Please select your home edition
Edition
GAC Pindar 2018 Leaderboard

The Logistics Genie: We speak to JT of GAC Pindar

by Mark Jardine 20 Nov 04:00 PST
Jeremy Troughton, General Manager of Marine Leisure and Events at GAC Pindar © Mark Jardine

We spoke to Jeremy Troughton - universally known as 'JT' - General Manager of Marine Leisure and Events at GAC Pindar, who has just come back from the huge logistical challenge of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Mark Jardine: First of all, what did your team's involvement in the Volvo Ocean Race entail?

Jeremy Troughton: To start with we were given a set of dates and a set of parts, and it was apparent that some of those dates were going to be very tight. It would have been very challenging to meet using commercially available shipping options. Looking at the logistics timeline it appeared that one was impossible, one possible but not cost-effective, and one that was unbelievably tight - where we'd need to pull out all the stops to make it happen. Historically there have been two sets of Volvo Ocean Race equipment that leapfrog each other around the world. One set can be shipped whilst the other is in use. With the timescales this time, three Volvo pavilions had to be built, and two sets of equipment for everything else, giving the time needed to build up the hospitality and public pavilions. It was very tight getting everything out of Spain and into Cape Town for the first shipping leg - the first sailing leg went to Lisbon - and a film crew made a documentary about it. We had two of us working as Volvo Ocean Race staff as well, upstream in the organisation, as well as managing the logistics from the GAC Pindar perspective. That was key, to take a layer of complexity out of it, so as to work in the best interest of the race and all stakeholders, to ensure costs were minimised across the board.

Mark: Were these stopover dates presented to you as a 'fait accompli' or did you have any influence on those?

JT: There was some discussion with us, but it was mostly fixed. Any event with a travelling component still has to rely on a number of different factors: tide times in Cardiff, Chinese New Year, and even things as unexpected as the peak season for kiwi fruit being exported from New Zealand. All these have an impact on the global shipping situation. Although we had 140 containers leapfrogging on each route of the race (yes, 280 in total) when compared to the 500 or 600 containers that a supermarket might ship in a week, we are small beans in the marketplace. It needs the buying powers of GAC backing GAC Pindar, to get our containers onto the lines that we want to.

Mark: Is it that backing from GAC that makes these things - which on paper look impossible - actually happen?

JT: The GAC Group is a global company, headquartered in Dubai, operating since 1956. There are 300 offices worldwide and approximately 9000 staff. So that allows us quite a bit of buying power in the logistics world. On top of that we provide ship agency for a lot of container ships going into ports, we do charter vessels, fuel bunkering, canal transits through Suez and Panama, so there is a full range of services that are fully owned within the group. We even have our own warehouses at Heathrow and direct relationships with all the airlines. So anything that needs moving, whether big or small, we can generally provide a good rate to do it.

Mark: You are talking about the global scale, but I presume it is all the local contacts and the local members of your team that can make the difference when things might otherwise go wrong?

JT: Yes, when things go wrong they can go very badly wrong. The shipping industry is driven by a whole variety of factors: we've had ships 'cut and run' where half-loaded ships have had to leave port due to a weather window. They may even omit a port, in order to keep to their timelines! In the last Volvo Ocean Race race, we were down in Brazil, and one of the ships with our containers missed the port; just completely skipped it and carried on down the coast. It was the strength of our local team on the ground out there that coped with getting access to the four containers we had, out of the 670 that were being unloaded. Anyone who has worked in Brazil will know how complex the myriad of paperwork and documentation can be down there. Our local team had the containers offloaded, customs cleared, and delivered to site in just 12 hours after docking. That is pretty incredible, and it allowed the race village to open on time.

Mark: So, with these race villages, your job is being done correctly if nobody notices it at all. Can that be frustrating, if people think they just click their fingers to make an entire village appear?

JT: Logistics have always been a thing that you never notice when it's going right, but as soon as anything goes wrong, you are right in the spotlight. In one port, the yachts arrived early, as the last few containers were just being brought in - on time - and one of the event staff commented, "oh, these must be the container fairies that bring everything in!" We come in the night unnoticed, which can be a bit frustrating, but we also enjoy the spectacle of everything ready for when people arrive. We're happy with living that life in the background.

Mark: Is there ever such a thing as a 'typical day' on the job for you?

