Trucking company plans for the long haul

Upon inspection, the company’s managing director noted one or two issues with his company’s new assets – one being that the trailer attached to one cab was white instead of blue, making it the wrong colour. “That’s me being nitpicky,” said Kevin Fisher.

He and his staff wear crisp white shirts with the company’s logo on the left breast pocket, building a brand image for the company in Myanmar, which they entered a few years ago. Since then, Mr Fisher said the firm has completed a massive learning curve.

Yoma Fleet general manager Allan Davidson said the firm, CEA Project Logistics, is a top-quality player in the domestic industry. “They understand what makes money over the long haul.”

For CEA Project Logistics, that term could have a double meaning – one around long-term business dealings and the other around the 2500 km range of the twin trucks that just became theirs to operate after a recent handover ceremony at a showroom in Hlaing Tharyar township.

CEA’S Myanmar business began in 2013 – 13 years after Mr Fisher started Cranes & Equipment Asia in Thailand – and in its early days ran out of a suite at the Park Royal Hotel downtown. About a year elapsed without the company gaining meaningful traction. Its Thai operations kept the lights on as the firm completed its first few projects. Country manager John Hamilton initially had his doubts.

“There was a point after the first 11 months I questioned whether [we] did the right thing,” he said. “You just knew something had to happen.”

And it did. The company now operates out of Pearl Condo in Yangon, doing about 25 percent of its projects in Myanmar with three-quarters still occurring in Thailand and Laos – though an even split could be on the horizon.

Mr Hamilton describes the firm as a “projects company”. CEA leases three warehouses in Yangon, and owns a fleet of 25 forklifts. Past jobs have included bringing a 100 megawatt power plant in to Myanmar, he said, and logistics work around a tall antenna that, when assembled, would look like a pine tree.

Mr Hamilton said the company differentiates from others as assets back CEA Project Logistics. While some “live in a little cubicle … we want to operate our own equipment and be as self-sufficient as much as we can be as we grow”, he said.

That collection of equipment grew in number by two last week, adding to a portfolio which CEA’s website values at more than US$10 million. On June 10, Mr Hamilton and managing director Kevin Fisher drove out to a Volvo and UD showroom in Shwe Than Lwin industrial zone to visit the firm’s first fresh trucks for Myanmar – two sparkling white cabs, one with a trailer attached, bedecked in bows.

They’re supposed to be able to make it from Yangon to Mandalay and back again, approximately, on the gas in their tanks. CEA will lease the trucks from Yoma Fleet, affiliated with Serge Pun and Associates, and a company official describes them as long-term with the option to buy.

As Yoma guarantees servicing, CEA must only bring drivers and fuel to the table – minimising risk “in a country where the roads are so variable [and] there’s no such thing as roadside assistance”, she said.

The Myanmar market, though lucrative as a near-greenfield in many respects, does present major issues.

The company, through its subcontractors, has not been immune to disturbance on the road. Mr Hamilton said there have been exceptional cases where its “subbies” have been held to ransom – a challenge the subcontractor takes care of.

But bigger problems start even higher up in Myanmar.

“The challenge ahead for us is the lack of infrastructure here in the country and the way that the government can’t settle on their rules and regulations, where they’re constantly changing their minds and moving the goal posts,” Mr Fisher said.

“With all the new blocks coming online in the oil and gas companies, there’s going to be a lot of people hitting this town and it’s going to be hard and fast … I just really don’t know how the infrastructure is going to cope.”

The company will continue to expand its assets and head toward the power and oil-and-gas industries while continuing to operate in telecoms.

A case study on the company’s website said the firm had been given three distinct telecommunications contracts to deliver holistic project logistics to put up more than 5800 telecom towers.

“The Myanmar government has pledged to install over 17,000 telecom towers throughout the country, [and] CEA Myanmar will be responsible for 34pc of these,” the website said.

For now, the company is ready to get the engines revving on their new trucks. And as for the colour of the trailer – Mr Fisher said it’s growing on him.


Source: Myanmar Times

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