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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Doing business in Africa…Challenge accepted

Pilot has a presence just about everywhere in the world, and being everywhere is sometimes no easy task. International freight forwarding comes with its challenges, particularly in regions where the infrastructure isn't quite the same as what we are used to in the U.S. No continent better exemplifies the obstacles we come up against than Africa. In the past several years, our business in Africa has greatly increased, thanks in large part to work with the U.S. military, and I’m proud to say that we’ve successfully conquered significant obstacles on many occasions in the course of doing that work.

Shipping into and out of Africa presents a number of unique challenges that we and our partners have to work through to make sure we can deliver the great quality service that our customers expect. Some of these issues include political unrest, a lack of infrastructure, equipment that doesn’t work, and airports that can close on a moment’s notice. It’s this new set of challenges that really tests what we’re good at, which is being flexible.

To give you an example, we recently had a 747 full of military freight going into Africa. To unload a 747 is no ordinary task—it requires a device called a K-Loader, along with about seven trucks that can then unload cargo once it’s on the tarmac. Plus, as I mentioned, it’s not uncommon for the airports in Africa to have issues with their equipment. In this case, we found out at the last possible minute that the K-Loader at the airport that we had chosen as our destination was broken. We had to quickly re-route to fly into a different airport, find a K-Loader that did work, make sure the runway could hold the weight, and find seven trucks that could unload the cargo and transport it down to the airport of the original destination. All of that happened in about an hour and a half.

This is the kind of situation that continues to set us apart. There will always be challenges, and as long as there are, Pilot will continue to find ways to overcome them.