As the end of the year approaches, we had the opportunity to speak with New Silk Road Network’s member Ocean Bright Logistics. Pioneers in sea freight, and steadily establishing a firm footing in rail freight, Ocean Bright has more than a decade of experience in servicing their local and global customers.
In our conversation, we had the opportunity to speak with David Ma, CEO of Ocean Bright. We explored various topics from the company's founding in Shanghai to the current situation caused by lack of space and equipment and the company's future developments. Moreover, we look into the company's latest offerings in block train services, that has been running since November.
Finally, at the end of the interview, David stresses on a significant thought that underlines the importance of working together as a single unit along the New Silk Road by sharing resources and supporting each other in the network.
In conversation with David…
NSRN: We would like to know more about the origin of the company. After its establishment in 2005, what were some of the significant milestones for the company? What would you say you are currently known for in the market?
David: The company was established on the 8th of March in 2005, which is actually International Women's Day. It is definitely a good day! (laughs). In 2009, we marked a significant milestone after we got the NVOCC license. We became a booking agent for various shipping lines in China, after which we started cooperating with many overseas partners. We were nominated as a logistics supplier in China. By 2011 our service extended from Shanghai to Ningbo, Shenzhen, Qingdao, Wuhan, Chongqing, Dalian and other important cities. We covered services from the coast to the Yangtze River.
In 2014, we extended our sea freight business and started international air freight and intermodal transport, trucking and third-party logistics. In 2017, we got the opportunity to begin our railway business with a boost from the Belt and Road Initiative. In the beginning, we were not aware as to how to operate along the New Silk Road or how to organise our own block train, but over the years we gained expertise in this area too. We have specialised personnel in the railway business, who know how to provide our customers with the best service. So we have gained a lot of trust from customers in China and abroad.
Since block trains connects China and Europe, it improved the efficiency of logistics, which was one of the main reasons we entered into the block train business. Our connection is usually from Chongqing to Duisburg. From Duisburg, it continues to Western Europe, for example, Ireland, UK, the Netherlands etc. After that, we entered into the Polish market, and today, we have our own console business, and we are preparing console boxes. From China to Poland, we are using Xi'an at the departure destination. In the beginning, we used to have only one departure each week, but now we have three departures per week. There are various services we are offering now for the railway business.
The coronavirus had caused a lot of trouble for business and people all over the world. In logistics, there was a lot of vessel delays, equipment and space issues. There were many troubles that kept arising, but the railway played a more critical role. Of course, rail freight's capacity cannot be compared to sea freight. Still, we can see it multiply as it attracts more business from different industries.
In 2019, we developed the e-commerce service where we provide dedicated courier service between China and Europe, for B2B and B2C business. For this, we designed our own products and try to establish relationships with platforms such as Ali Express and Wish. We also work with other smaller businesses that wish to create their market in Europe. Finally, the most remarkable milestone for us this year is that we are now the exclusive agent for Boluda shipping line in China, one of the leading shipping lines. We enhanced our connection from China to Spain, and further to West Africa. So we have developed our company every day by taking concrete steps.
NSRN: Can you tell us a bit about your background? What did you mainly do before starting Ocean Bright, and what was the motivation to start Ocean Bright?
David: I graduated from the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade, and my major was in international trade. After I graduated, my first job was international trade, in a vast state-owned company. It was a comfortable life, going to work at 9 and getting done at 5. But since I had just come out of university, I thought it was still too early to enjoy life like this, so I decided that I needed to try something different. When the international logistics business was just taking off in China, I joined NYK (Nippon Yusen), a Japanese shipping company. This company does not exist any more because it was merged with Mitsui OSK Lines/Kawaski Line as ONE now. I worked there from operations to customer service to sales.
I found the logistics business very interesting, so I thought why not make it more challenging. You know it is not easy to build up your own shipping company, because you need a massive investment (laughs). So I was thought, why not become a freight forwarder. First, I joined a local company, and then realised that the job is fascinating. It was so different from the shipping line, every day, a new challenge appeared, and you needed a strong and big heart to take up these challenges.
