Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Container Shipping Lines Reorganise Staff In UK Shake Up

NYK and Maersk both Restructure Office Operations
Shipping News Feature

UK – This week there is good news and bad news as the saying goes for staff employed by two of the world’s largest shipping lines. Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) are upping staff levels at their Liverpool operation and have taken extra space to accommodate them. The company were assisted by The Mersey Partnership (TMP) whose mission is to encourage and promote the region and Liverpool Vision, the city’s economic development company.

Mr John Webb, NYK Group Senior Director told the Handy Shipping Guide that the move is a rationalisation involving moving the Export Bookings and Documentation from London to Liverpool making it the UK’s export customer service centre. Import and financial departments will operate from the company’s Southampton base. Mr Webb describes the refurbishment of the groups Liverpool offices as “fantastic” with the fully listed building having its vaulted ceiling restored and refitted to equal the panoramic view. He continued:

“We are delighted to be expanding our operations in a city and a building with such a fine maritime heritage.”

Whilst this brings the staff levels of NYK to around thirty in its city offices and has been met with enthusiasm by the city’s commercial interests, competitors Maersk Line are taking criticism for allegedly not living up to promises made after they it was reported they had received an initial payment of £50,000 from the North West Regional Development Agency to increase their own presence in Liverpool. Originally the company were promised around £200,000 in grants to employ around seventy more people at their 100, Old Hall Street offices, bringing the total staff there to circa 180.

According to Maersk they have fulfilled their commitment and created over fifty new roles in the city in the past year but reports in the local press say the company is now to reduce its Liverpool workforce by almost 30% and TMP are to meet with Maersk to discuss the situation. In a statement the company said they had experienced their worst ever financial losses in 2009 and faced a challenging 2010. The customer service team was consolidating in Felixstowe causing the Southampton office to close. Annamette Jepsen, Managing Director of Maersk Line UK and Ireland said:

“This has been a reluctant decision for us. Our office team in Southampton have been a real asset; however the economic climate has meant that we’ve had to look at consolidating our customer service organisation in one location.

“Our office in Felixstowe already contains a number of different Maersk Line functions and is our major port in the UK; therefore it makes sense for the import customer services to be centralised there.”

Maersk will cease sales functions in Hainault and staff covering the area will work from home. This will reduce the number of Maersk offices in the UK from eight to six.

In January 2008 the company announced a new strategy to turn round declining margins and return to sustainable profitability. One of the key elements in that plan was declared as reducing complexity and costs cutting a global workforce of 25,000 by up to 3,000. At the time CEO Elvind Kolding said “The reality is that a leaner and simpler business requires fewer people and this means fewer positions in Maersk Line, mainly in the middle management layer.”

Speaking in New Zealand today AP Moller Maersk CEO Nils Smedegaard Andersen, blamed last years freight rate decreases as the principal cause of shipping group losses worldwide which were estimated as possibly as high as $30 billion.

The cold hard truth is that, despite the good news for the new NYK recruits there may still be reductions in staff levels across the sector and many leading companies are consolidating their operations to meet the financial challenges faced by shipping lines and freight forwarders alike. NYK employ over 50,000 staff worldwide whilst Maersk Line’s parent company, AP Moller – Maersk, have over 117,000 people in 130 countries.