Guido Grimaldi was born in Naples in 1987. Initially he was raised in London as at that time his father was developing their deep sea branch there. He moved back to Naples to accomplish his school studies and university degree in business economics at Federico II University. Guido immediately started working in the family business at the age of 22, and spent his first year in Naples HO following accounts, budgeting and cost control. In 2010 he moved back to London, where their deep sea activities are managed, to experience line and commercial activities. Together with Guido’s move, the Group was launching a new service from the Med area to West Africa (the “Mediterranean Express”), which was his main interest during his three years in London. In 2013 the Med Express Commercial Management was relocated to Naples HO, where he actually lives, and is responsible for the trade between the Mediterranean and West Africa.
Please tell us about the key aspects of your role as Med-West Africa Commercial Director.
As a line Director you are normally active on several fronts at the same time: from pricing all the way to recruiting, passing from competition monitoring, operations, schedules design and many more.
How has your experience prepared you for your role?
After obtaining a university degree in Economics I spent my first year at the Naples HO, where I had the chance to start getting acquainted with the business bottom up. After this first year I had the opportunity to spend a month at our AET terminal in Antwerp to better understand the operational part of the business. I then spent a few years at Grimaldi’s Deep Sea Lines offices in London, where I learned line management, pricing and scheduling. Only after several years of experience was I entrusted with sales management responsibilities.
What are the key values of Grimaldi Lines and how are they embraced by your team?
Flexibility, reliability, hard work and customer satisfaction. All of our colleagues and staff, not only my team, abide by these key values, and the most effective way to transmit this is leading by example.
What are the key services offered by your division and how competitive are they?
We offer multimodal transport from all main Mediterranean load ports to all main West African discharge ports with the important tool of having a wide range of connection possibilities with over 100 vessels between Med, North Europe, West Africa, North and South America thanks to our different owned companies of the Group (Grimaldi Deep and Short Sea, Minoan Lines, Finnlines, ACL).
What differentiates us from the competition in our specific trade is the age and quality of our vessels, our ability to transport virtually any type of special cargo (from a motorbike to a helicopter) in addition to more standard cargo formats both Lo-Lo, like containers, and, Ro-Ro like cars, vans, trucks and machinery, all with unmatched frequency, transit times and tailor-made customer services. We have the great added value to rely on a network of fully or partially owned agencies and terminals scattered all over Europe and West Africa.
How important is the Med-West Africa service for your clients and do you foresee new routes introduced in the future?
We proudly believe that we are the best in terms or reliability, frequency, flexibility and transport quality. Our customers are sensible to such aspects and they constantly show us their appreciation. When we started the Line between the Med. and West Africa in October 2010,
we only had a small chartered vessel deployed with monthly frequency. Since then, every year has been a success and an opportunity to increase our frequency and capacity. From 2015 we run a service every 10 days with 4 owned Con-Ro vessels of 700 TEU’s, 2.500 LM and 1.000 CV ideal capacity. None of these improvements would have been possible without the trust and loyalty of our customers. I wish to take this opportunity to thank them once again. Concerning new routes, we recently implemented new destinations from the Med such as Nouakchott (Mauritania), Bata and Malabo (Equatorial Guinea) and Douala (Cameroon) in order to develop the northbound trade. We always monitor and listen to our customers for demand of new destinations and new challenges.
Your vessels are known for having very good capacity and punctuality. How are your timetables planned and how are vessels monitored to ensure timekeeping?
Route planning and schedule integrity monitoring are a very important part of our daily activity. Of course breakdowns and unforeseen events can happen to anybody and with no notice at all.
This is where our problem solving attitude kicks in and allows us to sort out issues with minimal schedule disruption. However, owning a fleet of 120 vessels is of great help when it comes to finding a substitute for a vessel in need of repairs etc.
The Grimaldi Group is a family business that has been contributing to shipping history over generations. What does it feel like to be part of this legacy and success?
Apart from my grandfather’s uncle Achille Lauro and my family’s distant past, indeed myself, my younger brother and my cousins represent the third generation of the modern-day Grimaldi business. Unlike the saying according to which “the first generation creates, the second expands and the third destroys”, we are confident that Grimaldi’s third generation will be a worthy successor to the second generation. Having said this I have to admit that I really hope that my father Gianluca and my uncle Emanuele will not retire before their 90s.
Please describe the importance of “technology” in your operations.
There would be no operations without technology. From our custom made ERP G-Atlas, which is used by 90% of the thousands of Grimaldi colleagues worldwide, to research in ship design and silicon coating having allowed for a substantial reduction of polluting emissions per cargo unit, technology is embedded in all aspects of our work. Technology is also a fundamental sales tool, especially in the B2C oriented lines of our networks, like cruise and passenger ferries.
Your memorable shipping experience?
It is difficult to choose a single memorable experience. I remember all the vessel launches attended during my childhood (which probably sketched my future), the first experiences on board, the first trip in West Africa… but if I have to choose one, I would say the experience I had in Antwerp. I was about to move to London and my father suggested to spend some weeks in Antwerp to deepen my knowledge about the operational aspects of working at
our AET terminal. It was a great experience following the planning and loading of different vessels, even simultaneously. When you come from the theory of books and a short work experience based on numbers, having the opportunity to plan and physically see how a vessel can be loaded in all the different decks, Ro-Ro and Lo-Lo (especially a Con-Ro vessel), gives you a clear and emotional picture of what this job is all about. In the end, all aspects, all costs, earnings of shipping are obviously connected at what you are shipping and how you do it.
Your favourite ship?
My favourite ship is probably the Grande Costa D’Avorio (see image above). I remember it was July 2011 and the Med to West Africa service had been in service for less than a year. The vessel was brand new coming from the Croatian yard Uljanik and performed her maiden voyage on the Med Express service. I have very nice memories of the receptions on board in all the Med loading ports with authorities and all our good customers. It was surely the first relevant step showing our commitment to the Trade, which is still very strong five years later.