…with Darren Wright, company founder, & Bryn Atherton, Commercial Director
Tell us about how you got into the freight industry.
W: I fell into the industry by chance, really.
I remember my first interview was the day after Cantona’s famous fly kick on the Crystal Palace fan at Selhurst Park in 1995. We only talked about that event for the whole of the interview and given my soon-to-be new boss was also an avid Man Utd fan I think that pretty much secured me the job! I had no prior knowledge of the shipping industry and the definition of a container to me was something you packed your sandwiches in for work. Considering almost everything we buy and sell has encountered a freight journey, it was surprising how little people seemed to know about the industry. Even now when people ask what I do and my response is ‘shipping’ or ‘logistics’, most don’t quite grasp what that is until I point out everything they are wearing or using is likely to have been shipped in some way. I suppose it was the unknown, almost secretive aspect of the Industry which got me hooked.
What’s your background in shipping?
DW: Having spent nine years after leaving school learning the trade for one of the industry’s leading independent forwarding agencies. During a period when container shipping was very much the norm I learned more about the specialist services such as OOG shipping, breakbulk and vessel chartering.
I saw a potential gap in the then-booming market around the oil & gas industry, given the increasing number of large and more interesting shipments of equipment for both infrastructure and supplies within this field. This led to the formation of Allseas Global Logistics, which was established in 2003. At just 24 years old I was still a youngster and in many respects still learning, particularly on the know-how of running a business. But that’s the beauty of this industry: I’ve recently passed the 40-years-old milestone, probably can be considered a veteran after 23 years, yet there are still things to learn or improve, which keeps us all motivated.
Tell us a little more about your out-of-gauge specialisms.
BA: High, heavy and awkward cargo has always been the core product offering at Allseas. We have a passion and a drive to find the most cost-effective and hassle-free solutions for our clients’ complex cargo.
We love the big stuff, and to complement our in-depth knowledge and experience we have invested heavily in our own specialised cargo equipment stock such as a fleet of flat-rack and open-top containers, plus specialist lifting equipment and storage facilities for long, tall and heavy cargo.
Such is our pool of equipment these days, we’re able to guarantee availability of special equipment to meet tight shipping deadlines. This also allows us to be extremely competitive as we are not subject to the shipping lines’ premiums on special equipment when using our own units.
What do you think you offer as a company that sets you apart from your competitors?
BA: We have a very strong belief in providing a personal customer service experience at a time when many of our peers are trying to force their clients onto online-only options. We also have a real understanding of our services, equipment and industry pricing, which helps us to respond quickly and competitively to our customers.
We really do care about what we are doing and about our clients’ business. We are a privately owned company with offices across the globe and our growth is only achievable with our clients’ and suppliers’ support.
We also have a strong track record within the plant & machinery, manufacturing, retail and energy & power generation sectors. A track record that is further endorsed through the multiple awards we’ve picked up over our 15 years in business.
What has been your biggest challenge?
DW: Remaining at the forefront of our field over the last 15 years whilst at the same time diversifying our business to ensure we can meet the requirements of our increasing client base.
Your biggest achievement?
DW: Hitting 15 years last October was a great achievement – a fantastic milestone in our company’s history and a fantastic reflection on the work of our team past and present.
Our most proud moment: although we have completed so many challenging projects, the one that really sticks out for me was shortly after the tragic tsunami in Japan. A new, US$40bn nuclear power station at Shimane was ready to begin operations. It had not been damaged in the disaster and the power was desperately needed for Japan’s recovery, but new regulations meant it could not open until emergency power back up was in place. We were entrusted with the delivery of five vast generator units, two equipment control rooms and other vital components to Shimane…and this was definitely not a job for the fainthearted. The various parts of the consignment had to be transported to Japan from locations in the Netherlands, the UK and the United States. The deadlines were incredibly tight and the whole project was really challenging and demanding. We had to design and manufacture bespoke transportation and lifting equipment, and we were constantly thinking on our feet, with voyage plans altered as the job progressed. Our team really took that job personally – it was a 24/7 operation for five of the team, but it really galvanised us all. The whole company was so proud to be involved in it. Winning the International Freighting Weekly (IFW) Project/Heavylift Forwarder of the Year award for that was probably the proudest moment in my professional career to date, and it just created a buzz around the whole company.
How would you define your company culture?
DW: As a start-up business, we were bold, we were confident and we never believed that things would go wrong. If you are going to succeed in this sector, you have to believe in your own ability – if you don’t, you can be sure that nobody else will. We had always been taught to make decisions and believe in what we were going to do. But we have built our business on the ethos of ‘hassle-free logistics.’ This is an attitude of ‘let’s get the job done in the simplest and most efficient way for the customer.’ An ethos which we believe is particularly important in this fast-moving, sector. If the client needs you to take a phone call at midnight on Saturday to help them out with a shipment – that’s what you do.
We have maintained this attitude throughout and instilled it across the team. Customers like the fact that we can make quick decisions – we don’t need to go to a head office miles away or pass the details through a long chain of people.
We make decisions here and now.
How do you get the best out of your team?
BA: I believe Allseas Global Logistics has a reputation as being a good company to work for.
We have a real team spirit here and our modern offices reflect a fun space for the hard work and effort. We also regularly socialise as a team to let off steam. We believe in the ‘work hard, play hard’ philosophy.
What’s the most important thing you are working on right now and how are you making it happen?
BA: The ongoing growth of the company. We continue to employ great people from within the industry. We have increased our spending on our equipment offering. We have recently invested in supply-chain-management software and new internal operating systems to complement our operational support and further enhance our customer service.
What are some of the common challenges you face?
DW: I think that (as with most companies in our industry) schedule reliability, driver shortages and general industry infrastructure failings can cause weekly issues but, to be fair, these are only challenges to overcome. This is our job, to find solutions for our clients’ needs.
How do you decide which new business to go after?
BA: Much of our new business can be through recommendation. We now have a service scope to cover all areas of logistics, so we don’t have to turn any business away and we still enjoy the chase!
What are your plans over the next 12–24 months?
DW: To continue growth and enjoying what we do …truly.