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Category Archives: News

SHIPPING BULK OR BREAK-BULK

Luani Matthsÿer  | 02 September 2021

Containerised shipments have been the mainstay of international shipping since its conception in the late 1950s. A vast majority of organisations utilize the time tested container as their primary method of delivering commodities in a safe and relatively timely manner. However, the rising container shortage dilemma the industry is facing calls for alternative delivery methods to be explored.

Bulk and break-bulk shipping represent a viable alternative to container shipping should the right conditions apply. Multi-national organisations that ship materials of vast quantities or sizes are more likely to utilise this method as loading containers is unfeasible. This does not imply, however, that smaller organizations or manufacturers cannot take advantage of the break-bulk/bulk shipping opportunities. Alistair Group proposes quite the opposite; It is now the ideal opportunity to make use of this alternative shipping method, where possible, to avoid the container conundrum.

There are several criteria to consider when pondering break-bulk/bulk as a shipment method. Here are but a few:

  • Cargo needs to be durable.
  • Third-party handling of cargo might be required. Break-bulk/bulk operators only offer port to port services, therefore should door to door services be required a third party, like Alistair Group, will need to be utilised.
  • Cargo volume needs to be greater than the standard 20-28 MT’s shipped in a container. For break-bulk/bulk to be a financially viable solution upwards of 1500 MT’s per vessel is required.

Should you feel this option is worth exploring, please reach out to us as and we will gladly guide you through all break-bulk/bulk shipping options.

 

Bulk Sulpher from RichardsBay, South Africa to DRC.

SMBS Breakbulk from DAR, Tanzania to DRC.

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SUPPLY CHAIN AGILITY IS PARAMOUNT IN TODAY’S WORLD.

Matt Edwards (Commercial Lead – Road Freight) | 01 September 2021

Businesses with the ability to source globally, limit exposure to volatile costs and ultimately, get their product to market first, will win. Drawing on these strengths will, at the very least, ensure survival during this incredibly challenging period. A period where one is never sure how or when their next container from Ningbo or space on a vessel from Durban will be secured.

Alistair Group’s forward-thinking and mentality of continual improvement has allowed us to be at the forefront of supply chain agility. A few years ago, Alistair Group recognised the need to diversify its offering and grow its footprint regionally; better serving our customers’ needs as they sought to explore new markets and source more competitively. As a result, we are now seamlessly delivering integrated services on multiple corridors, such as Durban, Walvis Bay and Dar es Salaam, serving our core markets in DRC, Zambia and East Africa.

This multi-corridor strategy allows Alistair Group to pivot between corridors when and if necessary; giving our customers the confidence to respond to the ever-changing supply chain landscape while remaining competitive in their respective industry sectors. Alistair Group, therefore, has the freedom to explore all solutions available to our clients without being limited to only one corridor, shipping line or facility. We are able to seamlessly transition our operations from one corridor to another in order to avoid any delays or price surges; always offering the most timely and cost-effective solution.  Alistair Group’s presence at all major ports (Dar es Salaam, Durban and Walvis Bay) ensures that our clients receive the same all-in solution of transportation, clearance and warehousing regardless of the corridor utilised.

Our strategic positioning has been particularly beneficial for the mining sector, at a time when commodity prices are soaring and mines are investing heavily in expansion and modernisation to keep up with the demand. Events of the last 18 months meant that no matter from where in the world our customers sourced their reagents or other inputs, we needed to use our expertise to help them navigate capacity constraints, heavy congestion and security concerns.

By forewarning our customers of likely delays on their core corridors and competitively pricing the alternative routes, we not only ensured the smooth transit of vital imports but also carefully aligned these with export volumes across three corridors (Dar es Salaam, Durban and Walvis Bay) to benefit the industry as a whole.

Alistair Group takes a consultative approach in providing supply chain solutions that put our customer’s needs first; which is ultimately driven by our vision to be the company that makes Africa work better.

Please get in touch to see where we can make a difference to your business.

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CURBING THE GLOBAL CONTAINER SHORTAGE

Daniel du Plo0y (Head of Warehousing) | 01 September 2021

With the pandemic spreading throughout the world in early 2020, many countries implemented strict lockdowns with the aim to prevent the spread. This, in short, also meant that most economic activity and production came to a standstill. The immediate result of this was that large numbers of containers were stockpiled at ports and in turn, shipping lines globally reduced the number of container vessels on the busy shipping corridors to minimise the financial impact of operating costs.

