HEAVY LIFTING

Ghana 2018 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Joseph Biney, CEO of Baj Freight & Logistics, on building Ghana's capacity, border resolutions, and prospects for more economic activity.

 Joseph Biney
BIOGRAPHY
Joseph Biney has over 25 years experience in the freight forwarding industry. With an award of certificate in Customs Proficiency, he joined Rolebo Lines & Co. Ltd. in 1986 and rose to the position of Shipping Manager until 2000 when he left to join Sheik Lines & Co. Ltd as the Director of Operations. During his career with Rolebo and Sheik Lines, he achieved excellence especially in areas of demurrage and the supervision of over 60 staff through the application of professional principles of clearing and forwarding. In 2006, Biney, as one of the three owners of the company, was appointed CEO at Baj Freight. Baj has won the Best Oil & Gas Logistics Company of the Year 2015 and 2016 and the Best Freight Forwarding Company of the Year 2015.

How have operations evolved in the last few years?

We are a 100% indigenous company that started from scratch. We have expanded from 15 employees to 280 currently. In 2016, we looked into expanding into the heavy lifts business, which we have done with the acquisition of equipment. Our hauler trailer, which was the first of its kind for a Ghanaian company, has been extremely successful for us. It came at a time when it was much needed, especially with the Eni 200-MW power generation plant, which required many heavy items. For this project, we work in collaboration with Fagioli, the forwarders and equipment handlers in Italy. It assessed our capabilities, and we have been working hand-in-hand with its expertise and our equipment. Our collaboration with Fagioli is an added incentive for us in heavy lifting, as clients understand we have something to offer.

What is your strategy in terms of geographical expansion?

Our goal is to expand into the West African region, and I hope 1Q2018 will see us fully stationed in Ivory Coast, where we have registered a company. Most of the clients that we serve locally also have projects in Ivory Coast, and we are doing a great deal of movement of equipment. We have started to make an impact with trucking. The next step, therefore, is to have an office. In 2018, we want to go into Burkina Faso. We are taking it one step at a time to have our presence felt in West Africa with the exception of Nigeria.

What are the implications on your business of the Tema Port expansion?

Every expansion means more cargo, and we will definitely have a piece of the action. The expansion will increase business by offering more capacity for storage. For a company like us, it is a win-win situation as competition in the region is stiff. Togo wants some of the cargo, and with this expansion, it will be attractive. The benefits will be enormous, and for Baj Freight, the expansion is welcome. We are the leaders in our country and we seek more business. We belong to a worldwide network and are members of BFN; once we are part of a network we are known around the world. We will receive direct contact from our network partners that ship items into Ghana for us to take the Ghana leg. We are extremely well positioned as we do significant oil and gas logistics with heavy lifts and power generation. To a large extent, we are selling ourselves and want to continue to grow our brand and raise exposure.

Where are the largest opportunities in terms of the transport and logistics sector in Ghana?

A few years ago we had issues with oil prices and the border dispute between Ghana and Ivory Coast, which slowed down many things. Now, with the border dispute resolved, we have all won because we resolved it through legitimate means. That opens the gates for more business. We had a client, Hess, which made a great find on the border and had to hold onto this asset until this time. It will come back now knowing that it has more work to do. The government has always said it wants to build up rail, which will allow us to move more products. We always have a shortage of trucks and staff, so there are positive things happening that bring more business to the company.

What are your expectations for 2018?

We have a positive outlook for 2018 now that the border dispute is over. I see a great deal of activity starting from 2018, and we are starting to benefit from it. The economy has not picked up the way we expected; there was a great deal of talk before the elections, though things have been slow. However, there are great intentions from the government, and it should be able to do more for Ghana. The prospects are great.