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Centrimex – France

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Interview with

Mr. Eric Cassandri
Project Department Manager

Eric Cassandri Centrimex France Interview Portrait

For starters Eric, what can you tell our readers about yourself and your own career in logistics? Why did you choose this career and please tell us about your experience leading up to your position in Centrimex?

I started working in the shipping industry 25 years ago in various companies and positions including a 2,5 years at CMA-CGM HO when I was younger.

France Centrimex Map

I also worked for about 7 years as a shipping agent for bulk/tankers and heavy lift vessels in Marseille/Fos. It was during this period of time that I discovered the heavy lift project world.

When you are on board and on the quay to manage operations for all mains HLV carriers like Biglit, Jumbo, SAL, BBC… You learn a lot from all parties involved!

Then, during Spring 2013, I joined a company well-known to you, Martin Bencher. 😉 

The goal was to see another part of project cargo but from the forwarder side and it was the perfect match. This experience of roughly 10 years was amazing, with a lot of experience acquired in this business. You learn every day from everyone. I have the MB Family to thank for that.

I joined the CENTRIMEX company a year ago to develop and manage the Project Department. In fact, I actually brought this activity to another dimension when I joined Centrimex. They already had a good potential and were developing this area of expertise, but we’re now doing project cargo at a whole new level for/from Africa and worldwide.

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Who is Centrimex? What is the history of the company?

Since 1948, Centrimex has been a freight forwarder expert in international trade and specializes in France-Africa, Europe-Africa, Europe-Asia and Asia-Africa flows for the transport of goods. Centrimex can also manage any other type of destination, regardless of the country of departure.

Our specialized teams support you in organizing your international transport flows around the world.

Centrimex is also an experienced customs broker who masters maritime transport, air transport, consolidation logistics (sea and air consolidation) as well as full containers.

We have offices in France, Italy, Belgium, China and West Africa (Mauritania, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mali, Benin, Senegal, Cameroon, Gabon, Togo, Burkina Faso, Congo) and very soon in Dubai.

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Please tell our readers about the strengths of Centrimex.

The strengths of Centrimex are mainly the knowledge of the African Market since 1948 and the relationships we have with our customers.

We also have good flexibility/reactivity due to the size of company (about 300 staff members) and this is quite appreciated by our customers.

In addition, we have a very strong procurement department negotiating container freight on these trades (+ 80 000 teus per year)

Of course, we are now stronger on part charters, OOG and RoRo units shipped in breakbulk due to the situation of car carriers being fully booked.

A lot of projects are managed by French companies to Africa for oil & gas, civil works… politics and economy are always close in Africa. 😉

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France is a big and important market also for project cargoes. Do you have experience in handling OOG and project cargoes, and could you provide our readers with some examples?

Yes, we have plenty of examples, but we managed an original one a few months ago from Vietnam to France. It was the transport of a mock-up of an Airbus A320 for a training center close to Paris, France.

We have managed seafreight on breakbulk with container ship, plus delivery and installation on site. It was not so big (13.64 x 4.65 x 3.3 m 17ts) compared to other shipments handled only but fun to do.

We also moved some boats and yachts. For example 1 crew boat of 68ts intra Africa as you can see in the picture.

We also have experience in OOG. 😉

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France is an important country with former colonies around the world, meaning lots of trade. As a French company, please tell our readers about your experience in handling cargoes to some of the many French-related territories worldwide and French-speaking countries?

Since last year, we have been moving a lot of cargo to mainly Cameroun, Ivory Coast, Congo and Gabon. This is mainly Oil & Gas units in part charter from Europe, Turkey and China such as a shipment of drilling pipes (from 2000 ts till 4000 ts). We are fixing roughly one part charter per month, and we are always checking the situation in different countries due to possible piracy, congestion, politics changes and economic situations.

We also shipped rolling materials for the mining industry and civil works from China and/or Europe.

A lot of construction materials and machines are shipped also to West Africa. Usually, all construction projects need mob/demob of equipment, and it’s one of our businesses, too.

To be honest, it’s a new market for me, but it’s challenging to discover new markets. In Africa, it takes more time to move cargo, and there are more “bureaucracy” tasks to manage.

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Some of the shipowners are now trying to act as freight forwarders.  What is your opinion on that?  Will they be successful to eradicate the freight forwarder, as clearly that is the aim of some of them?

We have been aware of this for a long time now. When I worked for CMA CGM in 2007-2008, it was already the case. They created CC LOG then after, they acquired CEVA, Bollore, Gefco, etc..

It was the same for MAERSK with DAMCO and recently Martin Bencher.

Shipowners, like all worldwide industries, try to develop/increase their market/profit. Of course, one of the strategies is to diversify and control all logistics with acquisitions of terminals, inland carriers…and freight forwarding of course. Then they can offer a full panel of services/products to their customers

Nowadays, the numbers of middle sized and little companies have decreased compared to the last decades, and we can see that all cannot play the same game with the same weapons.

Of course, if shipowners do it and results/profit are comfortable, they are right to do it and they will continue in the same way. 

I guess the main carriers (Maersk, CMA, MSC… ) dream that the shipping industry would be controlled by only a few major players like in the mobile phone industry (Apple, Samsung, Huawei… ).

My personal opinion is that I’m not afraid of such actions. The project market is a niche market, and the quality of services rendered is the most important aspect.

I have been having the same conversation with customers, and they agree. The smaller we are, the stronger we are. 😉

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Looking into your crystal ball, how do you view the market for 2024?

Nowadays, it is difficult to predict something as we can see that the world can change in a few hours.

We suffered a lot of inflation this year, so I guess it cannot be worse for 2024… I hope.

Next year, I think it will be stable and similar to the current one. The oil & gas market is still growing due to the actual oil prices, so I’m still confident in the business.

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How would it be best for our readers to get in touch with you?

You can reach me anytime by phone, WhatsApp, or LinkedIn, and if you’d rather send a quick request, you can use our online quotation form, on the Centrimex website.

Phone: +33 4 13 22 14 37
Mobile: +33 6 58 46 99 81
Emai: e.cassandri@centrimex.com

I will also be at Antwerp XL from November 28 to 30 at the Centrimex booth.