The Business Year

Sandra Ayres

PORTUGAL - Transport

Sandra Ayres

CEO, Euroatla and Euronave, Cosco Shipping Lines Agency

Bio

Sandra Ayres graduated in law and started working as an university teacher and legal adviser for maritime affairs in the Portuguese government. She later worked as board member at Lisbon Port Authority. She worked in AICEP, an independent public entity, with the goal of attracting foreign investment to Portugal, as a senior consultant, and later as a member of the board of AICEP Global Parques. Since 2015, she has been the CEO of shipping and freight forwarding company, Euroatla. In 2020, she assumed the presidency of Agência Maritima Euronave another company belonging to the same shareholders.

Euroatla continues to focus on technological development in the sector in order to remain agile and develop creative solutions in an ever-changing world.

How have you been working on diversifying your portfolio?

Our traditional sector has been exports of food and beverages. We also have an distinct characteristic in the market in Portugal in that we have a significant customer base outside Portugal, mainly importers. They are distributors or retailers at end destinations who need a reliable partner to coordinate supplier management and logistics from the point the origin. Lately, we have expanded into construction—a strong sector in Portugal—and other Portuguese products such as cork and textiles. We have also diversified services across trades, expanding from our traditional trade which has been and still is with the US and the UK.

Here in Portugal, you represent COSCO SHIPPING, one of the largest shipping lines in the world. What is the importance of this partnership?

COSCO SHIPPING Lines is a multinational company, based in Shanghai, mainly engaged in domestic and international maritime container transport services and related businesses. It has nine overseas branches in Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, West Asia, South America, Australia, Japan, Korea, and Africa. By April 2021, it owned and operated 403 container vessels in and out of 558 ports with a total capacity of 2.2 million TEUs, ranking fourth in the world in terms of shipping capacity. The collaboration between our companies and COSCO began in the 1990s. Despite being an independent agency, we are deeply interconnected. Recently, COSCO transferred the intra-Europe Services to Diamond Line (a wholly-owned subsidiary) to be in a better position to improve overall customer service in Europe. We identify with its mission, customer focus, digitalization, and end-to-end to enhance customers’ experience and continuously create greater value for customers and partners. The secret ingredient to this long partnership is trust. That, and some hard work, has made us obtain improving conditions to develop the market in Portugal. As a result, our market share has grown, from less than 1% five years ago to over 8% in the Asia trade. What does innovation means at Euroatla, and how much are you investing in it to make your operations more agile? It is fundamental to invest in digital technology. This industry is moving away from paper and adopting digital. Seven years ago, when we rethought our strategy as a company, we decided it was strategic to be on top of every technological development in the sector. The way we adapted to the pandemic confirmed that we made the right investment. Thanks to online communication tools, technology enables us to work remotely without any loss of productivity. Connectivity is better now than it has ever been. We believe technology will divide the industry between the companies with a vision, and those not willing to invest. There is also the challenge of cyber risk management that we have been addressing. The supply chain is a very fragmented market with participants who largely rely on paper; the biggest issue now is how do we share the data? Probably blockchain will have a long-term role to play.

What are your main targets and ambitions set for 2022?

Demand has picked up heavily, and scarcity of supply is a big issue. Our budget and activities plan for 2022 were initially conceived with the optimistic expectation of getting back to a situation more similar to the pre-pandemic. We are monitoring the impact of the inflation and interest rates, the price of commodities such as wheat, the chaos in global food markets brought on by the war in Ukraine, and the long-term disruption to Russian energy flows and its impact on what was already a tight global oil market. Volatility and uncertainty have become a way of life, We might continue to experience for a while longer voyages and lead times, and problems of availability and cost, but we think it is feasible that customers will remain well served. We will keep aiming to create agile and creative solutions to our evolving customer’s needs.

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