be doing is, not only just looking inwards, you need to be looking outwards as well.

So, you need to be constantly monitoring the market and seeing what’s happening and this applies to everybody, carriers, forwarders and shippers. You have to be monitoring the market, you need to know as much as you can where the next event may come from. Are we going to go into a global recession? That affects everybody. That’s not just a shipper issue, that’s a carrier and a forwarder issue. Watch out between China and Taiwan, for example, that will impact the global supply chain again. Where are you going with your sustainability programs from a forwarder’s, carrier’s and shipper’s perspective? So, although there’s things you can do inwards as a shipper, you have to also be looking outwards but your peers should be looking at those as well.

Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood I think that’s such a great analogy. We’ve been dating and now we’re on football. But I think it’s a great way to think about it. And actually, those two points that you’re making around think about your line-up but also don’t stop looking outwardly, I like it. Don’t stop thinking. It’s going to feel like a bit of a segue but it’s not really because it’s very similar to what we’re seeing in the rates market at the moment, of course, and actually what we are talking about. So, the context being we’ve seen all sorts of chaos when it comes to rates but we are now seeing all the hints of softening in the market but I just don’t think anyone trusts it. We’re all nervous about what happens next, what’s going to happen with Ukraine, what’s going to happen with Taiwan, is it going to be more impact from the global economy.

, in terms of how to think about whether to approach your rate strategy from an FAK perspective, look for something long term, look for an index tracked rate. I certainly know, when we are talking to our customers, we are really looking at building more of a diversified rates profile which is not unlike your carrier lineup. Think about what you’re not willing to risk, think about where you have different choices to make, think about your seasonality. So, we’re looking at shippers building much more diversified approaches to their rates and how they think about things. And I’d love to hear your take on what’s coming next in the rate market. Maybe you’ve got a crystal ball that someone else doesn’t have, don’t know, and how you might advise shippers to think about their own rate strategies.

That’s so interesting to hear this matrix of rate options or contract options, whichever term you prefer, that shippers can consider. We are also discussing that with our clients. Obviously, there is a place for a contract rate, a yearly contract rate, there is a place for a spot rate and there is a place for a long-term contract rate and whether that be index linked is another matter. They all have their places and they all will work for certain kinds of shippers but it’s about figuring out what’s your best match again.

So, for example, a long-term index linked contract, if you are willing to take the risk on that and you want to focus on improving operations and improving relationships and you accept that your rates will track along the market, and there will be moments where you’re maybe overpaying or moments where you are underpaying and the carrier’s willing to also accept that mutual risk, then that will give you the opportunity to look at operational issues with your carrier because the rates are done and over with, that’s it, the discussion’s finished with. So, that can help you refocus on that if it’s an issue.

That becomes a more strategic relationship, some people prefer the transactional relationship where it is just I just want to pay for the space. So, maybe a year contract where you have already tracked where the spot rate market is going, it’s a key indicator. It’s on the downward trend, that’s confirmed, that’s definitely on the downward trend now. Where do your contract rates sit? When is best to go to bid? Is it a wait and see right now? Last year, we had people going early, quite a lot of the large US shippers went early. What we’re seeing now maybe is that people are maybe reverting back to the more traditional trends, contracting period so they’re waiting. And I totally understand that wait and see right now is probably the best thing to do in terms of going to the market with a bid if your rates aren’t expiring.

If your rates are expiring by the end of the year, then you still need to be thinking about these things and maybe introduce a third round if you have time because the market is shifting so quickly. And again, it goes back to tracking the spot rates. We track port congestion, actually. For me, that is key to all of this. At the moment, port congestion is red, on the red scale quite considerably and, if it moves into amber and it moves into green, that means that the pressure is … Basically, we’re going to see this steam come up, the pressure release. And then, hopefully, the water stops boiling and we can have a slightly smoother sailing. So, if the port congestion eases and the inland supply chain then eases, then everybody starts to move their goods and then, suddenly, we have a slightly different situation where the carriers can’t use that as a reason to artificially keep the rates up which is what’s happening.

