ONE Europe and Africa managing director Jotaro Tamura opens up about the goals and major focuses of the shipping line in his frst interview with a publication
Quality of service to customers is a major focus for Ocean Network Express (ONE), its Europe and Africa managing director Jotaro Tamura told Container Shipping & Trade.
ONE’s management is split into five key global regions. While Mr Tamura – who originally came from MOL – heads up Europe and Africa, other senior executives are in charge of east Asia, south Asia, North America and Latin America.
“To be a truly global organisation and shipping line, ONE believes its workforce should have people with international orientation, outlook and background to ensure the service quality that we give is really supporting the global trade and more importantly, to make sure that ONE can really come across as one team globally to service the customers,” said ONE chief executive Jeremy Nixon. “These regional executives bring to us their diverse experience and will significantly contribute to the operations and business growth of ONE globally.”
The integration of the container businesses of K Line, NYK and MOL has led to a combined fleet of 1.4M TEU. It offers 85 service loops and links more than 200 of the world’s major ports.
In terms of fleet size, both owned and chartered, it is at number six in the Alphaliner top 100 largest ocean carriers. Last year, NYK was at number 10, MOL at 11 and K Line at 14.
Explaining the benefits of the new company, Mr Tamura said “The most important point of combining the three lines is that it creates greater scale of merit and competitiveness.”
He added “Competition is the key challenge for the global shipping market, which is exactly why the three lines came to the conclusion to form ONE. The competition is not region-specific.”
Indeed, he pointed out that there is a “distinctive line” between the legacy lines and ONE. “They were competing, and they had their own strategies.”
As well as being given the opportunity to be as competitive as possible, the combination of the three shipping lines as ONE provides more opportunities for the shipping line in the European and African markets. It will allow the company to extend its coverage in Africa.
Mr Tamura said “The three lines had a presence in each region of Africa, but by combining as ONE, we can offer complete coverage of east, south and west Africa. Complete coverage in this region is a starting point for us. ONE is relatively small in this region and there is room to grow. We think we can target expansion and provide more services to customers.”
A benefit of the three Japanese lines combining as ONE is that individually they could not provide such complete coverage. For example, previously west Africa was served by MOL only.
Asked where the key opportunities would be for growth in Africa, Mr Tamura said he felt there were equal opportunities in east, south and west Africa.
Meanwhile, the opportunities for ONE in Europe are of a different nature to those in Africa. The ONE network is already so extensive in this market that the geographical expansion is not a main focus. Rather, competitive advantage is at the fore here. “The combination of three resulting in ONE means that our service is extensive as a main player, and we are really capable of providing service to customers compared to competitors,” commented Mr Tamura.
"ONE is relatively small in this region and there is room to grow. We think we can target expansion and provide more services to customers”
Mr Tamura said “Our three legacy lines are acknowledged for quality of service, we have inherited this strength, which is of value to customers. Our focus is on quality of service.”
He singled this out as a major benefit for ONE’s customers, along with the fact that the three lines are highly financially stable.
Indeed, the importance of the focus on customer service is such that when asked what he would like ONE to achieve after its first 12 months of operation in Europe and Africa, Mr Tamura highlighted quality of service. “The three lines’ combination has not been an easy one, and since April we have faced various operational challenges. But these are transitional, and I believe that shortly we will be in a situation to be able to provide the quality of service which we are really focusing upon. We want to deliver customers with a stable service.”
Asked about the future newbuild orderbook for ONE, he said that while there were still ships to be delivered by the legacy lines, ONE does not have an orderbook and no plans to order yet, although this was a matter of timing and could change in the future.
He added that ONE was focusing on stabilising itself in the early period.
Since ONE officially launched at the start of April this year, the company has been “well received” by customers and “we are seeing strong support from our customers”.
Indeed, the three legacy lines do not have much on their orderbook compared to other lines. There is currently 111,896 TEU on the orderbook, consisting of eight ships. This is in sharp contrast to MSC, CMA CGM and COSCO, which have 18, 19 and 23 ships respectively on their orderbooks.
Jotaro Tamura (ONE)
Jotaro Tamura was born in Chiba and grew up in Yokohama, Japan. Keen to work in an international business with opportunities to work overseas, he joined Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) in 1991 after graduating with a degree in Sociology from Sophia University, Tokyo.
Mr Tamura’s first assignment abroad was in London in 1995 where he was chartering manager for MOL Bulk Shipping Europe. This was followed by positions in MOL’s liner division in Tokyo and then Hong Kong where he worked for 14 years and was promoted from senior manager to senior vice president. In 2014 Mr Tamura returned to Tokyo and was appointed general manager within the MOL car carrier division.
After the merging of NYK, MOL and K-Line’s container businesses to form Ocean Network Express (ONE), Mr Tamura was appointed managing director for ONE Europe and Africa region in April 2018 and is now based in London.