'Creating new markets would be truly adding value'
If anyone is qualified to facilitate trade and logistics in South Africa’s ports, recently appointed general manager trade, logistics and corporate Affairs, Nisha Jones, is clearly the right candidate.
A nurse by profession, she brings to the position a varied corporate business background both locally and abroad, having worked for the likes of Grindrod, Nestlé and Sanlam.
South African-born, she lived and worked in the US from 1989-97 and most recently headed up the Swedish SA Business Partnership Fund.
Four months into her new role at NPA, Jones is mindful of the considerable challenges facing NPA but is more than equal to her responsibilities which include drafting a business plan and strategy, interfacing with clients, negotiating tariffs and facilitating relationships with Spoornet and SA Port Operations.
THE ROLE of the National Ports Authority extends well beyond the limits of the transport leg, in the view of trade and logistics GM Nisha Jones.
“We need to be more active in facilitating relationships between our clients and potential markets, thereby creating new markets for clients.
“That would truly be adding value,” says Jones, who sees the upcoming South African week in Sweden as a case in point. “We have already extended an invitation to a number of sectors and hopefully can solicit the Department of Trade and Industry’s assistance in putting together a delegation.”
Adding value also demands an understanding of the nature of the customer’s business, which is where the organisation’s cluster studies are playing an important strategic role.
“We have established a variety of clusters - automotive, fruit, oil & gas and iron ore among them - and interact with those clients on a regular basis.
“Their needs will inform future infrastructure requirements. It is therefore important for us to engage with our clients to ensure we provide the infrastructure to meet their needs.”
And to ensure that future infrastructure meets world standards, the NPA benchmarks against the international market.
“We are pursuing twinning arrangements with other ports, Florida being a recent example. We see this kind of information exchange as a vital element in service delivery and improvement.”
And part of that service improvement philosophy is being played out in the launch of a portal and customer service centres.
“We have a customer service centre at the Port of East London right now and are looking at rolling out to the rest of the ports by the first quarter of next year. The objective is to deliver a one-stop service centre to our customers to enable them to grow their businesses. Our service delivery should be seamless thus discouraging the need to entertain exploring other options.”
Customer retention is a clear strategy for NPA. “As the NPA we fulfil a central role in the logistics chain. We interface with Spoornet, Sapo and the shipping lines through the Container Liner Operators’ Forum. Our objective moving forward will be to facilitate relationships further down the logistics chain.”