Executive Director’s Blog: Finding Value in Conferences: CLC in Vancouver and ICC/ USCIB in Miami

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TORONTO, Ont. February 16, 2015    Acronyms aside, CIFFA is receiving more and more opportunities to represent the international freight forwarding sector on the world’s stage.  One of the association’s three strategic pillars is representing our industry, ensuring that the views of member firms are considered by regulators, carriers, ports and the trading community, not only here at home, but around the world.  Normally, we look to our international association FIATA to express our views on the international stage while CIFFA speaks for forwarders in Canada.  At the end of February, however, due to an unfortunate accident that has laid up FIATA’s Executive Director who was scheduled to speak, I will represent FIATA in Miami at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and its affiliate the United States Council for International Business (USCIB) Customs and Trade Facilitation Symposium February 22-24th and at the following meeting of the ICC Commission on Customs and Trade Facilitation.

But first things first. Last month the industry came together at the fabulous Vancouver Convention Center to network, share insights, speak and learn at the Cargo Logistics Canada  conference and tradeshow.  The show organizers seem to have the formula right – charging for individual sessions and drawing crowds to the tradeshow floor.  The challenge comes from trying to choose the right seminar/ panel / workshop to attend as often three or four events run concurrently.

At the opening morning panel on January 28th, I was pleased to moderate a lively question and answer format discussion entitled “Intermodal Supply Chains:  Creating Realistic Expectations.” Four industry leaders talked with me (and some 200 delegates), sharing their thoughts on two basic questions.

  1. How do Canada’s traders – the importers and exporters who drive our economic growth, know what to expect from their global supply chains?
  2. What can we — the carriers, ports, freight forwarders, railroads — do to help establish realistic expectations for our customers and our customers’ customers?


Brian Martin, Vice President Sales and Marketing , Kuehne + Nagel
Wolfgang Freese, President, Hapag-Lloyd (A) Inc.
Jean-Jacques Ruest, Executive Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer, CN
Tony Boemi, Vice-President, Growth and Development, Montreal Port Authority

The subject was especially timely, considering the current chaos at US West Coast ports and Port Metro Vancouver and the unsettled railroad labour situation in Canada.  The panelists reinforced the need for importers and exporters to recognize that marine intermodal shipping – with extremely long supply chains and complex interrelationships between multiple players – cannot be considered ‘precision shipping’ and that traders must take steps to manage their supply chains accordingly.  One of the key messages that came from the panel included the need for better and more frequent communication and data sharing.

Mr. Ruest from CN shared a frank and informative ‘short –term’ future when he talked about the labour situation at both of Canada’s major railroads, a future which we are living as I write this blog of multiple some two weeks later. Mr. Ruest’s remarks focused on what Canadian shippers have experienced for the past few winters regarding labour and what they might expect this year. (Members see eBulletin January 30, 2015).

On the second day of the CLC conference Rui Fernandes , Partner, Fernandes Hearn LLP and Matthew Yeshin, Managing Director, Marine Practice Leader, Marsh P joined me at a fascinating (and just a little scary) review of contract law at a second panel I facilitated for CIFFA entitled “Read the Fine Print: Risk and Liability in Global Shipping.”

It is with pleasure that I note here that all six of our expert speakers at the CLC conference represent employers who are associate members of CIFFA.

And then, on to Miami February 22-24th for the ICC/USCIB Customs and Trade Facilitation Symposium where CIFFA will take the role of the global logistics service provider in conversation with senior delegates from the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Customs Organization (WCO), organizing ICC and a myriad of other speakers and delegates. Discussions will focus on the most effective means of facilitating the global movement of goods while balancing security and risk at the border. My job at the symposium will be to answer two questions.

Q1: International freight forwarders arrange the movement of goods through global supply chains that must, by their very nature, be highly collaborative across all sectors.  Global trade is the lifeblood of global logistics service providers. As the ‘Global Voice of Freight Logistics’, what does FIATA believe are the ‘ideal conditions’ that would promote an enabling environment for global logistics, transportation and cross border movement of goods?

Q2:  We live in a world of ‘advanced cargo data’. What improvements could be made in regards to exchanging tracking information – or any data – associated with clearing containerized goods through customs, port and terminal, and rail carriage systems for inland transportation?

As the Symposium website says, “The world economy relies on unprecedented interdependence and connectivity. Global supply chains are increasingly vital to connecting enterprises to raw materials, labor force expertise, new markets and consumers. No area of international economic policy is more integral to expediting globalized trade than customs and trade facilitation. Harmonized and efficient trade boosts competitiveness for all businesses, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises in emerging markets. “Finding Global Solutions to Cross-Border Challenges” will focus on streamlining trade and limiting cross-border inefficiency and friction.”

I relish the opportunity to share our voice and to focus on opportunities to help reduce the inefficiencies and friction which freight forwarders face every day as we “Help Canadians Do Business with the World.”