ECU Worldwide USA is one of the largest freight consolidators in the USA with nine offices in the American market — Miami, New Jersey, New York, Atlanta, Charleston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and Puerto Rico. John Abisch, Regional CEO, USA, shares some insights into ECU USA's growth curve and future plans.
Q How has the US market grown for ECU USA in the past decade?
A The US is a very important market for the Group — it is the largest import country in the world and a very significant export market. In 2006, ECU took the bold step of acquiring our US agent Econocaribe. Since then, the volume of business has grown steadily and consistently, with the fastest pace visible in the ocean import business — FCL and LCL. We are currently the third largest neutral NVO in the USA, with a strong market standing. Our clients are primarily large global forwarders.
Q Which are the most important trade lanes for ECU USA and growth areas today?
A We operate over 100 trade lanes in the consolidation service and each one is important. However, over the past few years, the greatest growth has been the import and export trade with China. Our clients benefit from our global network and the excellent cooperation and alignment with the team in China.
Q One of ECU's strengths is its ability to offer customers the convenience of end-to-end services — LCL, FCL, air freight, warehousing, solutions for project movements, etc. What is the growth prospect for each of these verticals?
A Our LCL business is the core competency of the organisation. With the combination of our experienced staff and software, I am confident that we will continue to be a market leader in this service. FCL is a tremendous opportunity and one in which the organisation is making significant progress. We have successfully acquired great talent, which will ensure the improvement of this service, thus allowing us to offer our customers an operationally sound and competitive FCL product. We anticipate creating a more competitive FCL service for Trans Pacific East Bound freight.
Our air freight volume is low and we are working to improve our technology and procurement efficiencies in order to offer a more competitive product. Our project movement business is limited, yet we offer an excellent service which has generated good success and led to repeat business from customers. In the US, there is a shortage of drivers who handle less-than-truckload (LTL) cargo. As an added service for our clients, we have created a vertical called ECU Trucking to offer LTL services with door delivery and pick up. Although it started as a service for international movements, we have also begun to handle purely domestic shipments. This value-added service is something that our clients appreciate.
In the USA, we operate our own warehouse in Miami where we also offer third party logistics services. Thus, we are ideally set up to handle and import FCL containers into our bonded warehouse and redistribute the cargo via LCL or air to the Caribbean and Central American markets.
Q Does ECU's capabilities in VAS or end-to-end services make a difference to customers?
A We have the competencies to offer door-to-door service, whether it is for LCL, FCL or air cargo. This is a huge benefit for many clients who prefer to streamline the number of organisations handling their transportation. Thus, our offer of door-to-door on our bill of lading gives clients the convenience of a single source of accountability for their logistics.
Q What are the biggest challenges facing the organisation? Has the US import tariff issue affected volumes or deals in any way?
AOur biggest challenge is to ensure that we continue to make it easier for the client to work with us. We do this via a combination of software, well-trained professional staff and ensuring that we work with the best vendors. Our clients require their logistics provider to allow them to focus on their core business and be confident that once they make a booking with ECU, they do not have to think about it again. The cargo must move as booked. We have felt minimal impact from the tariff issue, yet this is a topic which keeps me up at night as it could have significant consequences. We have to wait and see how policies change.
Q ECU has launched new technology solutions like ECU 360 that adds to efficiency, transparency, customer convenience, etc. What has been the response to this?
A We offer solutions that have built greater efficiency and convenience for clients in making bookings, tracking the movement of the cargo and paying their bills. Clients are always very interested in making their logistics and transportation more efficient. Our commitment to helping them achieve this goal, via our software and web-based tools like ECU 360, has been well received in the market.
Q What are ECU USA's growth plans? Anything exciting on the horizon?
A We operate in a fragmented market which leads to large opportunities for growth. I am confident that we will continue to grow at a pace faster than the market. The key factors to our organic growth are the continued improvement of our technology, retention of top staff and commitment to operational excellence. We are also open to building our network and services through acquisitions.