RAFAEL MORAGON

Spain 2021 | TRANSPORT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Rafael Moragon, General Manager of TEC Container, on naval engineering, Spain's biggest ports, and priorities for 2021.

TEC Container has become one of the benchmarks in the design, manufacture, and commercialization of naval engineering and port equipment in more than 80 countries. Can you elaborate on the company's history and its milestones?

We have been operating for nearly 45 years. The company was founded by my father, and I am the second generation. There have been two phases, the first one is until the late 1990s, which goes hand in hand with the buoyant times that Spain experienced. We were heavily focused on exports. We have been an exporting company since our creation. In the second phase, after the 1990s, Eastern European and Asian countries started to emerge, and as a result, Spain lost its attractiveness as a cheap place for manufacturing. It became expensive to manufacture in Spain, so we started to seek opportunities abroad, first in some Eastern European countries and then in China, where we started to manufacture what we previously produced in Spain. Until the 1990s, we were a labor-intensive company, with 50-60 workers in our plant, though that ended when the Chinese labor force appeared. We also started to invest in port technology for container management in Spain. We decided to manufacture high-technology products here, while producing low-technology products in China. Margins are more appealing and attractive in added-value products. We invest in research and development, and we manufacture some sophisticated products, while also manufacturing in China some basic lines.

The company has a wide portfolio of products and three brands under the umbrella of the main brand: containerspreaders.com; lashingcages.com, and ohframes.com. What products are the most in demand, and how do they differ from your competitors?

We have a first business, lashing, which is to secure the containers loaded in the vessels. The containers are secured one to another using a system is called lashing, and we manufacture that in China. That was our core business until mid '90s. It is a well-known standard, a commodity. that no one wants to change. Nowadays TEC is very active in the Handling and Lifting equipment Industry, container spreaders and Overheight Frames that are attachments used in the cranes when the cargo is bigger than a container. Additionally, we produce Safety equipment for the stevedores, such as Lashing Platforms etc. I can proudly say that we are the market leaders in the world in Overheigth Frames and Lashing Cages for stevedores.

You export to more than 80 markets, the majority of which is in Europe. What is the company's vision in terms of expanding its market share?

Last March, we were going to open a new working night shift because we were overwhelmed. We had a large portfolio of requests before the pandemic started. We are currently experiencing peak demand. The port industry is affected, but I do not feel fear, because things will get better, and trade will be the first thing to improve. People will immediately want to import goods from China or other countries. I am optimistic. We have not seen the cancellation of large investments; instead, products that we planned to hand over in June were postponed to the end of the year. Due to this increase in demand, TEC Container is seeking investors for a capital increase to finance an expansion and go into a larger plant in Madrid of around 15,000-16,000sqm.

COVID-19 has affected all sectors of the economy, including port traffic, which fell 4.7% in 1Q2020. What are your views for the rest of the year?

2019 was a record for us, and we were headed in the same trajectory for 2020. This has been a parenthesis, but I am extremely optimistic for when the period finishes. Spain in particular will see an impact in trade, though we are currently focused 85% on exports. The ports of Algeciras, Valencia, and Barcelona have investments that were urgent at the time, but they have been put off. Spain will perform worse, but I am optimistic.

What measures has the company taken in the light of COVID-19?

I am extremely proud and pleased to say that during the pandemic, instead of cutting back on our staff, thankfully, we have been increasing our staff and creating new positions, even during the full lockdown. Blue-collar workers continued coming in, while we implemented a remote working plan for white-collar workers. We have not seen our revenue fall.

What are your views on the measures implemented by the government for port operators?

I have no opinion on the matter. The government's plan involved EUR350 million, which is small. We have to understand that Spain has a port infrastructure that is one of the best in the world. Algeciras and Valencia rank among the top 50 ports in the world. Same as Germany and more than any other European Country, Holland, Uk and Belgium have 1 port and the rest of our neighbors do not have any. We have an enormous potential in this country, and EUR350 million in aid, taking into account the size of the business, is not relevant.

What is your key priority for 2021?

My main goal is to stabilize our operations during the current situation to ensure our growth trajectory. We also want to focus our efforts on getting the 15,000-sqm plant in Madrid sorted. This will give us 20-25 more successful years for the company. We call it the TEC 2022 plan.