Owing to the pandemic and travel restrictions, only a smaller group of members was able to travel to Portugal in person in order to attend the network’s annual general meeting this year. Therefore it was conducted live & virtual, merging online and offline experiences, connecting live delegates with online colleagues all over the world. Despite the new format and the limitations of the virtual world, speakers, members and the OceanX team made the best out of the event! 

The seafreight network’s annual conference, which brings together, members, selected guests and expert speakers every November, was planned in Porto, Portugal, following Dubai and Chengdu previously and intended for a live audience of 130+ delegates again in February before the pandemic hit. While after a “summer of hope”, there was still a prospect of having a 50+ Live audience in early September, Europe’s second wave of the pandemic and resulting travel restrictions, reduced that group ever further. Local restrictions in Portugal, which entered a partial lockdown impacted the event too and led to three changes of venue for the conference, leading the network to finally host the conference from Quinta da Pacheca and its beautiful vineyard in the depths of the Douro valley near Regua, with a compliant safety concept. A venue that turned out as an amazing experience, for those that had the pleasure to attend in person, thanks to its scenery, wines and cuisine. 

Being in a smaller group, allowed for exciting and in-depth discussions with each other, while technology in terms of our event portal with the extended One2One meeting platform enabled a full integration of virtual delegates from overseas, for speaker sessions and individual meetings. Just the taste of local delicacies like fresh octopus or the amazing Douro and port wines enjoyed by the live audience, were hard to transmit over pictures and video. 

The network again brought together an impressive lineup of speakers. Following opening comments and an update on the industry and the network by founder & director Ruben Huber, Martin Dixon from Drewry was providing an overview of the shipping market and the latest news of the Forwarders Benchmarking Club. Moanisse Bennasser afterwards outlined the concept and progress of OceanX’s first joint internationalisation venture, NAVIROC, in Morocco. He was followed by Harm Wessels of Qwyk who was sharing his views on digital portals and schedules. After a coffee break in the middle of colourful grapevines (or at the desk in front of a screen, somewhere in the world), Dr. Johannes Kern outlined the network’s plan for its executive education program and the challenges of transformation management. Jose Lino Dores from Portuguese Carrier Vieira & Silveira, part of Grupo ETE, outlined his experiences on differentiation strategy and swimming with the big fishes. Peter Schmidt-Löffler, the network’s ambassador in South Africa, provided an interesting overview on the latest developments on the African continent and Flemming Frost from Cogoport shared with the audience, why he sees marketplaces as an import sales channel for the future and why experimenting with them is beneficial. Serial entrepreneur Tadas Abramavicius elaborated why technology approaches must be customer centric first. And Christos Spyrou from the network’s strategic partner in the airfreight sector, Neutral Air Partner, shared the latest on the challenges of vaccine logistics. 

Following a delicious lunch, delegates started into their One2One meetings for the afternoon, some face to face, some screen to screen, but the enhanced platform proved to work nicely and provide a virtual experience as good as it gets. The few occasions, where technology failed or people missed an appointment because they were lost in time or got distracted, where quickly resolved by reverting to WhatsApp or Email.

As members in Asia found their late bedtime, those in Europe left for home and those in the Americas caught up on videos from the morning speaker sessions, live delegates had the pleasure of an exciting tour through the vineyard and a delicious tasting of local wines. 

Individual meetings on Friday where interrupted by our digitalisation panel in the morning, moderated by Meg Yim and featuring Flemming Frost, Harm Wessels, Tadas Abramavicius and Nick Coverdale. And by Alexander von Stempel in the afternoon, who just finished hosting Coollogistics Asia at Fruit Logistica Singapore virtually and gave members an exciting update on perishable logistics.   

While virtual delegates went into their weekend and some of the live attendees starting their journey home, the remaining live audience had the pleasure of a delicious gala dinner, served in the wine cellar of the vineyard. 

The conference concluded on Monday 23rd, with an additional 11 slots of One2One meetings in a ‚virtual encore‘ and a record number on individual meetings over all conferences so far. Many members used the digital opportunity to involve more team members for the meetings, which drove engagement in many ways. 

Whilst all would have wished to have a large and stunning live event again, in combination of live & virtual, the best was achieved in difficult times and OceanX network remains always out there for its members. 

Thank you for a great conference

About OceanX

OceanX is a non – exclusive global network of leading ocean freight providers and NVOCCs dedicated to delivering bespoke innovative solutions, in particular on FCL services, LCL consolidation, dangerous goods and chemical logistics, temperature control, as well as project cargo handling.

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