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“Our transport platform stands up to the big boys”
Alain Tulpin, Flanders Cargo Alliance:
Eight Flemish companies from around Ostend, Belgium, have been combining forces since April 2017, so that they have a stronger position against the major transporters. The platform takes care of transport, storage and logistics, for both road, air and water traffic. All kinds of goods, including fruit and vegetables, are transported by the group all over the world. In April, they decided to change their name to Flanders Cargo Alliance, so that they could stand up to larger transporters.
Head of the organisation is Alain Tulpin, also known from the Tulpin Group and part of the Flanders Cargo Alliance. He is unhappy about the unfair competition and uneven distribution of financial support in the transport sector. “Last year, the airport of Brussels received money form the Flemish government for the development of freight at the airport, but we in Ostend received nothing,” the manager of the group says. “We want to be an answer to the big boys. It’s odd that the airport in Brussels is given support, and Ostend isn’t. Our companies that have combined forces are all located around Ostend, Oudenburg and Zeebrugge. It’s not just smart to have an answer to the major companies, it’s necessary as well. The flower world has already been ruined by the big boys. And this is also the case in some places in the fresh produce sector. For example, in Frankfurt Lufthansa did so. You have to be vigilant against that.”
One of the things Alain is unhappy about, is the run of things at an airport such as that of Frankfurt, Germany. According to the manager of the group, large parties are treated differently than the smaller companies that are part of Flanders Cargo Alliance. “With Tulpin I’ve experienced it when I flew in strawberries from Egypt to Frankfurt,” he says. “Lufthansa transported the same as us, but in larger quantities. Lufthansa had 22 batches of strawberries, I had eight. Yet I was inspected three times by the German Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority for pesticides (frequency VO669 1 shipment in 10), and they weren’t. So I had more inspections, causing delays. And that is naturally unfair. I indirectly heard that they were saying in Egypt that they ‘just had to get rid of that Tulpin.’ That indicates how the big boys operate.”
According to Alain, it’s not just the major players with much power that oppose the smaller organisations, According to the manager, customs also plays its part, and the difference is between the new employees of customs and the old guard. “The approach of customs is completely different nowadays,” he says. “In the past, people worked their way up step by step. Now someone starts at a higher rank because he went to university, but they don’t have any experience. They often work by the book, and don’t have any empathy yet.”
FRESHPLAZA.COM - 27 SEPTEMBER 2017
As an example, Alain mentions an incident with the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, where the same is happening according to him. “It could be the case that a sample of a batch of strawberries is taken on Friday afternoon. The strawberries will then only be tested after the weekend, on Monday. They will therefore probably only be released on Wednesday. And that means you probably shouldn’t be surprised that the strawberries have become unsellable. That is a bit of empathy that’s missing nowadays. More and more services and regulations are doing inspections, but they operate independently of one another, so that it bothers us.”
The umbrella organisation is active from the Middle East to Africa. However, they aren’t active in Asia. “It’s very difficult to integrate into Asia,” Alain says. “China buys almost everything themselves in the region, so that there’s not much demand for our products in Asia. Whether we are active in Asia or not, wherever I supply: I approach the fruit from the fruit. It starts with fruit always having to be on time, because you’re dealing with fresh products. We are distinctive in that, partly because we have small and mid-sized companies under our organisation Flanders Cargo Alliance. That is our advantage.”
Flanders Cargo Alliance’s office, with a photo inset of manager Alain Tulpin