Horizon Air Freight Data Analytics: New Technology for the New Year

Building on a Foundation of First-Rate Service

For fifty years, Horizon Air Freight has specialized in equipping our clients with high-touch customer service — paired with high-quality data analytics — to help you do your vital job more efficiently and effectively.

But we’re not resting on our laurels. Thanks to feedback from our valuable customers, this year we’ll be presenting two outstanding new technology platforms. Together, they will give you custom-designed transparency, analysis, and insight into all of your procurement activities — from the most granular to the highest level. You’ll be empowered with the real-time information your operation needs to optimize your budget spend while supporting your fleet at sea.

Here’s how we’ll do more for you than ever before.

Horizon WorldTrack Upgrades

“We’ve always believed that you need data to drive decision making in terms of value, efficiency, optimization, and planning,” says Alex Leondis, Horizon Air Freight’s Business Insights & Data Analytics Manager. Which is why, for over 20 years, Horizon WorldTrack has given customers analytics and insights into the daily status of any shipment, including warehouse arrival times and delays.

WorldTrack information can already be filtered by specifics including country of origin or destination, and give you access to relevant documentation including invoices and master air waybills. “These things are happening now,” Mr. Leondis says. “And not everyone else has it.”

But in the coming months, we’re upgrading WorldTrack to include real-time tracking information on global shipments. We’re adding more specific data points as well, along with a new and improved interface to make interpreting your data even easier.

“If you want to see, say, information from 12:12 p.m. today, you could click a refresh button, and once it loads up, you’ll have the data as of that minute,” Mr. Leondis explains.

Highly Customizable Business Intelligence Dashboards

To equip you with even more state-of-the-art business analytics for a variety of KPIs, early this year we’ll also be unveiling new, customizable, business intelligence dashboards. These dashboards will allow you to ask — and answer — even the most detailed, unique questions your business requires, including:

  • What’s the cost per kilo on a particular shipment?
  • Which vendors are delivering spares consistently to this destination?
  • What’s the waiting time on a particular fleet — or vessel?
  • Are we spending too much to cover last-minute shipments?
  • How many shipments and POs are we handling — and in what cities?
  • How many orders from this particular vendor have been delivered late?
  • Where else can we trim costs and increase efficiency?

“We’re excited because this will allow for much more modern, analytics-based decision-making that will streamline our customers’ procurement operations while optimizing their shipping budgets,” Mr. Leondis says.

The deeper you dive into the new dashboard’s advanced analytics, the greater value it can provide you. But we know from experience that one client’s specific needs may not be the same as another’s.

“We’ll be able to get very specific and tailor to what each customer wants to see based on their unique needs,” says Mr. Leondis. “It may open our eyes to challenges not seen before, and present new possible solutions. And then we can work together to drive even more value and maximize savings.”

A Powerful Combination — Still with a Personal Touch

In order to execute on both plans, we’ve spent the past 18 months hiring and onboarding an in-house software development team — ensuring quality and consistency from early planning to smooth migration. We’ve also partnered with current clients throughout the process, utilizing questions sent to us over the years, and discovery meetings to gather their insights for optimum visualizations. You can also rest assured that after launch, we’ll continue to provide you with trusted one-on-one guidance to help you sort and display the information in whatever way suits you best.

With an updated WorldTrack system, we’re giving you real-time information that will streamline your procurement operations by greatly reducing the time you spend requesting status updates and documentation. And our new business intelligence dashboards will empower you to make cost-effective decisions on shipping, optimizing your budget spend while keeping your fleet sailing safely and on time.

I’m excited,” Leondis says, “because this depth of rich, real-time data and flexible analysis is something that the industry hasn’t had in the past. There’s a whole opportunity to grow.”

Stay tuned for more information on the rollouts. Contact us if you have questions or would like to set up a time to see how Horizon can drive value for you.

Horizon Air Freight Announces Partnership with Inchcape Shipping Services

Leading Port Agency and Marine Services Provider Relies on Horizon for Last-Mile Logistics and Door-to-Deck Delivery Throughout the Americas

Horizon Air Freight and Inchcape Shipping Services have jointly announced a new partnership that will streamline Inchcape’s last-mile spares logistics and door-to-deck delivery throughout the Americas.

As one of the world’s oldest and largest port agency and marine services providers, Inchcape’s vision for a “smoother, smarter ocean” led the company to create its new Marine Supply Chain Solutions (MSCS) service line. MSCS manages integrated marine services for shipping companies across all ports, for enhanced customer efficiency, simplicity, and value.

“I was in search of a marine logistics company who would partner closely with us as we built this service line together,” says Crystal Waldroup, senior manager of MSCS – Americas. “I wanted a partner who had a global network of transportation companies already in place, someone who could handle both last-mile and door-to-deck deliveries anywhere in the world.”

