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Dear Friends and Colleagues, It is with a deep sense of gratitude and gratification that I would like to share with you the great feedback a comments we received in response to the last "From the Quarter Deck" of Tiding issue XX, where the future was discussed, especially autonomous and intelligent vehicles and e-governance.

From the responses, it is clear that not only has there been a considerable amount of research and development into this, but also implementation steps are underway. On the same subject, in case it has missed your attention, Maruti Suzuki (one of our clients) has recently shared in the press their concept for an autonomous vehicle. We are certainly tempted to use the cliché “the future is now”.

Coming back to the present, one of the controversial issues is the looming threat of a tariff war between the USA and its trading partners. Whilst it's too early to call and comment on the trade and volume implications of such an eventuality, the world will continue to watch any developments closely.

As with the changing times, the shipping and trading markets have seen some remarkable changes in some sectors. Oil prices have staged a robust increase, with prices climbing upwards of US$60 per barrel, an increase of 50%. It is, therefore, hoped that the offshore oil and gas exploration sector should see a revival and renewed interest and activity. The last three months have seen a continued slump in tanker prices. The dry bulk sector, on the other hand, has shown signs of continued improvement.

The car carrier market continues to be subdued, but automobile companies are showing signs of growth in production and sales numbers. On the container shipping side, there seem to be general signs of stability, with all the top lines reporting decent results for 2017 and that trend seems to have continued into 2018. The charter market for container ships is moving more towards firmness than softness, and several ships have been deployed into various services.

Interestingly, several of the shipbuilders are seeing an increasing number of orders for gas-fuelled ships. With the looming changes expected by 2020 with regards to emission norms and higher specs for fuel, some shipowners have already begun to use gas as a fuel.This will in all likelihood result in a new fuel paradigm for ships. India is slowly but surely establishing various gas terminals along its coastline. In due course, India may well become an important fuelling station for international shipping trade routes.

It has been truly exciting to read in the press about the various giant lines trying to position themselves as the FedEx, UPS, DHL or Schenker of shipping. They are driven by the JIT concept, or just in time, and provide complete transport solutions, door to door. This is even more exciting for us because we are increasingly focussing on the same goal, which is a customer requirement.

As has been repeatedly mentioned in this column, we are there because of our customers, our principals and our partners. Understanding their needs, anticipating their expectations and finally delivering services to them are our main activities. This is possible only if we continue to adhere to our values and beliefs which are honesty, perseverance, innovation and excellence.

Increasingly, we are seeing that our clients and principals are rewarding our efforts, which go beyond the boundaries of established service offerings. Let me share with you a few examples.

The Indo Bangladesh Trade

As you may well know, the trade between India and Bangladesh is substantial and most of it moves by road via the border at Benapole/ Petrapole. The route is long and expensive. Our clients were seeking a solution to bring down both costs and transit times. With the active involvement of our principals, our clients and our partners, we have been able to connect Haldia to Pangaon, which enables the trade to bypass Chittagong, which at present suffers from congestion. Moreover, Pangaon is closer to Dhaka. This move is expected to result in a greater enhancement of our bilateral trade as well as creating possibilities for the mega-carriers to provide reliable and competitive trans- shipments.

Nepal Transit Trade

Due to the congestion and limitations faced by Kolkata, the Nepal trade and shipping lines were looking for viable alternative ports in India to provide suitable transit opportunities. Our organisation VCT along with Maersk and Concor provided a solution that has not only brought down transit times and costs, but also enabled a seamless solution for the Nepal trade.

Cold Chain BOXCOLD at Sonepat

At DICT, we have partnered with the leading cold chain operator Coldman. NCR is one of the largest markets for commodities requiring a climate-controlled environment. Most of the products are for direct human consumption. Once again, we have been able to provide a safe, reliable and competitive multimodal solution for our customers. These are some examples from which we learn that our principals, clients and partners are now seeking not merely a service but a service solution. As an organisation, we must continue to up our game.

Krishna B. Kotak  
Chairman - J M BAXI GROUP