• Going places

    An extensive track record has helped Multilog develop bespoke cargo solutions, says MD Basil Pietersen

    Going places

    During his nearly 40 years in the industry, Basil Pietersen has managed inbound and outbound logistics projects in more than 40 African countries while making a name for himself in global logistics and freight forwarding. He serves as chairperson of the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF) and was recently re-elected as senior vice- president of the International Federation of Freight Forwarders (FIATA) – a Swiss-head-quartered NPO that represents 40 000 forwarding and logistics companies across the globe.

    In fact, he is the first SAAFF chairman to be elected to this prestigious international position and, in another home-run for South Africa, the Sophiatown-born executive is well placed to lead the industry towards the 2019 FIATA World Congress, which is held in Cape Town.

    Pietersen’s office is based in Germiston, Johannesburg, where he serves as the MD of Multimodal Logistics Solutions, trading as Multilog. The company is part of the CSTT-AO group, which – over the past seven decades – has evolved from a Senegalese customs clearing firm into an international supply chain business.

    Multilog is a project-logistics management company that specialises in the movement of abnormal cargo to challenging destinations. Its services include the chartering of vessels and aircraft as well as supply chain solutions (such as consultancy; research and planning; transport logistics; cargo inventory and management; carrier service benefits; and value-added services).

    According to Pietersen, who co-founded the firm, Multilog was born out of the vision to establish an independent and empowered company, untouched by corporate bureaucracy; a company able to provide multi-modal logistics and specialised project-logistics solutions.

    ‘Initially, our focus was primarily to secure project business on the African continent, where we identified the mining industry as our target market. Today, mining and exploration remains one of the sectors we serve, with others including but not limited to engineering and construction; power generation; water purification; brewery and bottling; re-factory; as well as embassy and hospitality industry developments and upgrades.’

    Multilog currently serves clients operating in various African countries, including Senegal, Mali, Côte d’I’voire, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Liberia, DRC, Namibia and Mozambique – with East Africa being a key region for growth and expansion, according to Pietersen.

    ‘We provide project-logistics management and integrated logistics solutions for inland, ocean and air transportation of containerised, break-bulk, hazardous and dimensional heavy-lift project cargo throughout the world,’ he says. ‘We also offer warehousing, packaging and crating, chartering of aircraft and chartering ships, and marine insurance, among others.’

    ‘Our project managers work as an extension of the client’s business, providing a seamless interface with suppliers, shipping lines, airlines, port and customs authorities, transporters, border posts, site engineers and the client. We strive to become part of the client’s project team rather than being seen as a “supplier of services” only.’

    Regarding the challenges of doing business in Africa, he says that, from experience, the greatest challenges are infrastructure-related. ‘Try, for example, to ship cargo to a Kenyan port – transiting Uganda – to reach a site in the DRC. Despite the fact that the DRC is situated on the west coast of Africa, the lack of road infrastructure necessitates a lengthy detour because the only possible entry is from the east. ‘It gets even more challenging when trying to move abnormal loads on these “roads”,’ he says. ‘This results in additional challenges – long transit times, coupled with border delays, which ultimately lead to expensive transport challenges.’

    However, Multilog has an extensive track record in delivering tailor-made solutions and negotiating competitive rates for its clients.

    ‘It’s been 10 years since our team of specialists was gathered together under the Multilog banner. Experience has taught us that partnering is vital to one’s survival,’ says Pietersen. ‘On the African continent we have established partnerships with leading “in-country” agents; the criteria being the selection of forwarders and customs brokers with “project-specific” experience. This ensures that optimal cost-efficiency and service delivery is achieved on each and every project, irrespective of the point of origin or the location of the project site.’

    Global logistics for the group are co-ordinated through the logistics liaison offices in Antwerp (Belgium), Atlanta (US), Johannesburg (South Africa) and Dakar (Senegal). Having international door-to-door capability is crucial, says Pietersen, adding that Multilog’s project services use a global network that incorporates full-service cargo facilities in more than 100 countries worldwide.

    Multilog has grown significantly, and business in Namibia and Mozambique is expected to increase to double digits over the next five years. ‘We have also started the investment process in East Africa,’ says Pietersen. ‘We believe that within one to three years we’ll see the beginning of a much-needed East African penetration, similar to what has been created so successfully in West Africa.’

    By Silke Colquhoun