Waypoint Port Services Ltd is an integrated ports agency business which was set up in Cyprus in 2014.
The company is a 50-50 joint venture owned by Schulte Group and Independent Ship Agents SA of Argentina, a Latin America based agency firm.
At Waypoint’s helm is Angelo Cachia, a 35-year shipping industry veteran.
Angelo believes that now more than ever, the shipping industry is undergoing a period of rapid evolution. The port agency business, for so long a traditional partner of the business, must adapt to those changes to continue to have a valuable function.
He says his main challenge is the need to provide quality services to owners and charterers while keeping a tight control on costs.
“Historically shipowners have always been very cost- conscious and the agency business is very competitive as a result.
“But the industry downturn over the past decade combined with the emergence of new technology has placed even more emphasis on cost control in agency,” he notes.
“Every dollar saved is a dollar earned for us and our customers.”
Aside from the relentless focus on cost control, Angelo sees other fundamental shifts in shipping.
“Another trend which independent agents face today is the consolidation of the industry especially in the liner sector.
“The major lines have opted to take agency work in-house to control cost more tightly and many independent agents struggle to survive”, he said.
Waypoint must be nimble and innovative in the face of this transformation, but Angelo believes the company has solid fundamentals and benefits from its strong connection to the Schulte Group, he explains,
“Having the Schulte Group connection does not mean Waypoint automatically gets Bernhard Schulte vessels or BSM managed ships for the agency. We have to demonstrate quality and value each time and there is always a negotiation,” he says.
But it is a relationship which is healthy and one that is enabling Waypoint to achieve its ambitions.
Waypoint has enjoyed year on year growth since it started almost four years ago and this positive development has increased in pace since Angelo joined the company as Managing Director.
Last year Waypoint handled more than 5,000 port calls, more than 360 canal transits and 10,500 crew changes, and Angelo hopes these figures will grow again in 2018 as it has done each year since 2014.
The company now provides a full range of port agency services to an impressive list of owners across five continents.
But Angelo was recruited to take the organization to the next level in terms of geographical presence, wider client base, and higher service quality.
He has passionate views about what makes a successful port agency.
A close relationship with the owner is essential for a successful agency, he says, and he argues that honesty, transparency and integrity form the basis for that.
The core ingredient which sustains the owner-agent relationship is the organisation’s people, Angelo notes.
Angelo has been deeply impressed by the quality of the Waypoint staff all over the world since he joined the Company.
He said, “Agency is a people business. Our owner-customers should regard us as an extension of their own presence in any port their vessels call in. We like to be viewed as the arm of the owner.”
Waypoint currently has owned offices in Panama, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Holland, Switzerland, Cyprus, Singapore, Hong Kong and Indonesia as well as a joint venture in Ghana. It provides services in more than 60 ports around the world and that number is growing fast.
“Our people on the ground in each major port are what sets us apart because they have intimate knowledge of their markets. They know how to get things done and how local markets work. We use this knowledge each day for the benefit of our customers.”
This is one of Waypoint’s key advantages over its competitors, he argues.
“In port agency work, ‘big’ does not always mean better. Local connections, experience and knowledge mean more than economies of scale.”
Waypoint has its commercial head office in Geneva whilst the finance team are based in Limassol and jointly look after all the owned agency offices around the world as well as the large number of sub-agency agreements it has across the globe.
Angelo and his team are pressing ahead with expansion plans both in terms of taking on more sub agencies to represent Waypoint in key maritime markets but also by setting up wholly owned overseas offices.
The Company recently launched their Agency Network Centre (ANC) based in Limassol, which is to be the growth vehicle for Waypoint. To start off they have confirmed sub agency agreements with agents in Malaysia, South Korea and Egypt and Angelo says there are plans to expand further into Asia, in particular Japan and South East Asia.
Asia is the key to future growth, he notes. The continent’s ports accounted for more than half of the Company’s port calls last year and more than 75% of the crew changes.
He is also looking at Northern Europe and the UK whilst the Americas region is targeted for early 2019.
Looking ahead even further, Angelo strongly believes port agency is a sustainable business over the long term because ship owners will continue to need reputable and capable ‘partners’ in every port at which their vessels call.
“The changes we see in the global transport chain and shipping will ensure that owners will more than ever need agents they can trust and rely on at all times,” he concludes.
“Waypoint aims to be the owners’ agent of choice.”