A transformed profession

Once upon a time, numerous small suppliers of equipment and provisions had their warehouses near the Port of Montreal. How times have changed. Today, there are about five.

Profit margins are tighter now and companies must rely on volume of sales in order to stay ahead of the competition. In other words, there are fewer but bigger players. Global competition affects prices and quality of service. “A captain asks us for a quote. If a quote from a supplier at the Port of Rotterdam seems to be better, and if the captain’s needs are not urgent, he can wait seven days and make his purchase once his ship arrives in the Netherlands,” said Robert Zeagman, president of Seagulf Marine Industries Inc., a ship chandler located near the Port of Montreal.

Even though times have changed, one thing remains the same: confidence in your supplier. In the busy world of maritime transportation, where clients and suppliers rarely meet but instead communicate electronically, human contact is very important. It establishes confidence, which is crucial to a supplier’s success. That’s why suppliers travel frequently. They visit their shipowner clients as well as their own suppliers. When it comes to developing a strong business relationship, a handshake is still as good as gold. “I’ve travelled every continent to meet clients and to find suppliers. I no longer count how many times I’ve had malaria,” said Craig Bishop of Clipper Inc.


Robert Zeagman, co-propriétaire de Seagulf

 

A vast territory


1Craig Bishop, co-propriétaire de Clipper

Equipment suppliers have also increased their sales volumes by expanding their territories. They have opened offices elsewhere and today serve numerous ports. Clipper extended its operations to other ports in Quebec and on the North Shore, and in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Seagulf, founded in 1958, has offices in St. Catharines, Ontario, and Halifax, Nova Scotia.


9/11

The events of September 11, 2001, have also changed the way in which suppliers operate. Before, they could enter a port and deliver directly to a ship. Today, they must have proper authorization before entering port territory. All representatives have identification cards. Access is controlled by the port authority, then by the security force working for the terminal operator where the ship is docked, and finally by the ship’s own authorities. “We are under constant escort when we’re aboard a ship,” Zeagman said.

Suppliers who deliver provisions, clothes, batteries and other equipment needed for life at sea are always greeted with open arms by crew members.