We have the honour of interviewing Mr. Markus Helg, Head of International Transport at the Federation of Migros Cooperatives, for our series on the companies utilising PSA Italy’s Terminals and related services. Migros is Switzerland’s largest retail company. It is also one of the forty largest retailers in the world. Migros Cooperatives, with more than two million members operate within large-scale distribution all over Switzerland and in several sectors of the economy.
First launched in late 2018 and directly operated by PSA, the Southern Express rail connection has become a solid option for cargo owners in Switzerland to connect directly to the Mediterranean routes. From the beginning, Migros showed its belief in the possibility of managing part of its own imports via the southern route so as to diversify the risk and improve its time to market. Thus, in just three years, the Southern Express has become an important tool in the company’s supply chain.
The Southern Express is also key in the pursuit of the ambitious sustainability goals of the company. Indeed, according to the 2020 “Statistical Pocketbook of the European Commission”, rail accounts for 7% of passenger traffic, 13% of cargo, but only 0,4% of overall greenhouse gas emissions from transport.
[PSA ITALY]Today congestions and fragmentation may impact supply chain in unpredictable ways, how important is for Migros to benefit from a Southern alternative in terms of risk management and diversification?
[Markus Helg] As you know Migros is one of the Southern gateway pioneers. The experience from the past three years has confirmed our strategy to split the risk and to be able to react quickly by using different routings.
What role does the Southern Express train play into Migros’ logistics strategy today?
With the current challenges we are facing with congested ports and limited rail capacity in peak times, it is important to have various options – such as the product provided by PSA – to move our volume of 9000 TEUs in time to the distribution centers.
How do you see it evolve in the long run?
To have a wide range of short and deep-sea connections by various carriers is the key to attract more import and export business.
Compared to routing via North Europe, shipping through Genoa may shorten up the marine navigation required to reach the Far East and Middle East. Migros is one of the main Swiss importers, what does shorter transit mean for your business?
We hope to profit again from “shorter transit times” in the near future. What is more important currently is reliable service on the sea leg as well as for the onforwarding of the containers to Switzerland. The transit time from arrival in Genoa to our hub in Frenkendorf is shorter compared to the Northern ports.
How do control and visibility offered by this service help you taking better decision?
Transparency is important to prepare for customs clearance and obtain the necessary documents in time as well as to prioritize delivery of the container from the hub in Frenkendorf to the distribution centers.
How would you like to see it improved?
Handling of exceptions is important. Proactive information of schedule changes and action in case of delay. Also, professional services such as customs inspection or phytosanitary and veterinary service is vital to our operations teams.
Can you please elaborate on how rail transportation can help you achieve your sustainability goals?
Sustainability has been in the DNA of Migros since the beginning. We are always looking for the cleanest and greenest means of transport. In this matter, rail plays an essential role of course. Rail transports have a significantly better CO2 balance than road transports. To achieve our ambitious climate targets, which are compatible with the “Paris Climate Agreement”, we have been relying on rail for decades and shifting transport from road to rail whenever possible.
Please free to share with us any information, comment or feedback that you think might be relevant to this story.
As member of the board of the SSC – Swiss Shippers’ Council – I would like to emphasize that for all Swiss shippers the routing to and from the ports is very important and a reliable connection with Genoa will be used and is appreciated.