The Business Year

Shirley Mací­as

ECUADOR - Transport

Getting There

President, Seyrema

Bio

Shirley Mací­as, President of Seyrema.

TBY talks to Shirley Mací­as, President of Seyrema, on addressing the challenges imposed on the transportations sector by import restrictions.

Which of the air, maritime, and land business lines are most preferred by your clients?

For clients with large volumes, maritime is the obvious choice. You can ship a lot more and for much less. In terms of which industries predominate among our clients, there are diverse sectors and industries represented, but we deal with many textiles and clothing companies, be it primary materials or finished value-added products. We also deal with machinery, white goods, and so forth, where every type of merchandise requires different procedures and time frames, and has different logistical needs. If there are no customs restrictions or tariffs involved, we can get everything through the port and on its way in one day, but it depends on the goods we’re dealing with.

How important is IT in your operations?

It’s all about the IT. With logistics operations as complicated as they are today, this can only be done with a solid information technology infrastructure. These processes can take weeks, even months, and you’re dealing with paperwork, bureaucracy, physical transportation of goods coordinated across different lines of transport, going through different juridical and political zones with different customs laws and tariffs, and you have to meet your client’s expectations to get it there on time and in the right place with everything intact and undamaged. So without a solid IT base, you’d be lost. This has enabled us to be a one-stop shop for our clients, so they only have to deal with us and leave the logistics in our hands.

How have certain trade restrictions affected business?

This is especially seen in the textiles and clothing segment, as various different tariffs and quotas apply there in different categories. We’ve seen that our clients are easily discouraged by this, and our country reacts by shutting its own doors to trade, unwilling to tackle the issue except in a knee-jerk way. We at Seyrema are of course in the middle of it all, but we too are affected when our clients are affected. I think it’s important not to act desperately or in a knee-jerk way, but instead to take one’s time, analyze the situation, make the necessary diplomatic or political interventions, and come up with a strategic plan accordingly. This goes both for our own government and for companies engaged in foreign trade, who can take certain measures as well. For example, instead of shipping or exporting things in large volumes, they may have to do it in small batches, using smaller ships or containers.

Protectionism, import restrictions, and tariffs are a challenge, but instead of fearing these and becoming pessimistic, companies and governments should consider them obstacles that can be overcome, not just through trade practices and mechanisms, but also in terms of lobbying their own governments and foreign government. Trade restrictions are always essentially a political decision and it’s up to the government and the relevant ministry to try and reestablish an equitable balance in trade between two countries. These have always been a factor in international trade and always will be, so we have to work this into our strategic planning instead of thinking of this as a crisis.

What’s your strategic plan for this year?

We’re focusing on synergy this year. We have to take time to analyze the situation, and the recent import restrictions and protectionism have slowed things down. We’ve been around 15 years and we’ve seen all the highs and lows, so we consider this period to be a fortunate one, because we can take stock and chart our path forward accordingly. The aim, as always, is to continually grow. We want to work with our clients and our customers to try and find ways to diversify and find solutions to various trade restrictions. Companies have to think creatively, diversify. The government has to be proactive and dynamic. If there are restrictions and anti-dumping legislation affecting clothing producers and exporters, they have to find ways to overcome it. If you just stay rigid and refuse to adapt and innovate, you’re not going to last.

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