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Smooth Sailing

In Focus
NAME:Jose Go
COMPANY:Oceanic Container Lines
POSITION:President & CEO
LOCATION:Manila, Philippines
Oceanic Container Lines is part of the Philippines’ oldest sea freight dynasty, and CEO Jose Go says integrity, experience and a commitment to excellence have helped him steer the company through uncharted waters to success.

Days of yore saw sea freight establish itself as the only method of transporting goods to the four corners of the globe. Even overland Silk Road traders of antiquity were bookended by water, transporting exotic goods of all kinds from along the legendary trading route to foreign shores.

And so it was for centuries that sea freight was the easiest, and for the longest time, the only way to spirit bulk goods from here to there and anywhere in between. Along the way, ocean freighters became extremely adept at their livelihood, particularly once the Maritime Silk Road began to give way to the Age of Exploration some 500 years ago.

It’s no surprise that even once technology advanced to the point where air freight became a viable method of transportation in the early 20th century, sea freight remained. So too do its champions, who remain on the cutting edge of what’s possible both at sea and in port.

Container liners are today’s method of the nautical movement of goods from point A to B. The industry is no place for fly-by-nighters; it takes experience to win the trust of clients, whose entrustment of their goods to the hands (and hulls) of another is no small undertaking.

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The Go dynasty of the Philippines is a prime example of experience in the field. Descended from the Chinese-born entrepreneur Don Carlos A Go Thong, the Go family has long been entwined with the Filipino shipping industry.

Having tangled with Japanese forces prior to and during World War II, Carlos established a sea freight company in post-war Cebu City to go alongside his national chain of retail stores. After acquiring two freighters, Carlos set about building a business with his family by his side.

Carlos’ vision has endured. Today, the Go Family owns several major companies in the Philippine sea freight industry. Prime among those is Oceanic Container Lines; owned and operated by President and CEO Jose ‘Jolly’ Go, Oceanic Container Lines’ fleet has sailed the seven seas with a cache of in transit goods since 1998.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 26 years,” Go tells The CEO Magazine. “When I started, we had three small ships that had been at sea for quite some years.”

Choppy Waters

The first decade of operation was a deluge of stormy weather as Go and his team attempted to chart the rough seas of the sector with only the tiny flotilla at their disposal.

“It was a difficult job to meet all the challenges in the domestic shipping industry,” he admits. “However, we were able to successfully navigate the company to what it is today.”

And today’s Oceanic Container Lines is an armada of 13 container ships that call in at as many ports around the Philippines.

“So far, we’ve established our depots in several key cities in the Philippines,” Go says. “And apart from Ozamiz and Ormoc, we own the entirety of all our fully cemented container yards.”

This enviable portfolio of on-land real estate has given Oceanic Container Lines the dexterity and muscle to back up its simple tagline: ‘Your carrier of choice’. Indeed, there is much choice to be had in the Philippines, which is flush with shipping companies.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 26 years. When I started, we had three small ships that had been at sea for quite some years.”

But the infrastructure within which these companies must operate is not always assured. Many businesses are stuck with aging vessels or deficient ports, with congestion a significant issue. That Go and Oceanic have managed to sidestep these problems speaks to the commitment to excellence he has infused throughout his company.

“The congestion is actually our biggest challenge,” Go says. “We provide as much frequency as we’re able to our customers, but it’s sometimes beyond our control. In Manila, for instance, the berthing facility at the quay crane is regularly saturated.”

In such instances, Oceanic Container Lines must direct additional resources to mitigate these delays. As per Go’s wishes, the customer’s satisfaction must come at all costs.

It’s here where the Go family’s extensive experience in the industry plays a starring role in Oceanic’s success. Go understands the Philippine shipping sector like few others, and through this, Oceanic is able to offer integrated services not found at its competitors.

Leading the Way

“We’re a mature company, and we can cater to all sorts of shipping requirements,” he says. “We’re very competitive as a service provider, and a sure leader in the field.”

Efficiency is, he adds, non-negotiable; cost, on the other hand, must necessarily vary.

“We do our best to be a low-cost operator in order to stay ahead of the pack, but we don’t compromise on service.”

Time and tide wait for no one, a fact of which Oceanic is acutely aware. To that end, it is constantly working to improve its operations.

“We’re continuously improving our IT in terms of booking, monitoring and providing accurate information to our shippers,” Go says. “We’re now also able to connect our ships across all Oceanic branches so we have up-to-date positioning information.”

None of this would be possible, however, without the help of Oceanic’s partners and industry allies. Among others, construction of port infrastructure is greatly assisted by Remington Industrial Sales Corporation, while the company’s signature colors are courtesy of Davies Paints. Teamwork is important because, as Go puts it, they’re all in the same boat.

“Always deal with integrity and comply with your commitments to clients.”

“It’s important for suppliers to see we can secure supply chain parts from across the industry at minimum cost, and for our business partners to see we deal with them fairly and efficiently,” he says.

With an accomplished dynasty at his heels, Go understands the value of keeping a promise. Oceanic Container Lines stays afloat on an ocean of his signature integrity.

“We always see to it that we carry the containers as scheduled,” he says. “And thanks to technological advancements such as tracking and the yard services, we endeavor to deliver cargo on time both at origin and at destination.”

Word as bond is a concept that’s been around since the Silk Road’s heyday, and Go doesn’t see any reason why it should change.

“If you always deal with integrity and comply with your commitments to clients, you will always enjoy their confidence and in doing so, continuously secure your business.”

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