THE CONFIDENCE TO GROW

Colombia 2020 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

Helping customers lower costs and speed up transit times, OPL is a pioneer in river, land, and rail integration across Colombia.

Javier Prada Sánchez
BIOGRAPHY

With a degree in industrial engineering from Universidad Javariana and a master's in international business from la Universidad del Norte, Javier Prada Sánchez has worked for the past 15 years working in the logistics and management of cargo and maritime operations. He became President of OPL Carga in 2010.

What added value does OPL offer to differentiate itself in the competitive logistics industry?
Our key added value is innovation and adaptability. We are constantly searching for alternatives that enable us to become strategic and reliable business partners for our customers. With that goal in mind, we have developed an integrated logistical service platform by offering several types of services that complement each other. We offer not only road transport—our starting point from which we learned to diversify—but also specialize in different types of cargo such as liquid, reefer, and containers, allowing our company to diversify and work with multiple industries. Colombia is a commodity-based country, meaning that depending on only one type of service is a fairly high risk. Today, we have over 26 offices and transport over 5 million tons per year.

Which sector of the economy presents the greatest opportunities for expansion and growth in the medium and long term?
Containers and reefer cargo are both high-growth cargo channels in the Colombian economy. For containers, OPL applies high security schemes regarding vendor and customers selection as well. We offer customs transmittal fee (DTA) and multimodal transport operation (OTM), allowing us to provide a door-to-door delivery that minimizes regulatory hurdles, and, therefore, transit times at customs facilities. As for the reefer sector, we are reacting to the growth in demand of fruits, vegetables, meats, and other food products that require temperature-controlled environments.

You are a pioneer in Colombia in the integration of river, land, and rail transport. What was the process of integrating these types of transport like?
Our company has always believed in multi-modal transport to be an effective solution that brings benefits to logistic companies and customers. In this path, government support is extremely important for being able to make it work. Since we founded the company in 2006, it has always been clear to us that we should not only have trucks for transportation but that to move cargo from one place to the other, we should integrate every means of transport and offer a multi-channel portfolio of cargo. For that, we started operating in ports along the Magdalena River that could be navigable all-year round, while finding business partners who could complement us with the logistics and technology challenges of river transportation. We also partnered up with Holdtrade Atlantico, a railroad logistics company, to develop the railroad business, though this will require additional regulatory assistance to grow to its full potential.

OPL offers complementary services for its customers, such as storage in warehouses and container deconsolidation. How important is adaptability in a business like this?
Adaptability sets one apart from other companies in the market, by which we can establish a long-term relationship with customers. For us, it was a key factor knowing from the beginning that these services would make a difference in the Colombian logistical business. For major cities that are 600-1,000km from the Caribbean and Pacific ports, paying inland freight for a 20ft or 40ft container is extremely expensive due to fixed container costs, as well as the variable costs of time and distance between origin and destination. Today, we have as much as 700 monthly cargo transfer operations that help our customers lower their costs and speed up their transit times.

In its alliance with Surtigas, OPL operates trucks that use natural gas. What is your commitment to the environment, and how will this benefit the company in the long run?
Our commitment to the environment is to reduce greenhouse emissions by using such trucks. This initiative will benefit our company by allowing us to move forward on the path to sustainability and bring new and additional business opportunities, as we are the first to offer this type of service. There is no small contribution regarding climate change.

What are the main challenges presented by the operations and logistics market today?
The main challenges are technology, namely providing information from the inside to our clients and vendors, ensuring security in all of our transactions, and investing in more efficient, profitable, and eco-friendly trucks.