Specific to sub-Saharan Africa, the most immediate impact from the container imbalance is the increase in ocean freight. The main ports for metal exports from the DRC and Zambia (Dar es Salaam, Walvis Bay, Beira and Durban) have all been impacted in some way by the shortages.

Walvis Bay has seen vessel operators cancel callings due to inefficiencies experienced further up the west coast of Africa, Beira has seen increased dwell times in outer anchorage and Durban, in addition to the shortage, have been impacted by local riots in July as well as cyber-attacks. Shipping rates to China have seen as much as a 150% increase in some cases out of Durban. Diverting cargo to different ports on short notice has never been more valuable for traders and inland logistics companies.

At Alistair Group, our motto of making our clients business run better has given us the freedom to explore all options available to us without being limited to one corridor, shipping line or facility.

We are completely transparent in our approach to provide solutions to our clients in terms of urgency and price. This type of “Out of the box” thinking is required in difficult times. Alistair Group has been able to curb the container shortage problem being faced in our industry, by offering the following solutions:

                • – Excluding Durban, South Africa has 7 additional commercial seaports along its coast.
                • – Viability of alternative ports and cost comparisons are shared with our clients to make the best decision for their business.
                • – We offer our clients favourable storage terms
                • – Reducing inland transit times
                • – A focus on smaller, fast-moving shipments, direct packed

Please get in touch to see where we can make a difference to your business.

 

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VISIBILITY THROUGH A CUSTOMER DASHBOARD

Matt Edwards (Commercial Lead – Road Freight) | 02 August 2021

Lack of supply chain visibility is a major challenge for many companies and industries, even in this age of digitisation. Whilst manual data entry and antiquated systems remain commonplace, those who leverage technology to better manage their supply chain often claim this step to be a major competitive advantage. 

Alistair Group recognised the need to provide clients with supply chain visibility via our real-time dashboards. This solution, in turn, brings some much-needed visibility for our customers and reduces unnecessary touchpoints throughout a shipment’s journey. 

Each of our clients has a customised dashboard to access real-time updates on the fleet status, and thus the status of each of their shipments. Additionally, our dashboard provides full reports for each warehouse, access to relevant photos and proof of delivery documentation and has the added benefit of allowing cargo to be searched by client Purchase Order (PO) number.

With our customer dashboard the following information is at your fingertips:

  • Client’s internal reference number
  • Cargo Status
  • Last Update
  • Truck details
  • Current Location
  • Estimated Delivery Date
  • Supporting Docs
  • Cargo Photos
  • and many other fields as per client requirements 

However, this major step to bring visibility to our customers did not come without its fair share of challenges during the implementation stage. With a large portion of our customer base in mainland China, we had a rather prominent and sophisticated firewall to overcome! 

For Alistair Group to provide an equally world-class customer experience across the globe and comply with the Chinese government’s data protection laws, we needed to have a separate dashboard with our infrastructure in China. We were able to keep Chinese user data in China and become compliant with Chinese regulations while ensuring the dashboard remained fast, responsive and secure. While the process was rather complex, Alistair Group dashboards and our sophisticated, in-house developed Road Freight and Clearance Document Management System are now truly accessible globally, including to mainland Chinese users via alistairgroup.cn.

Ultimately, we have been able to create a powerful, efficient tool, upon which a number of our customers rely for clear and unrestricted visibility. We have said goodbye to late pre-alerts, manual reporting and misplaced emails.

   

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VISIBILITY THROUGH AN AUTOMATED GRV SYSTEM

02 August 2021

Improved transparency, reduced delay in GRV distribution and higher efficiency – all of which can be achieved with an automated goods received voucher.

 

In the past, a typical day at our North Riding Warehouse included receiving cargo at the warehouse, conducting a material inspection, counting and measuring cargo weight and dimensions, returning to the office, commencing with the manual goods receipt process, printing all paperwork, binding the GRV with the delivery note, scanning documentation and manually sending it to the customer.  This time-consuming and inconvenient process might sound familiar to the vast majority of the transport and logistics industry.  However, at Alistair Group we constantly look for ways to remove bottlenecks and improve our efficiency.

