David Williams, president and CEO of Safmarine a Maersk company told AJOT he is cautiously optimistic that the company’s trade related to Africa and West Central Asia, will recover from the current slowdown and increase to 4% per annum by 2020.
Even so, Williams told AJOT that Safmarine is close to carrying one million forty foot container units per year and had revenues of US $2.3 billion in 2015.
In 1999, Safmarine, a South Africa-based company was acquired by Maersk and is now headquartered in Copenhagen where Williams directs around 1,200-employees world-wide.
South African Marine Corporation (Safmarine) was formed in 1946. It was a partnership between Henry Mercer, president of U.S.-based States Marine and Dr. Hendrik van der Bijl, a South African industrialist. The company fleet included three U.S. built Victory ships built during World War II. (At the time the company was owned by U.S. shareholders.)
Williams admitted that Safmarine has experienced a slowdown with its trading partners noting three principle trends:
Europe’s economic slow down seems to be coming to an end.
China has experienced a slowdown and is buying less.
Africa is experiencing a downturn due primarily to cutbacks in Chinese orders for raw materials.
Williams said of trading conditions, “A lot of our customers in Africa have reduced their purchases and are working through their inventories. Once they have gone through them, then they will start buying and we will see more import purchases.”
Safmarine competes in 28 trade lanes and has an average of a 25% share in these trades. The steamship line is a major ocean carrier of South African trade. South Africa is an exporter of fruits and vegetables that go primarily to Europe and also has several car plants thus imports car parts used in the manufacture of cars for Toyota , Nissan, Mercedes and BMW. South Africa also sells wine but primarily in bulk.
Williams said the acquisition of Safmarine by Maersk Line has made available the most modern ships with the best equipment which has helped sell the to Safmarine brand its global customers.
Williams has worked for the Maersk Group for 25 years. He had previously worked for Safmarine between 1986 and 1990. At Maersk, Williams has held positions as Namibia manager, Southern Africa cluster manager and head of the East & Central China cluster. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of South Africa. He has also been an avid rugby player.