When carriers such as Torm and Lauritzen call in ports for the first time, there is a lot of paperwork involved. Work that can quickly amount to two or three hours before the right agents have been assigned, the proper applications filled out, and the bills are paid at the right times.
To make this process easier is the basic idea of the company DA-Desk, which was founded by Christian Siemers Haunsø and Jens Lorens Poulsen back in 2001. The concept has since been expanded, and now there are four Danes among the nine members of the company's executive management team. Together they run the company's headquarters in Dubai, which employs 400 people, with employees from 25 countries are in daily contact with as many as 10,000 affiliated port agents, helping around 170 ship operators across the globe to turn the act of arriving in a port for the first time into a process that takes just around 15 minutes.
"We focus on helping operators spend as little time as possible on secondary and but highly time-consuming tasks related to the paperwork that comes when calling in ports. We handle that part with our system," Hans-Christian Mordhorst, Commercial Director of DA-Desk, tells ShippingWatch.
More information and new opportunities
As the company has grown, so has the database with information from customers, ports, agents, and authorities. DA-Desk registers around 120,000 port calls every year, which provides the company with a lot of data that can used in some of the business areas that have been established since the launch.
The company handles the negotiations of tug boat contracts for the Ports Direct unit, and sister company CP-Desk audits charter parties when customers need that kind of assistance.
And DA-Desk also uses these data volumes to efficiently help carriers with the whole compliance-part of a port call, in order to avoid situations that require dealing people or companies that do not comply with all the requirements in their part of the food chain.
DA-Desk also handles the payments for a vast majority of its customers, thus saving the operators a series of transaction fees that banks normally charge, as DA-Desk makes payments in many local currencies. This benefits the shipping companies, says Hans-Christian Mordhorst, as many of them deal only in USD or euros.
Strong growth in five years
According to Hans-Christian Mordhorst, the company has experienced growth rates of 20-30 percent during the last five years. He declines to elaborate on other financial numbers, but the growth covers both new customers, who see a financial incentive in outsourcing the DA work, and existing customers such as Norden, Hafnia Management, Nordic Tankers, Torm, and Lauritzen, who are interested in some of the other services offered by the company.
The company has a few competitors, but according to the Commercial Director, DA-Desk has a continuously growing advantage in terms of the enormous database, which is constantly maintained and expanded.
"Our biggest competitor is actually not another independent company, but rather companies who want to insource this field," says Hans-Christian Mordhorst, adding:
"The concept is basically so established in the market by now that the question is not as much whether it pays to outsource the DA function, as it is about how strong a partner one can find, who can really deliver knowledge-based values and not just cost-savings. That's why DA-Desk has invested in a particularly heavy management team. This puts us apart from all other competitors."
The important independence
Besides increasing the efficiency for the customers, another key part of DA-Desk is the fact that the company has zero ties to other parts of the industry.
"One of the main philosophies of the companies right from the beginning was that it would have to be an independent company, and that we would have no ties to agents, ports, or other things like that. Neutrality has been extremely important right from the beginning, and it still is," says Hans-Christian Mordhorst.
And this independence can in fact be traced right back to 2001, when the company was established in Dubai.
"From the beginning, the long-term vision was that this should be a knowledge-based company, and even though this might not be the cheapest place to start, this enables us to attract the workers we need. The result is, among other things, that we currently employ people from 25 different countries," the Commercial Director tells ShippingWatch.