Headquartered in Norwalk, Connecticut, and boasting 38 years of trans-ocean transportation, RTM Lines continues its position as a major player among global ocean carriers. RTM Lines’ initial focus was rolling stock. Over the years the carrier added competence in breakbulk, FCL and project cargo management. Comprehensive global knowledge as well as in-depth understanding of local customs and regulations allow RTM Lines to provide innovative solutions to the complex cargo challenges facing Africa and the world today.
“We are niche players and have been doing this for many years,” says RTM’s Vice President Richard Tiebel, adding, “We know who the suppliers are, what their requirements are, how their operations work, and they know what RTM can do. They appreciate our thorough understanding of the business. Our in-house responsiveness and assistance with planning and preparation on difficult loads are what sets us apart.”
“At RTM, customers and suppliers will always be able to speak with a representative who has a working knowledge of their shipments from end to end. Our clients appreciate this and keep coming back to us with their projects and shipments year after year. I love what we do, it is an exciting industry, every shipment is unique, and ocean transport is essential to global trade.”
More recently, RTM has invested efforts in learning about untapped global opportunities, specifically within African infrastructure and breakbulk. Among the continents, Africa presents resources and opportunities in regions such as Ethiopia, Northern Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). However, these same regions don’t come without unique challenges to navigate. As RTM’s vice president, Tiebel understands that before tapping into this market as he knows one must first understand both its potential and roadblocks that are found within the political and economic environments.
“Right now, the DRC is sitting on some of the world’s largest natural cobalt resource, but because of political turmoil, it makes it that much harder to get this cobalt,” Tiebel observes. “Africa has a reputation of political/government instability, so if a project was approved by one political party, throughout the life of a project it could experience some instability or complete regime changes. Certainly, this will be a big risk because if a government changes overnight, this market could change overnight. You may have a license for an exploration of a resource, and then the next government could have a different plan.”
Furthermore, Tiebel shared the importance of local knowledge as a driver behind success in international markets, such as Africa. Reiterating the company’s core value of local expertise, RTM places an emphasis on all players involved in the shipping and trading process.
“Africa is showing the exponential growth of any other continent,” Tiebel says. “Right now, markets like Ethiopia have shown eight percent GDP growth, per annum. Taking a deep dive and analyzing what is driving this growth there are a number of things within urbanization, ICT (telecommunications) and the extractives industry (oil, gas and mining).”
Diving even deeper into the region’s shifts and opportunities, Tiebel highlights key areas that need attention and research for successful utilization and navigation.
“In the next four to five years, city populations will double. This places a lot of pressure for infrastructure and the need to develop. Right now, most cities weren’t built for these amounts of people. That in of itself is an amazing opportunity, because it places a need on power, water and sanitation, housing developments, and around that the buildup of industries for support to serve these populations.”
He continues: “Most governments couldn’t support fixed-line infrastructures, but now Africa is going through an ICT revolution. Now the private sector is supporting this revolution and its allowing Africans to conduct business in a normal way, using technology. Companies like Microsoft have been investing in some African tech sectors, to develop talent and to take Africa forward.”
“Additionally, Africa has a lot of stranded resources in the middle of nowhere, no infrastructure whatsoever. The gas in Northern Mozambique is the world’s 12th largest natural gas resource. A lot of infrastructure will need to be built in order to get this gas, because the town itself is very small and barely has roads to it, no port, no airport or even power and electricity. The town of Palma will literally be built up in order to access this gas resource offshore.”
As African regions maintain a position of opportunity, industry players must continue to provide regular service at a good price by MPV conveyance while anticipating shifts, according to Tiebel. As IMO 2020 draws closer, he shared his perspective on how Africa’s natural resources could potentially offset some of the unidentified challenges to come.
“The cost of the IMO’s regulatory change on the shipping industry in unknown, but every analyst expects it to be large. As well as shipping lines, the IMO’s decision will also impact refiners, crude producers, bunker suppliers and emissions and air quality affecting the health of millions of people. With Africa sitting on many different natural resources and this new emergence of investment to extract these resources, hopefully these resources in Africa will help with the industry with the spike in fuel costs, in 2020.”
Bringing the conversation back to the core of the RTM difference, Tiebel positions the local community and its needs as a priority before changes can take place in unpredictable and shifting markets. This further confirms the company’s continued success and robust, satisfied customer base. RTM Lines is a prime example of what it takes to conduct global operations while catering to a variety of customer needs. Instead of limiting customers, RTM provides its customers timely options.
“The issue with Africa is it’s a place with a lot of internal issues that need to be dealt with,” Tiebel concludes. “To get things done, one must have local knowledge and knowing the local people to get things moving. Without local knowledge and understanding what people need, you won’t be able to move on.”