Long-term optimism in IndonesiaJune 8, 2020
The Energy Year talks to Gerard Quillien, general manager of Energy Logistics, about operational adjustments that companies are making as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the changes that will likely remain post-crisis. Energy Logistics provides freight forwarding, logistics and marine services to companies in the oil and gas and mining industries.
How have you adjusted your activities during Covid-19, and what is the situation like in Indonesia?
Guidelines for working from home were socialised by the Indonesian government on March 16, 2020. It was recommended that people work as much as possible from home, except for those in essential businesses, which included logistics. From that date, we instructed some of our employees to work from home whenever possible, while some still had to come to the office to work when physical attendance was essential.
We are fully operational and have a full team in the airport and at the seaport. We have not seen that much of a decrease in activity. However, the overall cargo traffic has dropped. Most shipments usually come from commercial airliners carrying passengers, and that has mostly stopped; but this may start up again soon.
Since there are fewer flights, are you using roads for transport more than you would in normal times?
We are using sea transportation, but there are fewer regular commercial sailings. As an alternative, we can still move cargo with chartered vessels. There are no restrictions on cargo movements by land. There may be a drop as a result of Ramadan, as normally one week before and one week after the Eid there is a stoppage. But I don’t know what will happen this year because Indonesians won’t be allowed to move from the cities to the villages during the holiday time. We are trying to get more information from the government about the holiday plans.
Have you had any Covid-19-related operations in your daily work, such as transporting specific equipment or anything else related to the crisis?
We are currently not doing much transportation of specific medical equipment, although we have had a few shipments of masks already. The economy in Indonesia is quite fragile financially, and the people are quite poor. Some of them have no choice but to go out and look for some income to survive. The government has put in place lockdown measures, but they can’t push too hard.
The number of Covid-19 cases here isn’t too high yet, but it could go up. There is no social security. The situation is not that bad here compared to some other countries, but the people and the economy are suffering.
How have you been reorganising office work?
What our company is doing is asking the staff to work from home as much as possible. Some people attend the office only a few times a week. We can also reduce the working time, as our workload has been reduced. We follow the distancing rules, we have hand sanitisers and we abide by the regulations. Up to now, we haven’t had any cases among our more than 300 staff members, but we follow the guidelines from the government closely.
Do you see any opportunities coming out of this crisis?
Yes. Everybody is affected by the crisis, and this includes logistics companies that have to try and survive. We can expect some casualties. The freight forwarders who were not diversified enough may suffer more. Luckily, PT Energy Logistics is involved in different sectors and activities like shipping agency and marine services.
The main immediate concern is the cash flow. Since their sources of income have been reduced, some of our clients are delaying their payments and some may not be able to continue their activities if the crisis is prolonged for a long time.
How do you think the nature of work will change following the crisis?
Most of us have realised how important it is to be well organised and be able to react quickly in case of crisis, and this includes being able to work from home. Lessons will be learned for the future. There’s no point in coming to the office if you can work from home. It’s cheaper and we can reduce transportation costs, etc.
We also need to maximise the use of the digital tools we have, such as by systematically using video conferences instead of travelling. Of course, the human touch will have to remain, but things will change.
As a business, how would you grade the government’s response to the crisis?
It was a bit slow at the beginning, but the response has improved. There is better communication, there are daily briefings and government and health officials now explain and give instructions to the population. The first few weeks were quite bad because, like some other countries, we did not fully realise the extent of the problem. But now everybody understands that we are facing a very serious situation. Now there is more transparency and the government is better organised, so we are looking for solutions.
What lessons should companies take from this crisis?
We first have to survive, and that is not going to be easy in the next few months. Cash flow has become tight, and many companies could collapse. We need to learn to work better, work from home and be more efficient. We need to improve processes and procedures, and I expect we will improve the way we work.
I think we will also be more conscious of cost. Sometimes we travel and we see now that we don’t always need to do that. We will have to reduce costs in order to survive and become stronger. We remain optimistic for the long term in Indonesia.