Delivering quality in the freight industry | Thomas Smith

How does an award-winning freight company keep its customers happy? Joe Gerada, Managing Director of the Thomas Smith Group, talks about staying ahead of the game in a sector that demands the highest quality services

The company has one of the largest portfolios of services available in Malta. What shipping services do you specialise in?

Our main activities centre on container shipping. We represent Maersk line, Seago line and Safmarine in this area. They are all owned by the A.P. Moller Group, with Maersk line being the largest container shipping company in the world, and that puts us in a prominent position on the market. 

Having said that our specialty is high quality and value service, reliability and respect towards our customer. There are shipping services which are our own where the product is of our making and there are other services where we act as brokers, meaning we pick the best solution for our customers, specific to their needs. That is our real specialty. 

We are loyal enough to our customers to be driven by the best solution for them versus selling our own product. We look at long-term relations with customers and not just individual transactions.

The company first opened its doors in 1848. How has it adapted to the changing needs of the market?

Thomas smith has been operating for over a century and a half, and in that kind of lifespan a business goes through major peaks and troughs, some of which can be life threatening.  

Thomas Smith has weathered these cycles, surviving by reinventing itself a number of times. I can even say that under my own watch we have had to reinvent our business and rethink our role several times.  A major boost to us has been the fact that we have always represented world-class companies that operate at very high standards of efficiency. This has kept us sharp and agile. 

Globalisation has had its effect on us too and an agent is no longer protected in his little market any more. We are competing against multinationals, agency networks with more access to resources, and we have had to focus on our strengths to stay in a leading competitive position.

Thomas Smith is an award-winning company and recently won its first Silver Cargo Award. What does this award mean for your company? What would you attribute this outstanding success to?

 The Silver Cargo award was granted to us as a result of growth achieved in a particular sector, namely airfreight. Growth implies performance at a number of levels especially if you are already well established. It implies good defense of market share already achieved in spite of more fierce competition, as happens from year to year. All this in addition to winning new clients and market share. There is only one way of achieving that - good quality service where the customer acknowledges the value added from your input. Ultimately a service company like ours can only depend on its workforce for this, so I can very easily say I attribute the outstanding success to our staff.

The maritime industry has seen continuous growth, however it holds a very low profile in Malta. What are the main developments in this industry that one might not be aware of?

I would not agree that the maritime industry holds a low profile in Malta. It holds the profile it deserves for those sharp enough to appreciate it. Malta imports and exports most commodities, and most of that happens via sea freight. Internationally, Malta holds a very high profile, with Malta’s ship registry being one of the largest in the world. We have recently been seeing major leading ship owning and ship operating companies move their actual management to Malta. The efficiency of our registry is second to none. The hub concept, which is constantly being referred to in various economic discussions, is also due to Malta’s maritime infrastructure.

What do you envision for your company in the next five years?

In the next five years we will still be focusing on our core activity and improving our product. Thomas Smith will not diversify into other sectors – it will still focus on all modes of shipping and insurance. We firmly believe this is a hands-on business and needs focus. We see ourselves consolidating our position, and given stability in North Africa, we see ourselves returning to the active role we have had up to recently in these territories.

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