ECU Worldwide Dubai leverages its location inside the Jebel Ali Free Zone to offer auto shipment handling to Africa as a value-added service
It started as an out-of-the-ordinary request. About 150 pickup trucks being shipped from one of Japan's largest automakers to a customer in Somalia needed to be customised as per the client request. The customisation was to be done in the Jebel Ali Port at Dubai by an Indian auto company.
ECU Worldwide Dubai stepped in to offer a special service in auto shipment handling. The transhipment service involved handling the end-to-end solution, unloading the containers carrying the trucks and transferring them to the company's storage yard. It also handled the security of the cargo at the yard, coordination with Mahindra and Mahindra for the customisation work, and then reloading the trucks into the container after the job was done. The containers were then sent on to the destination in Somalia.
"This was a special service involving three batches of 50 trucks each. ECU Dubai went out of its way to handle this special request by the customer. It is one of many similar examples of how ECU Worldwide demonstrates customer commitment by taking on such jobs," says Varuna Wirasinha, Vice President (UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman & Bahrain), ECU Worldwide Middle East.
The critical aspect of the auto shipment job was the lashing of each truck in the container. "It's a specialised area. The vehicles need to be secured properly so that there is no damage even if the ship moves into rough waters. It's not easy. When we load trucks into the container, the manoeuvring space is reduced to a few inches on either side. We have a well-trained in-house team for this job," explains Mr Wirasinha.
The Dubai unit is ideally situated to offer an additional benefit to global auto manufacturers. "We have a unique advantage as we are located inside the Jebel Ali Free Zone. There's no payment of customs duty involved to take vehicles out of the port and bring them back after modifications or customisations," Mr Wirasinha points out.
ECU Dubai is now offering auto shipment handling as a value-added service to its clients. "We started this as a new revenue stream that can enhance our portfolio as a logistics solution provider. And this is a service that can be provided globally by our organisation," says Mr Wirasinha.
The potential is large. Auto exports are the world's second largest export item, trailing only crude oil. With the Africa market opening up, auto exports in the Middle East and North Africa region are set to rise. The Jebel Ali zone allows OEMs to undertake customisation jobs at competitive rates.
In fact, for ECU Dubai, the Somalia shipment has proved to be the start of a new line of operations. "We have shipped trucks to Nigeria. Right now we are shipping 40 forklifts sized 3.5 and 5 tonnes to Venezuela. We have the expertise to ship any vehicle anywhere," says Mr Wirasinha. As an example, ECU Dubai plays host to a vehicle that is used to clear airport runaways. "Every couple of months, it is loaded in a container with precision loading, as you have only 2cm space on both sides, and then transported to the country that has called for its service. And then we bring it back to our site at Jebel Ali," says Mr Wirasinha.
The truck shipment has helped ECU Dubai establish its competency in auto handling and added to its reputation as a one-stop-shop solution provider. At the end of the day, customer service is a critical differentiator in the logistics industry and ECU Dubai has stepped up to the plate to demonstrate the company's service philosophy.