The goods received voucher (GRV), also known as a goods received note (GRN), was oftentimes reported to our team as being a problem area; taking anywhere between two to four days to deliver. This paperwork intensive process was flying under our efficiency radar and costing our business a lot of time and effort to manually process. GRV’s play a key part in notifying customers that their cargo has successfully been delivered. Without a timely and accurate GRV, our customer’s processes are delayed; BV inspections and load planning is stalled and thus transport of goods to the final destination is set back. Whilst auditing our GRV process, in the subsequent discussion with our warehousing team, it was made evident that manually processing the GRV took a large amount of time in data entry and distribution to customers. Additionally, our current process allowed for things such as human error, lack of accuracy, delays in sending the GRV and the inclusion of multiple unnecessary steps. Staff often had to walk more than 300m to book a goods receipt.

It was these conditions that led Alistair Group to develop and introduce an automated GRV system. The countless back and forth to receive cargo in the warehouse and input the data at the office, all of which was captured manually, has now been replaced with a user-friendly web-based application (see screenshot below). Our staff are now able to utilise their mobile phone or the office tablet to immediately capture all information while with the cargo. Thus, data entry can be done on-sight as soon as the cargo arrives; resulting in real-time data capturing and delivery transparency to customers. 

The new application is equipped with predetermined fields, automated customer information, cargo and delivery-note photo capturing and uploading capabilities, automatic GRV distribution and dashboard delivery status updates. This allows staff to book the cargo much faster. Through this improvement, Alistair Group has been able to make a substantial leap in the digitalization and automation of delivering GRV’s. Reducing the goods receipt process and drastically shortened the GRV delivery time; now allowing us to deliver GRV’s to customers within ten minutes of cargo delivery. The same data which is captured in the GRV note is then used to automatically prepare further documents such as Road Consignment Notes, Packing Lists and Clearance Documentation.

 

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MORE THAN A DECADE OF DEVELOPMENT

2021 marks 13 years of Alistair Group; a significant milestone for a company that began with one truck and the desire to solve problems. As of today, Alistair Group is the preferred logistics provider for a vast majority of industries in South and Eastern Africa. The Group operates across 20 countries worldwide, employs over 800 staff, manages 1039 assets and has 18 offices across Africa.

“Did we expect to still be here; to have grown this much? Honestly? No.” says Founder and CEO, Alistair James. “I suppose we always had our heads down and focused on the job back then. So, this is a good moment to look around and see all that has been accomplished by everyone involved.”

The company took its current form from a problem-solving basis. Alistair was originally based in the bush when he began working in Tanzania back in 2002. Due to his remote location, he had to overcome many logistical issues in terms of accessing food, spare parts and basic requirements. It quickly dawned upon him that there were many commercial opportunities to solving the present logistic restrictions within the community. His initial investment was in grain trading. He had witnessed the frustrations caused by the fluctuations in price and thus, became particularly good at predicting them. With a rented warehouse and a single small truck, he began trading in 2008. When he struggled to make the financials add up on such a small scale, he knew it was time for a bigger truck.

 

Alistair did not claim to be an expert in vehicles, he was learning on the job. However, with the potential of upscaling to a larger truck, he recognized the need for an experienced opinion. It was at this point Angelo Caruso joined forces with Alistair to provide hands-on maintenance and advise on the next investments. Angelo’s professional background in mining and road maintenance, coupled with his fascination with all thing’s vehicle related made him an ideal fit and a key component in the Group’s team. Angelo, now one of the three directors, is often described as “a well-oiled German machine; a petrol-head with a real heart for what we do”.

With Angelo’s input, the company invested in two fuel tankers, leading to a little more success. Unfortunately, only a few months later, amid their rising success, one of the fuel trucks caught fire. When describing these events Alistair makes it apparent that they “could have given up then and there.” Instead, Alistair sold the remaining fuel tanker and his personal car to cover the cost of the lost fuel and to finance two new flat-bed trucks. Little did Alistair and Angelo know that these two flatbeds would be the start of their ever-growing fleet. A stroke of luck turned things around in the form of a rental contract on Mafia Island for the oil and gas industry.

As business improved, the focus never wavered. Two years later, Clementine James, Alistair’s sister, joined the company and become the third director. Clementine had the expertise and skills to assist with finding the resources to grow the business. At this point, the company only had around ten trucks. Fast-forward 13 years – Alistair Group now has a fleet size of over 400 trucks and transported more than 200,000 tons of cargo in the last year. The company may be asset-based but its culture of efficient execution and best practice has set it apart in the world of logistics solutions. Alistair stated that “sometimes when people ask me what I do I just say I’m a trucker but it’s no longer really true”. He continues to explain that the company has grown into the success it is today because of their ability to continually make things work better.

