For 25 years, Bridge Shipping has been moving freight on a global scale. The company’s incomparable knowledge along with its expertise and sound customer service activities make it a leader in the logistics industry.
Bridge Shipping is part of a larger group of companies called the Bridge Group, which is a fully BEE compliant company, as they are 26 per cent black owned. The company has strategic partnerships with Standard Bank, a global bank with African roots, and the Commercial Bank of China (ICBC taking a 20 per cent stake in Standard Bank), and through these partnerships and the company’s unique culture, it leads the industry for logistics services. The Bridge Group is made up of eight divisions that fall into two categories.
The logistics divisions include: Bridge Marine, the shipping agency for MISC, Proline and Seacon; Bridge Shipping, who are clearing and forwarding agents, and Bridgeport—who deal with container depots, bonded warehousing and are also rail specialists.
Bridge Group trading divisions include: Bridge Trade, fulfilling procurement for Sub Saharan large-scale enterprises such as the mining, tobacco and cotton industries; Foton, who are the Southern African agents for Foton Lovol Heavy Industries; Felda Bridge Africa, a joint venture company with Felda Malaysia—they are the premier importers of palm oil products into South Africa, and Felda Bridge Industries—a locally-based oil refinery that process bulk oils into specialised baking margarines and shortenings.
Bridge Shipping offers freight forwarding services by land, air and sea. Over the years, the company has developed relationships with experienced haulers, so that they can provide customized Break-Bulk and FCL services to suit individual client requirements, in turn facilitating the movement of high volume and high value cargo. Bridge has a regular, reliable consolidation service to Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, DRC, and Zambia. The company’s highly trained staff coordinates the complete transport function for their clients, whether the cargo is going over borders or staying local. The company provides accurate tracking and monitoring—for a seamless logistics process—with their land, sea and air transport services.
In addition to hauling goods on land, the company provides ocean freight forwarding for LCL, FCL and Break-Bulk Shipments. Within their airfreight capacity, Bridge staff takes a “personal interest in moving the airfreight cargo as quickly and efficiently as possible,” according to their website. The company also does abnormal cargo transport, showing they truly cover all logistics bases.
Bridge Shipping—a powerful network
The supply chain is a very powerful part of any business. Luckily, companies like Bridge Shipping provide expertise in supply chain management, working with clients from origin to final destination.
Paul Levy, owner of Bridge Shipping says that the company’s advantage is its network. Long ago, Bridge identified that no matter where a customer was buying from, it has to move through a logistics channel. “The one constant in the movement,” Levy says, “are people that control the infrastructure.”
The best example of how Bridge makes this channel work is in its relationship with China. “The one great thing that we have with our network is China and South Africa are far apart, and China’s demand for raw material is really insatiable. They’re rapidly consuming manganese, chrome, nickel, cobalt, tobacco, and cotton from South Africa and Southern Africa. But because it’s so far away, it’s difficult for them to find in that logistics process who they can trust” Levy explains. Therefore, customers in China turn to Bridge. “They tend not to deal with producers; they tend to deal with traders. And they don’t know how distant those traders are from the product itself. As a result, the quality and quantities they are able to source are limited by that person’s network.”
This is where Bridge shines—with their ability to ensure quality and proper management of goods. “If the quality and quantity is certified to be correct, customers are quite happy to pay for the product if it’s what it is,” Levy says. With this channel in mind, Bridge Group started a finance arm, on behalf of their Chinese client, in order to ensure that they are with the process all the way through—from origin to destination. “We guarantee that if they ordered a product of quality—they get it.”
The thing that sets Bridge apart is its hold on the rail system, which offers clients smoother service through transit.
From truck to rail
With so many raw materials flowing back and forth, there are several options for transit. But Bridge has moved up in the food chain. Where most companies have the option of using a service provider that uses hundreds and hundreds of trucks, alternatively Bridge offers to ship, say, 80 containers on a single train. “Once you’re controlling 80 containers at a time, it becomes simpler. The rail in Africa is tremendously limited, but rail is an easier method,” Levy says. “So because we dominate the rail space we have the ability to move cargo. We receive the containers, and because those containers are in our yard, when a shipment is ready we will fill the containers, clean them and maintain them, ensuring the best quality.”
All in all, Bridge is the answer to clients’ logistics problems. They offer a solution, and offer the proper follow-through that is necessary to make sure goods are where they need to be, on time and at the same level of quality as when they left the exporter. “The person who is consistent through the entire goods transfer process is the logistics company,” Hogg says, adding that in this regard, the company is therefore “a crucial link” between the two countries (in Bridge’s case).
Each of the business divisions at the Bridge Group were developed to fill a gap in the logistics chain. Therefore, the company has seen organic growth that originally started out “with the only niche that we could play in,” Levy reasons. “We were hunting for a niche to survive in, and we chose export agriculture because no one else was doing it.”
And there really is no question; Bridge Shipping is doing logistics well.