So I changed my mentality from shipping line worker to a freight forwarder. I realised how much I learnt in this business and wanted to extend my capabilities. The next step I took was in 2005, when I established my own company. I started off only handling the local customers, and steadily gaining connections with overseas partners, so it was constructed step-by-step. The freight forwarding business is very challenging, and you cannot predict it. This keeps the job very interesting, and this is the motivation behind running this business.
Besides, Shanghai is a dynamic and competitive city, which keeps pushing us to achieve the best. I was born in Shanghai, I studied, married, and worked in Shanghai. Everything has happened to me in this city! (laughs). The opportunities here are unlimited! I can do rail, sea and land here but the important part is concentrating on every step. Our motto is to work with passion, and we continue to do that every day. Currently, we have three offices in China, one in Shanghai, the other in Ningbo and the last in Yiwu. Soon, we will open an office in Xi'an since our railway business is growing. We think good service is the root to make our customers happy.
NSRN: Ocean Bright's expertise mainly lies in sea freight and rail freight. What do you think are your core competence when it comes to forwarding via sea and rail? Moreover, what kinds of cargo are you involved with? And finally, what unique services can you offer the customers?
David: Sea freight is our strong point, and we work with various shipping lines. We have good connections with them. With China's situation, our long-term cooperation with the shipping line has allowed us to get the protection and receive the expertise. In regular times, you will not see the advantages, but when times are unique, you will see the power of your connections that you have sustained over the years.
In the railway business, we have already started our console box, which is quite good. This started 2 months ago, due to the demand created by customers. In the past, we loaded the shipment with some consolidation, but like everyone else, we faced a lack of space, equipment, and cargo delay. So when we decided to do our console box, we received a lot of support from our customers. Our first console was in November, and our customers were happy with our work. We worked with one of the fellow members in New Silk Road Network, Polish Forwarding Company as our partner. We know and understand each other. We both have a similar working style, we are hardworking, and we treat customers as our god. Service is first for us! Whatever the customer asks, we say yes, and provide them with the solution!
NSRN: Recently, many logistic companies have been reporting a shortage of containers, has that impacted you in any way considering the rush of the holiday season? Many in the logistics field believe that this was caused by the imbalance of trade between West and China, and further aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic. How are you being impacted, and what could be the possible solutions to manage this situation?
David: This problem happened to every freight forwarding company. The solution to this kind of problem is to have confidence because we know that this situation will improve sooner or later. We can’t foresee how many months to wait, but it will improve.
Secondly, we try to give diverse solutions to customers. We provide all solutions from all shipping lines to our customers to have a range of options to choose from. We use every connection we have to find space, equipment and any other solution. Sometimes, we even suggest solutions to our customers and advise them rail freight over the sea when appropriate. The guarantee is that your cargo is in our hand, not in the shipping line's hand, so our duty is towards our customers.
With our courier service, there is a lot of business too. Folks in Europe, who are not travelling these months, are staying home and shopping online; we are their service providers. During the COVID-19 times, a lot of people changed from traditional markets to e-commerce. Initially, people were reluctant to try it, but now they tried the candy, and they like it! (laughs). Even though Covid-19 has been a disaster, it has also pushed us to find more opportunities. Also, for this situation to improve, we need to look at America. When the situation there improves, it improves for the world as well. US, Europe and China are big engines for the global economy and need to function normally for things to move around the world. The current equipment shortage in China pushed us to buy our own equipment together with PFC. It is our joint service for the railway, dependable service with guaranteed equipment.
NSRN: You mentioned your weekly block train service and new LCL service this month from China to Poland, would you like to share more details about its progress? What would the next developments for your company and the plans for the coming years?
David: Consolidation to Poland is a priority, so we will do that. We will also develop other departure stations and make them close to our customers. In the near future, we want to establish connections with other East European countries, such as Czech and Hungary. Our ambition is to have direct consolidation with our own block train, cargo and equipment to arrive at all these destinations. We want lesser transit and more direct arrival. I understand that this is not easy, but this is our target for the future.
With our association with New Silk Road Network, we see specialists in this network. We want to work with the members closely because we are not competitors but friends. It is only together can we grow the business. The market is so huge that there is ample opportunity for everyone! That is why I want all of us to come together to grow our respective business.