Mr. René Marte
Vice General Manager
First of all René tell our readers about yourself. Who are you? What is your background in logistics, and for how long have you worked in China for LS Cargo?
I started my apprenticeship directly after school in 2006 with LS Cargo. Since my hometown is Bremen, the chances of not doing shipping or logistics were very rare.
On the other side, I was very much interested in Global Project Logistics and wanted to learn more about the variety and options logistics can offer.
After I had finished my apprenticeship in combination with a Diploma of Economics, I wanted to develop some international work experience abroad. In 2013, LS Cargo gave me the opportunity to join my colleague in Shanghai. At that time, we had a JV with our local partner. In the beginning of 2016, LS Cargo Logistics China was established, and I decided to stay in China, becoming a part of the newly-founded company and enjoying the possibility of developing the Chinese market with and for the LS Cargo group.
How is the current business situation in Shanghai, also in relation to COVID-19? Do you feel restricted and must you wear masks everywhere, or are things going back to normal?
The life in China has gotten pretty normal again. Most of the restrictions were loosened during May, and in the meantime, it is possible to travel “normally” within China to most of the places. Yes, we still need to wear masks, but this is limited to crowded places or public areas like shopping malls, airports, train stations, etc. All the places mentioned before can be entered with a national QR-Code System. This QR-Code System tracks your activities for the last 14 days, and if you are not coming from any high risk area, you can enter all places without a problem.
The first quarter of 2020 was definitely tough. First of all, not much is happening during the Chinese New Year, two weeks before as well as at least two weeks after the holidays. Therefore, it is already a quiet time. On top of this, COVID-19 exploded in China around the Chinese New Year. It felt like China came to a standstill till the end of March, which we could feel also for the business. After March, the economic wheel started to turn again. It was slow in the beginning, but within a short time, things came back to normal. This situation has lasted till now and hopefully, should continue at least until the end of 2020.
What is the main function of LS Cargo in China? Throughout the years, there have been many types of incorporations in China: rep. offices, joint ventures, wholly-owned, etc.? What type of company is LS Cargo in China?
LS Cargo China is a wholly foreign-owned entity and self-sustainable in China. From the beginning, it was very clear that LS Cargo China would only be a success if we could generate local business by ourselves and were not solely dependent on the international LS Cargo Group. Due to the globalization and high amount of foreign factories within China, it is an advantage to have a local Chinese office, local know-how, and local connections with suppliers and customers. Overall, the layout is leading to a win/win situation, not only for our national and international customers but for our international group and ourselves as well.
In the current business climate, especially between China and US, things are changing. Do you feel as a foreigner in China any change if you compare now with before and the way that you are, shall we say, treated or greeted in China?
No, I personally don’t see any big change here in China. The living conditions are still the same and have never changed. There are no bad moods towards any person from any side. I think that the community is learning from each other, and everybody sees the value of everyone from both sides. The developments in globalization are to be felt so vibrantly in a city like Shanghai, and it’s great being a part of it. I enjoy this very much. For LS China, the volume of the business to the US became lower in the last few years, and I presume it’s mainly related to the difficult political situation. However, in a global world, we need to find ways to overcome these situations as well, and I think we will.
Could you tell us about some of the recent projects you have handled in LS Cargo Shanghai?
Last year, we transported brewery equipment to a remote site in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines. We had two, full charter vessels out of China, including 40 pieces with a length of 21m and a diameter of 6m. In preparation for the domestic trucking in Cagayan, we had to remove a walking bridge, which crossed the main street, for over one month. The trucking was arranged during the night with 3 pieces at a time. On site, we organized a 500 ton crane and did the installation onto the foundation as well.
This year, we transported two whole lines of paper machines to Vietnam, which kept us busy for over four months. It started with the management at the client’s factory. We had our own staff based there, who helped to coordinate closely with the logistic and warehouse team for container stuffing and truck loadings of the break bulk pieces.
A few weeks ago, we started another project to Russia, which will include rail transportation, sea freight, and local trucking in Russia. The project will run till the middle of next year.
Overall, it is these projects which make it so interesting to be engaged in logistics, as there are changing daily challenges to overcome. That’s what I enjoy a lot.
I understand that you are a part of the German company LS Cargo. Does it mean that your main clientele are German companies or are you servicing anyone having project cargoes to/from China?
Since we have our roots in Germany, obviously we work a lot for German companies, but we are not limited to that. Our clients are manufactures and partners from all over the world. We want to use our expertise and support companies who had or have difficulties within the local market, such as, for example, communication problems and/or cultural differences. We see that there are sometimes misunderstandings, a lack of communication, or problems which will be discussed too late. This often creates even more problems which are difficult to overcome. So, we see ourselves as translators, mediators, and partners in-between to optimize operations and communication to the benefit of the overall project. With our global and local team and a more direct way of communication, we are able to provide technical and commercial optimized solutions at all times.
Any plans to return to good old Europe or are you happy in Asia?
In general, I would love to travel again outside of China, either for work or leisure. Travelling is always something very enjoyable for me, and I hope that the ways of travelling will get easier soon.
For now, I have no plans to move back to Europe. I am happy in Asia. I love my job and the daily challenges here. One day for sure I will be back in Bremen, but I don’t know the date yet!
How is it best for our readers to get hold of you?
I sometimes have the feeling there are too many ways nowadays. Of course, the most traditional one will be by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also find all the details on our homepage: www.ls-cargo.com
Especially for everyone in China, I am available by WeChat. You can just scan theQR-Codes below for my contact and/or the LS Cargo WeChat Account.
Many thanks for the interview. I hope I could give PCW a short insight of LS Cargo and the actual situation in China.