If your rates are expiring by the end of the year, then you still need to be thinking about these things and maybe introduce a third round if you have time because the market is shifting so quickly. And again, it goes back to tracking the spot rates. We track port congestion, actually. For me, that is key to all of this. At the moment, port congestion is red, on the red scale quite considerably and, if it moves into amber and it moves into green, that means that the pressure is … Basically, we’re going to see this steam come up, the pressure release. And then, hopefully, the water stops boiling and we can have a slightly smoother sailing. So, if the port congestion eases and the inland supply chain then eases, then everybody starts to move their goods and then, suddenly, we have a slightly different situation where the carriers can’t use that as a reason to artificially keep the rates up which is what’s happening.

However, there is still always a place to have spot rate markets, spot rates and moving that in the market because they are moving down so you could take advantage of that but there’s so many variables. It makes it so difficult to tell someone at any one moment this is what you should do. So, it’s always, us consultants, that’s what we’re trying to help them to make them move at the right time. So, that’s as good as crystal ball as we can give.

Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood That was a pretty good crystal ball. And I think the thing that’s so interesting is, in many ways, I really empathise with shippers because it’s really hard and a pretty unrelenting, incredibly busy day job. You also have this need and expectation to be deeply connected to the world’s geopolitics, port congestion, the rates market, there’s so many different variables that you want to keep plugged into. But the reality is, there are people, groups, publications, whatever it is that people can use to get this information. And naturally, I would love everyone who listens to this podcast to work with Zencargo and we are the experts who can advise our customers, I’m sure you would love everyone to work with Drewry and you can be the experts that advise them.

But for anyone who’s maybe listening who’s not ready to work with a forwarder who’s plugged in or a consultant to give them advice, where do you recommend that shippers look for information? How do they prioritise all these different variables? What can they afford to not look at to avoid complete overwhelm?

So, there’s a lot of good free resources out there. I would say, any of the spot rate indexes. We have WCI Drewry, that’s a free resource, I know S&P Global have the Platts one, they’re really good indicators of where the spot rates are going. They’re going down, that is happening, we know that’s happening. Track that, get yourself registered on a couple of those websites and then, suddenly, you start to get given a lot of free information via those websites as well because we’re putting things out there. The media, obviously, is great. LinkedIn is amazing if you can follow, I don’t want to plug him, but Lars Jensen, he’s giving you a lot of the information.

Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood We all love Lars. Keeping us all informed. Thank you very much to him.
Exactly. So, do that then you don’t need the worry. And then, in terms of the geopolitical parts of this, GDP is a key indicator of what’s coming. So, again, IMF, have a look. Educating yourselves and having the alert set up makes it really easy to keep track of it if you know where to set those alerts up. It also helps you answer those questions that your senior management are going to come and ask you and me and they want answers immediately. We all know that, prior to all of this, supply chains, ocean freight was way, way down the radar on CEOs and CFOs lists, not anymore and I can’t see that going away.

And part of the pressure that has been on the procurement side and the operational side for the shippers and the BCOs and the supply chain experts is that, suddenly, they’re having to answer these questions where they don’t know where to get the answers from and they’re from the CEOs and CFOs. So, that has put a lot of pressure on them. These resources can help with that and give you a moment to respond with something that is fairly accurate on that given moment on that given day.

Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood And it’s a great point and I think it’s both a challenge or a bringer of stress but such an opportunity because, of course, nobody particularly likes their CEO breathing down their neck and feeling they need to be completely accountable to everything under a moment’s notice. But isn’t it amazing that the role of supply chain has been elevated to the boardroom into these conversations and, as you say, we certainly don’t see that changing. And actually, what I’m very excited to see and we at Zencargo talk about quite a lot is this move from back office to boardroom or whatever you want to think about where supply chain professionals have a seat at the table. Businesses, I think, have woken up to see the great potential or the great risk that lies with supply chain done well or done poorly on their bottom line.
And hopefully what this means is when it comes to businesses trying to work towards their objectives, whether that’s growth and profitability, whether it’s sustainability, this really is the engine room of so many of those outcomes and it’s great to have that opportunity. I’m naturally going to do a plug here, our Zencargo content and procurement team would be furious with me if I didn’t. We have a weekly update that we send on the market every Monday, which I would charge our listeners to subscribe to, and many of our customers-
Oh, well, I will. I’ll subscribe.

Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood I’m frankly horrified to hear you’re not already subscribed, Chantal. But a lot of our customers talk about sharing that at their boardroom, they just forward the email which should make their lives so much easier.

Yeah, absolutely. And I think this backroom to boardroom concept is … You know what? I think it’s hard for the people doing it but it’s a positive thing that will benefit those people who work so hard in this slightly invisible sector. Everything you see and touch, whether you are sat at your desk, you’re picking up your phone, whatever it is has had to move somehow to get to you and people don’t think about that. So, I think giving it the visibility it does rightly deserve is great but also giving kudos to these people who have been under tremendous amounts of pressure is also important and to understand that they didn’t create this, this isn’t their fault.

So, when you are sitting there as the CFO and you’re saying, “Why have we paid $10,000 for one container or more?” that person hasn’t deliberately gone out to pay for that, that’s the market. So, that’s why you need to understand the market and understand and listen to your professionals at that level because they can educate the board on that as well.

Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood Such an important point. Certainly, the education is so important for all of us and I thank you.

Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood Even for those of us who’ve been in the industry a long time, not that I include myself personally in that space, we’re still learning every day because everything is changing so quickly.

Yeah, the rule book went out the window so everybody had to relearn and that we continue to do so and it’s the same with us at Drewry as well. We see different things happening all the time as a wider company as well. We’re not just looking at containers, we do breakbulk and we do through LNG-LBG and all of those things, all changing all the time. Reefers, equipment availability, all of these things, so many things you said, this plethora of information. So, it is really difficult to keep up to date but also to block out the noise to really hear what’s going on.

Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood Which makes so much sense. This has been such an interesting conversation. Chantal, I’m going to shift our focus quite dramatically and going to ask some more questions about you because we’re getting close to the point of wrapping up our podcast but I’ve got a couple of questions I really want to ask you. And the first is, we talk a lot at Zencargo about ship happens moments. We know that ship happens in the supply chain space, it’s a deeply human space but the great reward is often when ship has happened and you manage to overcome it. So, do you have any stories from your career about when ship has happened?
I have quite a few but I think, sometimes, I do like to talk, I’m not going to deny that, and sometimes I’ll be talking and then I’ll realise I’ve said something completely that I shouldn’t have said. And one of the most recent ones is I was talking to a rather large confectionary company trying to win some work, it was around Christmas time and I started to talk about how all I wanted was a massive ball of Lindor, wasn’t that confectionary company. So, I had to quickly realign to, oh, no, I definitely like celebrations. Yeah, no, wouldn’t mind a celebration either. So, sometimes you do get too involved on the human side and then you really put your foot in it. That’s perhaps the most recent one and then we have some more, shall we say, operational issues. I remember when I worked for Maersk and you had to be on call and I remember a captain calling me from a ship and I’m not in any way nautically trained. And he asked me whether he should slow down going down the Kiel Canal and I was like, “Well, do you think you should?” And he was like, “Yes, I do.” I thought, “I think you should too then.” And it was fine, the cargo all got there but there’s moments where you have to pretend that you know what you’re doing and then hope that somebody else can help you with that.
Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood I love that, I think that’s so great. And perhaps related to that, you’ve already mentioned one of your mentors from your earlier career but something I think is always so important is this is a deeply human space, it’s this invisible industry that you spoke about. There’s so many professionals working incredibly hard, supporting one another. Is there anyone that you would like to call out and thank that’s been a significant impact or influence on your career?
Yeah, so I think there’s a couple. Julia Thomas who gave me my job in trade at P&O Nedlloyd, she was a definite highlight in terms of working there and also teaching me about how to communicate in, shall we say, a very male dominated industry at that particular point. And then the teams that I’ve met within the consultancy, the Moffatt & Nichol team, when I first joined, really guided me in how to become a consultant. And then, at Drewry as well, it is all about the people and working with a great, knowledgeable, supportive team. So, I work with a gentleman called Stacy Kobayashi, a lady called Kathel, another lady called Kelly Buckley, and, as a team, we work really well and everybody is committed to helping on this call. And we can’t all do it individually, you need to work with people and build those relationships and learn from each other and every day we learn from each other. So, it’s a collaborative shout out, should I say.
Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood I love that. And it’s quite a big team so I’m not going to call it everyone by name but we’ll definitely make sure to thank them on LinkedIn and thank you for sharing so many names.
No, well, I’ll get shot if I don’t.
Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood You’ll get shot if you don’t and I get you probably still forgotten someone so you might get shot for that, too. Let’s hope not. Good. And Chantal, I’d love to hear from you, as you think about all the change that we’ve gone through, if we could then shift our mindsets to the future and you think about the future of the industry, what is the one change or the main change that you’d like to see as we build towards an ideal supply chain industry in the future?
Such a good question. I would like to see more direct investment in the infrastructure of supply chains actually. I think carriers have built up fantastic wall chests and, obviously, there’d be investing in vessels but I think, if they were to look inland rather than outbound and maybe make some investments on the land side with some of the profits that they’ve made, that could greatly help. And I think, if we can also, in countries where, let’s say, rail is more, should we say, government controlled, for them to realise how critical this is, then that will also help with some of the disruptions and then we have labor issues. Having open discussions without hitting strikes, I think, would be amazing in the next couple of years but, obviously, there’s lots of factors that come to play in that. So, for me, it would be investment in infrastructure, whether I’m sitting on my supply chain side or whether I’m sitting on the side that was doing M&A and D&D work with investment banks. There’s people out there that can help this with investment.
Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood Really interesting point and very timely as we sit on the cusp of or the eve of a, I think, a constraint at the Port of Felixstowe which is obviously going to have really significant impact on the UK supply chain.
Exactly. And I think that is, again, one of these disruptors that people need to watch out for and it just keeps shifting. Whether it was German ports or Felixstowe or the IWLU negotiations at LA Long Beach, it’s another labor is key to all of this as well. And again, it goes back to people, people looking after people in all of this.
Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood Yeah, so important. That’s so important. Thank you for sharing that, Chantal. And now we’ve got only one thing left to do before we wrap up our podcast and that is our quick fire question round. I hope you are ready, I hope you’re on the edge of your seat.
I am, I’m nervous.
Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood No, they’re nice and easy, don’t worry. We’ve got four quick fire questions that we ask all of our guests. We’d love to hear your one or two-word answers to these, there’s no right answers so it’s just about getting your opinion. And we’ll kick off with our first question which is, would you advocate for businesses to build supply chain resilience or supply chain agility in today’s market?
I can say resilience.
Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood Great. If you could do any job in the entire shipping space for one day, what job would you like to do?
A crane driver, actually. I wouldn’t mind being up the cranes.

Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood Love that. You’re actually not the first person to say crane driver. So, I think we’re going to have to work out some swapping opportunity. So, if anyone’s a crane driver that’s listening to this today, please let us know how to get into your role.
Yeah. I think I was offered to go up one in Malta, I believe, but I didn’t do it but I would like to go up one of the really big ones.
Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood Can you describe today’s market in three words?
Three words? Disrupted, congested and unknown.
Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood Ooh, I like that. And just one last question, what’s the best lesson that you’ve learned since working in the industry?
To listen to people and to hear what they’re saying.
Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood I think that’s a useful lesson regardless of whatever industry or walk of life that you’re in. Chantal, it’s been such a huge pleasure. Thank you so much for sharing so much insight and so many interesting stories and anecdotes today as well.
No, thank you. I’ve really enjoyed it, really enjoyed it. Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity.
Chantal McRoberts
Helena Wood Not at all, it’s been a wonder. And thank you very much for our listeners for tuning in to today’s episode, we’re looking forward to sharing more episodes with you. If you do have any feedback or if you would like to ask Chantal or myself any questions, please reach out to us on LinkedIn. We do love to hear from you so don’t forget to get in touch and also make sure to like and subscribe and share this podcast. Finally, if anyone would like to guest on one of our future shows, please get in touch, we would love to hear from you and talk about that with you. And until next time, goodbye.