Our past is our foundation, and that’s vital to remember. However, it is in the future where all of the opportunity lies. However, for the present; Alistair Group is going from strength to strength and it’s hard not to notice the buzz in the air as the company expands into more countries, gains new assets, embraces new technology and continues to evolve. It’s a new era for Alistair Group and the company is poised for further success.

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UNLIMITED DELIVERY THOUGH WALVIS BAY

Since the opening of the new container terminal, the Walvis Bay Port has experienced a noteworthy increase in vessels and cargo handled per year. The port is conveniently located with direct access to major shipping routes and has become a key location for international trade. The world-class infrastructure and equipment available at the port and the year-round pleasant weather conditions eliminates unnecessary delays and have attracted many companies to switch to the Walvis Bay Port and corridor.

The Walvis Bay corridor is one of the three major corridors that Alistair Group service. Whether you require a storage facility or need to transport cargo from Walvis Bay to Zambia and the DRC, Alistair Group can assist every step of the way. With our 2,500sqm covered storage and an additional yard area of 1,000sqm, you can be certain that your cargo will be taken care of. The facility is in a prime location close to the port and fitted with 24-hour manned security, alarm systems, armed response and CCTV cameras giving you peace of mind. Suited for bulk, breakbulk and general cargo with both empty and full container services.

Alistair Group has a solid reputation and is preferred by many blue-chip companies in the sub-Saharan Africa region. Our team of over 850 employees and dedicated to providing end-to-end shipping and storage solutions and offers weighing, strapping, stitching and stuffing services.

Alistair Group Warehousing Solution in Walvis Bay:
• Transport cargo between Walvis Bay Port, Zambia and DRC.
• Bonded and non-bonded storage facilities available.
• Loading and offloading cargo.
• Short-term and long-term storage solutions.
• Real-time tracking and tracing.
• In-house cloud-based warehouse management system.
• Material Management and Material Handling.
• Port Handling and Stevedoring.

Alistair Group is well positioned in Namibia to better serve mining clients in Zambia and DRC by making greater use of the Walvis Bay Port. Although the Walvis Bay Port is still in tight competition with the Port of Durban, the Walvis Bay corridor has shown promising transit times and cost efficiencies. Contact us for more information on how we can move your cargo through Walvis Bay!

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HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT OUR PROJECT CARGO SOLUTIONS THROUGH DURBAN?

As an integrated logistics provider, we get that no two businesses are the same and therefore, we offer scalable and dynamic storage solutions to our clients to ensure that expectations are satisfied. As we continue to grow and expand, our facilities hand-picked and strategically positioned close to ports and major corridors. We are committed to making it easy for clients to store cargo and to effortlessly move cargo anywhere in the world, consequently, it is of utmost importance for our facilities to be easily accessible. The Port of Durban is currently the single largest and busiest shipping terminal in sub-Saharan Africa and handles up to 31.4 million ton of cargo every year. The Alistair Group Durban facility is ideally located in very close proximity to the port (within 10km) and the facility has a total space of 20,000sqm with 3,000sqm dedicated to bonded storage space.

We are known for our safe, secure and compliant facilities and our Durban facility is no different. Access to the premises is completely controlled and security measures include fencing, 24hour CCTV footage and motion sensors. The facility is equipped with reach stackers, forklifts and a weighbridge.  To evolve our service offerings, real-time tracking of cargo and shipments through our in-house, fully web-based platform are offered as a value-added service to all clients. Alistair Group is one of the few logistics solution providers with the capability to track a fleet uninterruptedly through the entire Sub-Saharan region.

The facility is suited to accommodate any shape or size cargo, including project cargo and other bulky, abnormal cargo. We have the capacity to transport the cargo by road, rail and sea to or from the final destination and to handle breakbulk cargo directly at the port.  Furthermore, Alistair Group also has access to various outsourced warehousing facilities throughout South Africa that enables us to provide clients with custom, ready-to-go solutions.

The success of an integrated logistics supplier is directly linked to the condition of facilities, fleets and equipment. We are extremely excited about the latest edition to our facilities; our brand-new workshop in Durban to take our fleet and service offerings to the next level. The new Durban facility is currently under construction and the anticipated completion date is April 2021. This modern facility will be easily accessible to long body trailers and other bulky vehicles. We take the maintenance and condition of our assets very seriously and are proud to provide our clients with nothing other than the best!

For more information about our warehousing and logistics services available at Durban, contact our dedicated team today!

