We spoke with Slavoljub Jevtić, President of the national association of shipping companies and agents Transport i Logistika, about the association’s activities, business development in this sector and the institutional environment in which the members operate.
How many members does your association have today and what is the membership structure?
– The National Association (NA) was established under the name of PU Transport i Logistika in 2003, with the primary purpose of associating to address the systemic issues of the profession.
At the moment it has more than 70 members, over 50 of which are active. According to available data, NA members cover over 70% of Serbia’s foreign trade in the field of transportation and customs brokerage.
The membership structure includes small companies with just a few employees, but also companies that have almost two thousand experts in transportation, warehousing, distribution and customs brokerage.
We are especially satisfied with the continuous increase in NA membership.
What services do you offer your members?
– NA provides its members with essential system information, as well as daily operational information. NA hires external experts who have an advisory role in interpreting and applying certain regulations in the field of customs procedures, transport, application of tax regulations, foreign exchange operations, etc.
Our website, which is very well visited, provides a lot of general information, while the closed part of the site, accessible only to members, stores legislation, decisions, regulations, proproclamations, and other documents of the responsible government and regulatory authorities that members can freely use in their work.
NA is also a platform where members can discuss or point out an individual or systemic problem and get an immediate response. NA is in constant communication with several responsible ministries, and participates in a permanent working group with the Customs Administration to resolve operational and systemic issues
In your opinion, what are the key achievements of the association since its establishment until today?
– I think that our greatest achievement is that NA is recognised as a professional, safe and reliable partner, which cares not only about the interests of the profession, but of the entire business environment. Certainly it gives us great pleasure that many international partners contact us to provide them with updated information on the business environment, and on individual companies with whom they want to cooperate in Serbia.
Our association is recognised as a professional and reliable partner that cares about the interests of the profession. Many international partners contact us to provide them with updated information
In which national and international professional organizations does the association represent its members?
– NA keeps regular contact especially with the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, the PU Medjunarodni Transport, the first professional chamber Medjunarodni Transport i Logistika and we will soon sign an agreement with the Serbian Logistics Association. NA also collaborates with similar organisations and associations in the region, and during our assembly, to be held on 23rd May 2017, I expect the beginning of cooperation with the European Logistics Association and its members.
Of course, there are other associations and organisations with which we work closely but with which we are not closely associated professionally.
What are the basic characteristics of today’s market for domestic companies in the field of shipping, logistics and transport?
– Market conditions dictated primarily by international manufacturing and trading companies are more and more complex by the day, and only a very well organised and equipped company providing services in all aspects of logistics can respond properly. The requirements are very strict in terms of storage, transportation and IT capacities.
If they want to do business with larger customers that guarantee continuous business, small companies have to either invest a lot in equipment and functional capacity or be more active in mutual association to respond to the increasingly demanding tenders.
How has the growth of foreign investment and export influenced the development of your sector?
– The growth of foreign investment has certainly affected the development of the logistics service sector, especially in the field of supply chains, where more stringent criteria are applied for importing raw materials and exporting finished products.
How did the entry of foreign companies bring new dynamics and standards to the domestic market?
– The arrival of foreign companies on our market has also influenced the arrival of global logistics providers that have followed their clients to cover their logistics needs.
This has undoubtedly led domestic freight forwarders to adapt to the demands imposed by the market. This primarily means improvement of activities related to storage and distribution of goods, where processes are automated by applying new IT solutions.
In Serbia there is still no industry code for freight forwarders and this is one of the things that need to be urgently resolved by the relevant ministry
How much is the association active in the training and specialisation of professional staff?
– The increased volume of business, especially in the last ten years, requires training of both existing and new staff. NA has initiated several programmes, the most important of which is an agreement with the Faculty of Transport in Belgrade, where our members’ staff give lectures to students of master studies, specialised companies dealing with education, for example transport and handling of hazardous materials and the like. We are preparing an agreement with the Faculty of Technical Sciences in Novi Sad and we also plan to train customs agents and provide training programmes for certain types of transport.
How do you assess the overall institutional environment for developing the sector?
– With the disappearance of the large freight forwarders that operated on the Yugoslav market, there was a temporary vacuum that was first filled by new domestic freight forwarders and later by branches of global logistics providers. This continuing process shows that the economic environment is adapting to market demands, where improvements are needed in processes and the ability to meet increasingly complex demands. These adjustments do not apply only to logistics, but also to the ever-changing regulations that accompany these issues. Certainly the most important thing is the predictability of regulations and dynamics of their introduction. These are very important things that require some time for adjustment.
What are the association’s key goals today for improving the business environment for your members?
– The key goal is to influence government authorities in terms of legislation that affects the business of freight forwarders in Serbia. Unfortunately, many of our efforts and expressed desire for cooperation have not always been met with understanding.
Given that almost all our members actively cooperate with similar foreign logistics companies, we have very detailed information on their business environment. We are ready to share our experience with our responsible authorities so that we do not wander around and waste time, but catch up primarily with the business environment established in the EU.
I would like to point out that in Serbia there is still no industry code for freight forwarders and it is one of the things that need to be urgently resolved by the relevant ministry.
We also expect some of our initiatives to be dealt with, such as amending the regulations on foreign exchange transactions and similar things.