Blue Bell Shipping (BBS) is a freight forwarding and shipping business located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) with over 35 years of experience. They manage and ship project and heavy-lift cargo and pride themselves on delivering high-quality logistics solutions to challenging and remote sites around the world.
Aditya Menon, Commercial Manager at BBS, explains why the company is unique in the forwarding business. He says, “BBS is not just another general forwarder. We operate differently to most businesses in our industry. I believe this is what has allowed us to punch above our weight in certain circumstances. For example, we have our own in-house transport engineering department with qualified engineers to liaise with EPCs or fabricators as early as pre-feed. They ensure cargo design is as streamlined for shipping as possible without compromising the integrity of the product. This is a totally different service compared to a forwarder who just places a booking for you.”
Additionally, BBS operates a dedicated night shift and weekend operations team in some locations to provide true 24/7 service. And they guarantee high-level decisions can be taken on the ground by way of the acting project manager. This improves the efficiency of operations as it avoids time consuming ‘escalations’ or ‘meetings’ to get others up to speed. Aditya Menon adds, “This is just a brief cross section of a few of our outstanding practices but I believe when combined with the many other little tweaks we have made to the standard operating model, we are really providing a rare and distinct value proposition to our clients that I haven’t seen in the market yet.”
Anyone can win
Since the start of BBS, the business has progressed and expanded its freight forwarding operations to include project cargo, air/sea charters, rig movements, dangerous goods and airfreight solutions. They have established a reputation for working in challenging areas, adherence to logistics budgets and excellent customer care. This exceptional standing is also what motivated Aditya Menon to join the company. Born in the UAE, Aditya Menon has studied, travelled and worked around the world including the United Kingdom (UK) and Australia. He settled back at home in Dubai to commit himself fully to BBS and ensure the company is taken to the next level. Aditya Menon reveals, “I like how competitive and fast paced the industry is. The forwarding arm in particular poses many challenges but these are disguised opportunities to showcase your differences and succeed. I like how small and medium sized project forwarders are still able to find space in the market by providing great service or out of the box solutions and how this can surpass the conglomerates despite their volume agreements with carriers, credit facilities or superior infrastructure. It feels like anyone can win.”
These developments come with their own set of challenges. “But that is what keeps us on top of our game,” the commercial manager explains and continues to name a few of these trials. “Freight forwarders offering large credit lines for extended periods of time and then outsourcing the majority of their work to another forwarder, for example. In this scenario the forwarder acts like a credit facility rather than a logistics company. Or container carriers encroaching on the freight forwarders’ scope of work. We are already seeing some carriers claiming that they will not work with forwarders in the future and others forcing their onshore trucking services in order to obtain a booking. These actions however, are much like a double edged sword, and will have more of an impact on general freight forwarders before it hurts project forwarders. And I have loosely been following the rise of digital freight forwarders in various countries around the world, and I think the system is far from perfect. But tech works at a much faster pace than logistics does so the next five years may see some disruption.”
The BBS Project Division prides itself on being experienced in every aspect of project freight management. From the initial consultations during the budgeting phase right down to the final on-site assembly operation. Aditya Menon emphasises the complexity of their projects and what makes them interesting. “Most of the recent projects we have completed in Iraq have been memorable. Aside from the possible security risks on site, you are dealing with multiple intermediary countries, niche in-country requirements, remote project sites and severely limited equipment and personnel. It is a melting pot for unconventional solutions and ideas.”
Asked about the company’s growth plans for the upcoming years, Aditya Menon replies, “We are big believers in organic growth. We have refined our internal processes over the last few years and are continuing to do so every day. Our service offering seems to be successful so I believe exporting it throughout the region and on a larger scale is the right decision at this time. International offices are always a bit tricky. Sometimes you have to ask yourself if the office is necessary or if it is just an ego-trip – i.e. can a better outcome be achieved with less risk? That being said, the past year has seen us expand to four international offices outside of the UAE (including the USA, UK, Turkey and Iraq). And continuing to develop these locations while remaining flexible enough to take advantage of new opportunities in the region makes more sense than dotting a map for no tangible purpose.”