Mr. Daniel J. Robinson
Director & Global Business Development
Daniel, first off, could you please tell us about the history of Mercomar? Who owns the company today?
Mercomar was established in 1994 and it´s one hundred percent owned by Robinson family. Although my cousins Sebastian and Paula and I are the fourth generation of the company, my father, whom you already know (he´s third generation), still leads this strong team, which I’m proud to be part of.
Mercomar is the freight forwarding division of the Robinson Group (founded 81 years ago). Mercomar specializes in cargo transportation and international logistics services. It has three different business units which are: PCL (Project Cargo Logistics), GCL (General Cargo Logistics) and TCL (Tank Container Logistics), with offices not only in Argentina, but also in Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia.
How is the economy of Argentina currently doing? Do you have a lot of trade with China? Is renewable energy developing in your country too?
The economy is in a moment of transition, like in every election year (the presidential election is next October), but we are confident that with the support of the IMF and a current bumper grain crop in the coming months, we will be able to see a recovery of our economy. The big devaluation of the peso that we experienced last year is boosting Argentine exports and helping us to have a surplus in our trade balance. Some planned projects have been stalled as consequence of the devaluation of the peso, but analysts estimate that these will reactivate before the end of the year.
Trade with China is growing strong every year, Chinese companies are selling Argentina industrial goods, equipment and projects, for example Railroads, Nuclear energy, Renewable Energy, and also becoming partners in several Hydroelectric dams. Argentina on the other hand is increasing its export volumes of Agricultural goods such as Grains and Vegoils, exports of Frozen meat have doubled and will continue to grow, so yes trade with China is growing, bear in mind Argentina today produces food for 500 million people and our current population only reaches 45 million.
The current Government of Argentina came up with a plan to increase the energy output by 20.000 M with mainly renewable energy which is an ambitious plan since at the end of 2015, when the new Government took over, our total energy output was 27.500 M.
We have today over 120 windmill parks contracted some already in operation, also there are several Solar energy parks high up in the Northwest provinces where the sun is abundant all year around, and two major Hydroelectric projects are currently being built in our Patagonian Region.
Finally Argentina has become a big player in the Oil and Gas league as our recently discovered ‘VACA MUERTA’ reservoir is the second largest in Gas with already proven reserves for 400 years, and is the fourth largest in Oil.
Investments in this reservoir are currently very strong and market analysts claim that in 5 years Argentina Oil and Gas revenues will be similar to the current revenues of Agricultural products.
Are you generally involved in project cargo and can you provide us with some examples of cargo that you have handled or carried?
As I mentioned previously, I wear several hats, doing several types of work for the company, one of those hats is working with PCL (Project Cargo Logistics), where I’ve been working since 2010.
Regarding projects that we have handled, I can say that we have done quite well over the past years having worked on many different projects and types of cargo. That is what, in my opinion, makes our job so interesting.
As I usually say, I belong to the technological generation that uses all social networks, so now you can find most of the work we have done online on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and of course our own site, a picture is worth a thousand words.
What about customs clearance in your country? Is it difficult? Are there any rules of thumb to take into consideration when exporting to your country?
The drive of the current government is to reduce the costs of our foreign trade and in the past 3 years some improvements have been achieved, this together with the devaluation of the Argentine peso, has resulted in more competitive costs for our Foreign trade.
As to your question regarding custom clearance in our country, the government is currently working in a simplified digital process which we will see working in full next year.
Do you belong to any international networks currently?
We are members of several networks such as CLC Projects and XLP Project Network for Project Cargo; AON Network for General cargo; and for Air Cargo we are members of AWS and Global Air Alliance.
Argentina is a nation of immigrants I believe. May I ask if you and your family come from Argentina originally? Also, apart from your father’s career, what made you choose a career in shipping and logistics?
Our family came to South America from the UK at the end of the 19th century and have settled in Buenos Aires a century ago.
I can say that I was born in Uruguay, so some of my roots are there. Certainly, I feel about ninety eight percent Argentine and it’s best not to ask which country I support in the World Cup as it´s hopefully clear that Argentina is my team, of course!
Anyway, I´m a father of two kids (a four-year-old boy and a three-month-old baby girl) and I´m married to a wonderful woman who is very important to me and my family. As I mentioned previously, I´ve been working with our family group since 2010. I´m a professional chef, having studied in both Argentina and France, and before 2010 I was travelling around the work cooking and experiences beautiful cultures. Yes, of course, I enjoy cooking, but I love eating!
To make a long story short, here’s a brief resume about how I ended up in the shipping and logistics business.
It all started in 2002, after I finished my cooking carrier here in Buenos Aires. I had the crazy idea of hopping on a container vessel as a chef’s assistant and getting some experience.
The vessel was the P&O Nedlloyd Dejima (owned by the Reederi CPO, a family friend). I can say that it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. This is because, besides my cooking experience, I discovered new cultures and amazing people from South America to South Africa, Indonesia, China and Japan. I loved it so much that I did it twice! But that was not all as one of the captains who knew my family told me that I should learn about shipping. So, he started teaching me some things regarding shipping. Actually, I finished preparing all the paperwork for each port. That was really cool.
In 2007, I replanted my roots in Buenos Aires and while my wife was finishing her law career, I decided to study to be a customs broker. After getting my diploma in customs brokerage, I continued studying to be a Bachelor of Foreign Trade. I still remember the day I knocked on my father´s office door (he´s been in the shipping business for more than 49 years), asking if there was a vacancy for me. I started working in 2010 and still do. I am very happy and proud of continuing this legacy.
You have a beautiful country that’s famous for many things. Could you recommend a few lesser-known places for tourists to visit?
Argentina is an amazing country and it has lots of beautiful places to go. With the devaluation of the peso last year, there was a sharp increase of incoming tourism. Our government also considers tourism an important industry, and has taken several steps to develop tourism; among them was opening the Argentine Skies for new airlines to join our domestic routes, last year four new airlines started operating in Argentina, creating new hubs in different inland cities facilitating the transport of tourists all over our country.
I would suggest tourist to visit Iguazu waterfalls in the North East; the southern Inca Empire in Salta and Jujuy; the Mendoza wine route and several places of our world famous Patagonia.
How is best to get in touch with you?
Here are my details:
Daniel J. Robinson
Arias 1639 – 18th floor – C1429DWA
Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires
Phone: (+54 11) 5222 0750 ext. 712
Mobile: (+54 9 11) 4191 7038