THE spread of COVID-19 has created a public health issue unprecedented in our lifetimes, triggering an unexpected shock for societies and economies. During this troubling period, my family and I feel closer than ever to our people across all our businesses and to our customers around the globe.

While we navigate these unchartered seas, MSC, as a major shipping and logistics service provider, has a crucial role to play. Our family company, built on maritime heritage and passion for the sea, has for the past 50 years been bringing people everyday goods such as medicines, food, fresh produce, clothes and children’s toys.

As an essential cog for global trade it is imperative that we, together with our customers, keep the world moving despite the difficult operating conditions we are all experiencing.

Maintaining our usual close contact and close relationships with our customers is key to this. We consider it our duty to continue to deliver our usual high level of service, by linking the oceans, roads and railways of the world. We are also increasingly implementing new solutions and innovating to adapt to the current challenging environment.

Our new Suspension of Transit program uses some of the world’s leading trans-shipment hubs as advance storage posts to help shippers begin moving goods early in anticipation of a resumption in demand, in an efficient and cost-effective way. In Europe in particular, we are helping shippers to use our short-sea shipping networks to avoid new land-border blockages created by governments’ essential action to curb the movement of people.

Meanwhile, through our internal information sharing system we draw on intelligence from 155 countries to identify new travel and port restrictions, curfews, and so on, to ensure that we are well placed to directly advise our customers on how to manage supply chains amid these changes.

I have personally witnessed the passion and commitment of our people who are working tirelessly to keep cargo flowing for our customers everywhere and my family and I are grateful to all of them.

One of the first things I did in January following the COVID-19 outbreak was to begin introducing travel restrictions within our company. Looking at where we are today, this was clearly the right thing to do.

We have since seen a record number of MSC people using technology to work in an agile way, in many cases remotely from home, including in our offices in China starting in January and subsequently in our headquarters in Geneva and in many locations around the world. Implementing our business continuity plans ensures that we maintain our operations and high levels of customer service while our people can avoid travel and practise social distancing.

Already many of our customers use our online booking platform and we are actively prioritising upgrades to this e-business solution.

At the same time, switching on from home is not an option for many of our people – our seafarers who navigate our fleet of 550 container ships; the drivers of trucks, trains and barges; dockworkers; handlers of goods at our depots and warehouses; and our vigilant port captains and terminal operators around the globe. We salute them all, and many others like them, for their unwavering dedication.

We trust that the robust health protection measures we have implemented across our ships, infrastructure and offices have been effective and these will remain in place as long as necessary.

Wherever and whenever we could we have gone the extra mile to be of help. For example, in Italy – one of the worst affected countries at the time of writing – we converted a passenger ferry vessel from Grandi Navi Veloci, part of the MSC Group, into a floating hospital for victims of COVID-19.

As a truly global diversified group of companies, with a stable financial position across our various businesses, we remain in a position of long-term strength. While the situation is clearly becoming more intense in parts of Europe and the USA, we are seeing some glimmers of hope in the Far East.

China has shown early signs of recovery from COVID-19 after the lockdowns eased, factories started working again and goods started to flow. I would like to congratulate the Chinese government and people, including those within the MSC family, as well as our customers and partners for this progress. It shows it will be possible to overcome this crisis.

Nonetheless, we are not complacent. My thoughts and sympathies, and those of my family, go out to everybody affected around the world.

When the calm eventually comes after this storm, I hope we will collectively be stronger and wiser from this experience and better prepared to tackle life’s challenges. MSC will be ready to support our customers with a heightened sense of service and business agility.

We look forward to continuing to work closely together.

Stay strong, stay safe.

Diego Aponte Group President & CEO