Shipco Transport Jamaica Limited
Small, strong, and mighty
Business View Caribbean interviews Rachel Matthews, General Manager of Shipco Jamaica Transport Limited, for our focus on Export Growth in Jamaica
Based in Kingston, Jamaica, Shipco Transport Jamaica Limited is a subsidiary of Shipco Transport Inc, a global neutral NVOCC founded in 1988 and headquartered in Chatham, New Jersey. Shipco Transport is part of the Scan-Group, a shipping, transportation, logistics, and ICT conglomerate headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Shipco Jamaica, founded in 2020, provides import and export transportation services to Jamaican businesses as a neutral NVOCC. “Shipco Jamaica is the first of it’s kind neutral NVOCC in Jamaica and has really shaken up the import/export business on the island,” says Rachel Matthews, General Manager at Shipco Jamaica.
NVOCC stands for Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier, a cargo consolidation business model where Shipco Jamaica acts as a carrier to forwarders and a shipper to carriers. NVOCC operations typically comprise sales, consolidation, …pick up, delivery… and transport of the containers to gateway ports.
Matthews explains further, “On one hand, an NVOCC receives goods from shippers and consolidates them, while on the other, negotiates for space with carriers to place and transport those goods to destinations globally for exports, and destinations in Jamaica for imports.” A neutral NVOCC plays a crucial role in helping forwarders, especially with smaller consignments, find affordable space on carriers to anywhere in the world, while at the same time, acting as a consolidator for carriers.
While many shipping companies like Maersk and DHL operate NVOCCs, they usually serve their carriers. For instance, a Maersk NVOCC will consolidate cargo for Maersk shipping carriers. Shipco Jamaica, on the other hand, is a NVOCC collaborating with all carriers and forwarders – a first for the island nation.
“The term neutral means working with forwarders and brokers including other NVOCCs. We operate like wholesalers, allowing the forwarders to expand their offerings to their customers,” says Matthews.
Shipco Jamaica provides LCL (less than container load) and FCL (full container load) services, a unique mix of services on the island, considering most other companies offer one or the other. According to Matthews, “Shipco Jamaica is like a one-stop-shop. You do not have to go to one provider for LCL, another for FCL, and another for airfreight. We provide everything under one roof, making it easy for importers and exporters to gain efficiency.”
Shipco Jamaica opened its doors in 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. For Matthews, this timing was a blessing in disguise because it created a unique market environment that has propelled the nascent company into hypergrowth. “Most other companies experienced a decline in business because of the pandemic,” she says. “But because we started in the middle of it, we do not have a reference point for pre- and post-pandemic business performance. What is clear, however, is that we have been on an upward trajectory since launch and have doubled our business over the last year.”
Matthews, the GM of Shipco Jamaica, comes from a family of maritime professionals and has been in the shipping industry for 20 years. Having a master’s in Shipping Management from the World Maritime University in Sweden has helped Matthews lead Shipco Jamaica’s growth – a testament to her experienced and steady hands at the helm.
As part of her leadership, Matthews is focusing on building the company from the ground up with fresh blood from local universities and colleges, including the Caribbean Maritime University, where she also teaches part time. “We currently have five employees, all of whom are fresh graduates,” she says, “and we are currently recruiting our sixth employee.”
Despite the small workforce, Shipco Jamaica relies on ICT to help it achieve tremendous productivity and efficiency gains as it serves the entire island nation of Jamaica. Quoting a famous Jamaican saying, Matthews underpins the company’s capabilities. “In Jamaica, we say ‘we likkle but we tallawah,’ which means we may be small, but we are strong, mighty, and can do anything.”
Before Shipco Jamaica’s entrance into the country, NVOCC services were limited for the most part to Florida and the United Kingdom, and consolidation companies could only consolidate goods destined for or coming from ports in these two countries.
“Shipco Jamaica came in and now offers the ability to transport LCL cargo from anywhere in the world, which was something completely new in Jamaica,” explains Matthews. “Before, if a customer wanted to move one pallet from China, their options were minimal. They would have to put everything in a container and pay for the space of a full container load, even though they only need to move one pallet. Significantly, people were scrambling to find alternative suppliers due to lockdowns in key markets like China at the height of the pandemic. They wondered if we find other suppliers, how do we get the cargo in, and how much will it cost to bring it in?”
Emphasizing the benefits and support to customers, Matthews adds, “Shipco provided the flexibility and options during these uncertain times to not only import goods from anywhere in the world, but to decide whether you needed to do it as LCL or FCL depending on your current needs.” Shipco Jamaica can offer such an absolute global reach due to a network of 75 offices in 35 countries, all owned and operated by the parent company, Shipco Transport Inc.
Further extending Shipco Jamaica’s reach is the fact that Shipco Transport Inc. is a founding member of the Worldwide Alliance, a global network of LCL solution providers, and the Air Cargo Group, a worldwide network of neutral airfreight wholesalers.
While most of Shipco Jamaica’s work involves imports, it also supports a burgeoning export industry in Jamaica. “We are extremely proud of the export side of our business because we are supporting small local exporters tap into a global market,” says Matthews. As a member of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Shipco Jamaica is helping local exporters go beyond traditional markets in the Caribbean and the U.S., to markets further afield like the Middle East, Europe, and Africa.
As part of its efforts to roll out its services effectively across the island, Shipco Jamaica is also a member of several industry associations, including the Freight Forwarders Association, the Shipping Association of Jamaica, and the Caribbean Shipping Association, among others. “Through our membership in these associations, we are spreading the word about our services and helping local businesses discover a new way of shipping goods into Jamaica from the rest of the world and from Jamaica to the rest of the world,” says Matthews.
The company is also spreading the word through other more conventional marketing media like flyers, newspaper articles, and sponsorships.
Already making great strides for a young company just getting its foothold in Jamaica, Shipco Jamaica has much to look forward to over the next three to five years. For Matthews, the following years will unlock even more value for the Jamaican import and export industry. She shares, “I enjoy a customer coming to me and saying, ‘I doubt that you can do this, and I don’t know why I’m even calling, but can you move a pallet to Slovenia?’ and their response when I say ‘Do you want it delivered to door or just to port?’”
Matthews wants to see Shipco Jamaica become this exotic shipping company that can do things that have never been seen or heard of before in Jamaica. She concludes, “It’s really exciting to be a part of a company like that here.”
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AT A GLANCE
Shipco Jamaica Transport Limited
What: A forward-thinking shipping, transportation, logistics, and ICT company
Where: Based in Kingston, Jamaica