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Swiss logistics giant settles in

A receptionist talks on the phone at Panalpina’s head office in Phnom Penh yesterday afternoon.
A receptionist talks on the phone at Panalpina’s head office in Phnom Penh yesterday afternoon. Pha Lina

Swiss logistics giant settles in

After more than a decade operating through a local agent, Swiss logistics and freight forwarding giant Panalpina opened a branch in Cambodia yesterday, offering its full line of ocean and air freight services to a growing market.

The Basel-based firm operates a global network with offices in more than 75 countries and agents in another 90. Last year it forwarded nearly 1.6 million TEUs, or twenty-foot equivalent units, of ocean freight, and 836,000 tonnes of air cargo.

According to Andy Lim, managing director of Panalpina Cambodia, the decision to open an office in Cambodia was prompted by the needs of its biggest clients, who wanted the company to handle their business directly.

“Many of our global key clients wanted us to have our physical presence here in Cambodia to provide a more direct and interactive experience than to have another external party or operator handle their cargo,” he said.

Lim said the company’s branch in Phnom Penh would offer the same services as its other global network offices, whose coverage extends across six continents.

The Asia-Pacific region accounted for nearly a quarter of Panalpina’s gross profit last year, according to its annual report. The company operates less-than-container-load (LCL) services to many of the smaller markets in the region.

Industry insiders said the arrival of another global logistics firm was a reflection of the strength of Cambodia’s economy and a response to the increasing competitiveness of the local market.

The Kingdom was one of the few bright spots for the air cargo industry last year, experiencing 14 per cent year-on-year growth in air freight shipments as other regions felt a slowdown due to the cooling global economy. It also saw its volume of sea freight grow faster than the global average.

Meas Sopong, general manager of Kuehne + Nagel Cambodia, said that competition among logistics firms was increasing quickly in Cambodia, putting more demand on international companies like Panalpina to strengthen their presence.

“By having their own office here they can improve their competitiveness in attracting clients, as their work is more efficient and the client will be more confident,” he said.

Nhiev Kol, general manager of CMA CGM Cambodia, said the addition of another major international logistics firm was a good sign that the country’s economy and trade in goods were increasing.

It should also contribute to building transparency, reducing the demand on freight forwarders to pay bribes to government officials for import or export documents.

“International companies always avoid paying unofficial fees to government officers as they stick to a standard rate,” Kol said.

“They dare to spend more time to ensure the work is done according to a standard system rather than simply paying bribes to speed up the process.”

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