JT: I'm hoping there will be now, but when you're on the road with the Volvo Ocean Race every day is different. You're dealing with different countries, nationalities, cultures every day of the week. You might start the day in Spain, but you've got calls with South Africa and China later on. Your day can be taken up with the here-and-now yet you have to have the forward planning and try to second guess things that have the potential to de-rail the shipment. That is what people are getting with GAC Pindar; a small, dedicated team offering personalised service, whether it is a dinghy or a superyacht. We are all sailors and we all care that the sailing industry is well looked after. We're thinking of these things so you don't have to; that's the bottom line. Our forward planning - thinking what could happen a month down the line - takes the pressure off people.

Mark: You mentioned superyachts there. We are seeing growth in the number of yachts at events, as well as growth in the size of yachts themselves (gigayachts, as some call them). Is this an area GAC Pindar can improve for these owners/captains, so they can have a seamless experience travelling between events?

JT: There does seem to be more and more superyachts travelling the globe; it is definitely a big growth industry. You can see this at shows like Miami and Monaco. Generally, superyacht captains will work through yacht management companies, or try to do things directly. We can offer support to both those parties, and offer a turnkey solution; whether it is refuelling or canal transits, or just getting a spare part out to them on time, cleared by customs and ready to go aboard. We've got the know-how to get packages to you in the Caribbean, USA, Galápagos Islands, or wherever you are in the world.

Mark: A superyacht captain cannot afford to say to an owner, "sorry, it is not going to arrive in time." Surely the services of GAC Pindar are invaluable to these people?

JT: We'd like to think so, but right now we are relatively new in that area of the industry. We are concentrating on growing our exposure - partly through the Volvo Ocean Race - because some people don't realise we aren't limited to big events. We need to get the message out to superyacht captains, yacht agencies, and even people transporting a dinghy to a World Championship, that we can deal with smaller packages too. We can provide a full range of services to ease the pain of people, reducing the headache of an industry that probably has as many foreign terms in it as sailing does. Just like all those new terms you hear when you go sailing for the first time, the shipping and logistics world is the same. So many abbreviations, so much paperwork. We're here to take the headache away.

Mark: You've probably seen a boat captain think, "ah, I can do this myself!" Much like someone building an extension on their house might think they can project-manage it themselves. Have you ever seen such matters go horribly wrong, when you know you're in a position to have solved it?

JT: At the moment we've got a lot of things coming in and out of Australia and New Zealand. We deal very heavily with the Ministry for Primary Industries in New Zealand who deal with quarantine control. We have a lot of work to do with our guys checking containers before they are sealed, to make sure no soil or dust is in them that would cause a problem with the authorities upon arrival. Things sneak through though! Someone in the last Volvo Ocean Race had some honey in a container, and that nearly brought the whole shipment to a halt. It was spotted during an ad-hoc inspection and there was a big bill to dispose of it. It's amazing how small things can trip people up, but we work very hard to ensure our customers side step these potential pitfalls.

Mark: So cutting corners can be a massive false economy?

JT: There is a certain level of "you get what you pay for". But with us, we try to think of everything for you, and the price we give is the price you pay. We have customers who have been burnt in the past - when they found a cheaper price and went with it - where the final bill has been double what was quoted. Nobody likes to see that happen. When we give a price, that is all you're going to pay, and your kit will arrive when it should do. The problem with cutting corners is that the industry is so convoluted on many levels; I came in from an event and project management experience, and it has been an eye-opener for me seeing the level of documentation that is required on so many levels. Having GAC Pindar take away that complexity means that people don't have to cut corners and see the bills rack up amazingly. If you get your container pulled by AQIS (Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service) it can sit there for days and you're paying for them to unpack it, check everything, and repack it.

Mark: So GAC Pindar's strengths are first your local team, dealing with things on a personal level, and then being backed by the GAC Group behind you and the weight that carries. So whatever the situation, you can open those doors and make it a smooth process, for what - for most people - can be the major sailing event of their year?

JT: Having the backing of the GAC Group is fundamental to our offering. The whole GAC Pindar business really came about from Andrew Pindar's frustration at the levels of overcharging going on in the industry, and it has really grown from there. We've got people on the ground, wearing their GAC jacket, talking to the customs staff, and they have that relationship, they know what can and can't be done, and get things through as smoothly as possible.

Mark: Well, it has been a real eye-opener to hear what goes on behind the scenes! Thanks for your time.

JT: No problem!

Find out more at www.gac.com/gac-pindar

GAC Pindar 2018 Footer