Africa aims to make shipping more economically important
African shipping experts converged in Mombasa yesterday to launch a master plan designed to improve the shipping sector on the continent, in the hope that it can do more to boost national economies.
The three day conference, dubbed ‘A new awakening for Africa’s Maritime Industry’, has brought together chief executive officers from over 30 different African countries.
Guests are from a range of maritime sectors, who will focus on common policies to improve the shipping in Africa. It is hoped that a unified approach across the continent will help the industry to become a global player.
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The key debate on the opening day of the conference revolved around whether Africa should adopt an open or closed ship registry system. Whilst industry players would prefer an open registry system in order to boost the number of ships which could be taxed, government representatives were more cautious due to piracy in Somalia.
The Somalian coastline has long been a source of difficulty for vessels in the Indian Ocean, however it is hoped that with new efforts by the African Union Forces will help to stabilise and allow the growth of sea trade.
Despite a huge increase in African sea trade over the last few years, there are still a negligible number of ships on the continent, most of which hold very low tonnage. Despite having a long coastline, there are only an estimated 4,900 registered ships on the continent.
It is thought that some existing policies in Africa have not benefited the industry, as they offer no encouragement for citizens to invest in ships.
In an interview with the press, Funmi Folorunso, head of the Association of African Shipowners said: “Policies and laws have made it difficult to acquire vessels. Financing has also been a problem for the investors.”
“We want to work in partnership with the maritime industry regulators to get full benefits of the industry so as to create wealth and employment in Africa,” she explained.
FedEx is Reshaping Last Mile with Autonomous Vehicles
FedEx is embarking on an expanded test of autonomous, driver-less delivery vehicles to develop its last-mile logistics.
The US logistics firm piloted autonomous vehicles from Nuro in April this year, and the pair will now explore that further in a multi-year partnership. Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partnerships, said the collaboration "will enable innovative, industry-first product offerings that will better everyday life and help make communities safer and greener".
FedEx will explore a variety of on-road use cases for the autonomous fleet, including multi-stop and appointment-based deliveries, going beyond more traditional applications of the technology in single-route movement of goods from A-B. Exponential growth in ecommerce is spurring its broader experimentation in new autonomy solutions, Fed-Ex says, both in-warehouse and on-road.
“FedEx was built on innovation, and it continues to be an integral part of our culture and business strategy,” said Rebecca Yeung, Vice President, Advanced Technology and Innovation, FedEx Corporation. “We are excited to collaborate with an industry leader like Nuro as we continue to explore the use of autonomous technologies within our operations.”
The changing role of couriers
Unlike structured delivery networks, operating under long-term partnerships and contracts, agility is where couriers deliver true value - and their ability to deftly solve last-mile fulfilment has most acutely been felt during the pandemic. For the billions of people around the world forced to stay at home to protect themselves and their communities from the spreading COVID-19 virus, couriers have been a constant. They may have been the only knock at the door some people experienced for weeks or months at a time.
But the last-mile has been uprooted by a boom in ecommerce, a shift that has been most apparent in the UK, US, China and Japan, according to the Global Parcel Delivery Market Insight Report 2021 by Apex Insight. These are markets with dominant economies and populations used to running their lives with a tap of a screen or double-click of a mouse.
“Getting last mile delivery right has long been a challenge for retailers,” says Kees Jacobs, Vice President, Consumer Goods and Retail at Capgemini. “In 2019, 97% of retail organisations felt their last-mile delivery models were not sustainable for full-scale implementation across all locations. Despite increasing demand from customers, companies were struggling to make the last mile profitable and efficient.”
Jacobs says that the pandemic alleviated some of these stresses in the short term. With no other option, consumers were understanding and tolerant, if not entirely happy, with longer delivery times and less transparent tracking. “But, as extremely high delivery demand continues to be normal, customers will expect brands to contract their delivery times,” he adds.
Last mile's role in ESG
Demand and volume weren’t the only things that have changed during the pandemic - businesses looked closer to home and as a result became more sustainable. Bricks and mortar stores were transformed from mini-showrooms to quasi-fulfilment centres. Online retailers and other businesses sought local solutions to ship more faster. In densely populated London, UK alone, Accenture found that delivery van emissions dropped by 17%, while Chicago, USA and Sydney, Australia saw similar emissions savings.