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TAKING YOUR CARGO FURTHER THROUGH MTWARA

Alistair Group offers logistics expertise across various industries the including mining, construction and oil & gas industries. Our flexible solutions are backed by a team of experienced professionals who easily adapts to the dynamic demands of our clients. We offer reliable warehousing and logistics solutions across Africa, with one of our flagship locations being at the Port of Mtwara, Tanzania. In past years, the Port of Mtwara handled very little cargo and was mainly used for the export of cashew nuts. However, in December 2015 the port experienced major upgrades which resulted in space to dock larger ships of up to 209m. The port now handles approximately 400,000 metric tonnes of cargo annually with further development projects planned for the future. The Port of Mtwara is intended to be used as a gateway for cargo destined for Southern Tanzania, Malawi and Northern Mozambique.

Alistair Group has various storage facilities readily available and conveniently situated at the Mtwara Port. We offer unlimited solutions to store, consolidate and transport cargo. We have access to ample space in the port for project cargo and break-bulk cargo. Time after time, the Alistair Group facility and transport solutions via Mtwara has been successfully used and approved by various mega construction companies, mining majors and oil & gas exploration companies. Our warehousing and distribution solutions are supported by our in-house warehousing management system for breakbulk shipments and project cargo, ensuring improved service delivery and enhanced tracking of the movement of cargo. Apart from our warehousing solution, we offer additional container stuffing and de-stuffing services. Our stuffing and de-stuffing solution is smooth and hassle-free and includes freight and containers of any size, shape and type. Our teams have excellent planning and organisations skills and understand the value of cargo. Therefore, all cargo is handled carefully, yet speedily without damaging goods.

The Port of Mtwara is situated within 400km from the Port of Pemba in Mozambique and Alistair Group can easily ship cargo to Pemba or Afungi on a barge vessel. For any cargo destined to Pemba/Palma via Mtwara, our integrated logistics services include all trans-shipments clearance services required for cargo. Depending on your business needs, our warehousing services may include handling, import and export port shunting, all agency fees and wharfage.

If you are looking for accurate delivery of cargo to Tanzania or Mozambique, Alistair Group can offer you the assurance that your cargo will be taken care of. Get in touch with our skilled warehousing and logistics team for more information about our all-in logistics solution via the Port of Mtwara.

 

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STREAMLINE YOUR SUPPLY CHAIN 

The Supply Chain is a key part of any company’s overall business strategy and success. Having a sufficient and streamlined supply chain will ensure both cost savings and reduce turnaround times for critical products. At Alistair Group, we love to team up with our clients to improve their supply chain efficiencies to give them the competitive edge. We take each client’s operation and business model to see how we can combine our services, skills and equipment to provide them with lean services and to maximise the delivery and performance of major suppliers.

One of the key lessons we learnt during 2020 is that supply chains need to be resilient and this is exactly what we are focusing on as a company, to provide our clients with uninterrupted supply chain and logistics services. Our company is partnered with various reliable suppliers worldwide and has backup suppliers worldwide to take charge if needs be to protect our clients from unexpected disruptions.

If you want to streamline your supply chain in 2021, here’s how Alistair Group will help increase your efficiency and performance:
• Take Deals for Granted
When partnering with Alistair Group, you can rest assured that we work with your suppliers to ensure that the best deals, logistics and shipments options are selected to ensure that you get the most out of your supply chain.
• Speedy and Reliable Services
To maximise the efficiency of your supply chain, we offer clients with reliable logistics to ensure that the delivery time is optimised and by selecting suppliers who are able to deliver and meet the demands of our clients.
• Great Communication
A relationship without communication is destined to diminish. Alistair provides effective and responsive communication and makes logistics and the supply chain easy to understand. Whether it is responding to emails by queries or the use of our state-of-the-art track and trace system, Alistair Group maintains open and transparent communication with clients.
• Constant Evaluation of Services
Alistair Group is known for continual improvement of service offerings and for working smart. As a knowledgeable integrated logistics supplier, our team collaborates all operations to keep our supply chain solution under close observation to ensure that weak points and potential hiccups are identified and resolved quickly.

If you find you’re the performance of your supply chain performance unsatisfactory, then we have something for you to look forward to. Streamline your supply chain and become more competitive in the ever-growing global marketplace by partnering up with Alistair Group. We have the tools and teams in place to help your business succeed, improve efficiencies and maximise cost savings which will ultimately have the best effect on your company’s bottom line.

 

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