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CMA CGM's owner family sticks to target of expansion

With its new profile, Better Ways, CMA CGM is cementing a dual focus on shipping and logistics. The growth that has greatly expanded the company's position in recent years is steady, says CMA CGM Group Executive Officer Tanya Saadé Zeenny in an interview with ShippingWatch.

Photo: CMA CGM

CMA CGM's new profile Better Ways cements the company's strategy for the past few years, which is that the French shipping company is not just a container carrier but is betting on two legs – shipping and logistics/air freight.

In an interview with ShippingWatch, Tanya Saadé Zeenny, Executive Officer of CMA CGM Group and sister of CEO Rodolphe Saadé, explains that it is very much about reflecting where CMA CGM stands today after a transformation that caught wind not least from the acquisition of logistics business Ceva in 2019.

Better Ways reflects the new dimension to the company.

Tanya Saadé Zeenny, Executive Officer of CMA CGM Group

"The strategy, which is backed by Better Ways, is the latest milestone in a number of achievements of our history, and it reflects where we are today. CMA CGM is a leading company in shipping and logistics and Better Ways reflects the new dimension to the company," she explains to ShippingWatch after the reveal of the group’s new signature which supports the five-pillar strategy defined by Rodolphe Saadé.

Strategy after record profit

Better Ways has been launched a few weeks after CMA CGM unveiled a record-breaking USD 2 billion profit for the first three months of 2021. Like competitors in the container industry, the French shipping company has benefited from the explosive rates that picked up speed in late summer of last year and has since been amplified by events such as the blockage of the Suez Canal and the recent Covid-19 outbreak in Yantian.

The upturn in the family-dominated carrier has only been strengthened by the fact that the logistics industry has benefited from the same wave, so much so that Ceva has improved its operating result after a number of difficult years to USD 171 million in the first quarter.

"Logistics has proven its relevance during the pandemic. Ceva has been an integrated part of the CMA CGM Group for years and is one of the core elements of the strategy together with the maritime business, air freight, the energy transition and the digitaliization process we have embarked on," Saadé Zeenny says.

Maersk and CMA CGM make similar bets

Like Maersk, CMA CGM aims to become a logistics provider via the air freight division that was set up last year. In contrast, competitors like MSC and Hapag-Lloyd maintain a more traditional customer approach with their fleets as the most prominent product.

CMA CGM has recently been among the companies that, in addition to the acquisition of Ceva, has invested purposefully in expanding its fleet, not least with LNG-powered vessels. And it is a strategy that the company has no intention of deviating from.

"CMA CGM is on a constant move, and this is in our DNA," Saadé Zeenny tells ShippingWatch when asked if expansion remains a key target.

Like her brother Rodolphe Saade, Saadé Zeenny is the second generation of the company, which has grown to the fourth largest in the world, surpassed by Maersk, MSC and alliance partner Cosco. The company was founded by their father Jacques Saade in 1978 and is headquartered in Marseilles. As such, the company is based on four values that are rooted in the family values of "excellence, exemplarity, boldness and imagination." And they should not be tampered with.

Improved customer service

"Smart routing" is one of the goals the company will work towards, which according to Saadé Zeenny covers better planning and reduction of CO2 emissions by using other fuels.

To this end, CMA CGM is investing in LNG because it is the only available fuel that can reduce harmful emissions, as the company argues when defending why it is investing in fossil fuels despite strong criticism from players such as the World Bank.

We aim to improve our carbon footprint with the right energies, the right vessels and the right operations.

Tanya Saadé Zeenny, Executive Officer of CMA CGM Group

"We aim to improve our carbon footprint with the right energies, the right vessels and the right operations. This way we can offer our customers a better service, on sea and on land," Saadé Zeenny says.

Today, most customers would probably prefer reliability and lower rates if they had the choice?

"We have been going through an extraordinary situation during the Covid period but done our best to find a solution and have added as much equipment as possible: New equipment, new capacities, additional port calls. And we will continue to do so," she says.

English Edit: L. N. Barnes

CMA CGM Group reports quarterly profit of just above USD 2 billion 

CMA CGM chairman Rodolphe Saadé is sticking to his LNG-guns

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