According to Waldroup, the right partner would also have:

  • Excellent internal processes
  • Timely communications
  • Resourceful solutions
  • Technical sophistication

“Horizon was the obvious choice,” says Waldroup. “We’d worked informally with Horizon before and knew their reputation as the logistics company that could solve the most complicated shipping challenges. The time was right to formalize a true partnership.”

Inchcape Customers can now use the Horizon WorldTrack portal, which gives them real-time, consolidated updates on all their purchase orders.

“Prior to partnering with Horizon,” says Waldroup, “management of this service was a detail- intensive process internally. Horizon has really streamlined that process, allowing our customers to log in and extract any documents or data they require.”

“I couldn’t be happier with this new partnership,” says Horizon CEO Steve Leondis. “Inchcape shares our commitment to do whatever it takes to keep ships sailing safely and on schedule. We look forward to serving their customers throughout the Americas.”

Horizon Air Freight keeps fleets shipshape and on-schedule with global marine logistics by air, land, and sea. Critical marine spares, supplies, and equipment from any vendor worldwide: consolidated, expedited, delivered door to deck. Whatever you need, wherever you need it, we’ll get it there on time and on budget. With more than 50 years of experience, we keep more than 3,000 ships safe, able, and sailing. To learn more or to request a quote, call 800-221-6028 or visit haf.com.

Since 1847, Inchcape Shipping Services has provided the local knowledge and means to deliver port calls that enable business to ship smoothly and trade successfully. Inchcape combines its worldwide infrastructure with local expertise through a global network of over 240 proprietary offices across 60 countries and a team of more than 2,500 committed professionals. For more information, reach out to us and let us know how we can help you best.

Horizon Air Freight Featured on “Inside the Blueprint,” Airing on Fox Business and Bloomberg International

On August 7, 2021, Horizon Air Freight was honored to be featured on “Inside the Blueprint.” Airing on Fox Business and Bloomberg International, “Inside the Blueprint” is a “fast-paced series that takes a sweeping look at innovations in the commercial construction and design spaces, chronicling ideas and products that impact how we live, work and play.”

As the world’s most reliable and reputable marine freight forwarder, Horizon was delighted to be among the innovative influencers featured on this program.

With appearances from Steve Leondis (Horizon CEO), Alex Durante (Horizon Director of Global Sales), and Pixie Gibbs (Horizon Export Manager) the spot focused on how crucial the shipping industry is to global commerce, and how Horizon is uniquely positioned to assist these ships.

Crucial Support for a Crucial Industry

As the episode’s introduction overviews, 90% of the world’s global commerce and trade is transported by sea, either because flying cargo is too expensive, or because the volume is too great to send any other way. “Without these ships, the world doesn’t run,” Mr. Durante asserted.

This is where Horizon provides critical support. “Inside the Blueprint” showcases how we are uniquely positioned to provide “last mile service,” clearing customs in remote countries and delivering critical equipment on deck, with personalized service to any port worldwide. This means crucial equipment or supplies can be provided straight from the supplier to the individual vessel, keeping things running smoothly, and shipments delivered on time.

Customer-Focused Technology and Service

Our “Inside the Blueprint” episode also highlighted how Horizon’s technology has been designed to keep the customer’s needs in mind at every step throughout the entire process. Through our Horizon WorldTrack customer portal, clients can track with transparency, from time of first collection to the moment of satisfactory delivery, as Ms. Gibbs explained.

This is because Horizon stands behind its original mission to bring high-quality service at every level. As Mr. Leondis explains in the segment, Horizon was originally founded in 1971 by his father to support the Greek shipping community. But under his tenure, the business grew to an all purpose freight forward logistics company for fleets around the world. For 50 years, these ships have relied on Horizon to deliver supplies and equipment “where they need them, when they need them, no matter what it takes.”

Boutique Benefits with Better Pricing

Though our reach is wide, Mr. Leondis assured “Inside the Blueprint” producers that Horizon prioritizes quality over quantity. This allows us to not only thrive as a high-touch customer service company with boutique benefits but also provide better pricing. Horizon clients get the best pricing, Ms. Gibbs explained, because we are uniquely able to consolidate orders to be more cost effective.

Whether you’re based in New York or New Zealand, as this episode of “Inside the Blueprint” illustrates, Horizon does whatever it takes every day to ensure that vital equipment and supplies will be delivered to your vessel, because we understand what’s at stake. We also care about you and the safety and efficacy of all your people at sea. Contact us directly to discuss more how we can assist you.

Confronting the Container Imbalance

Procurement managers, technical directors, and purchasing agents are feeling it in high prices and long delays: As the global economy surges back to life, a massive imbalance in shipping container traffic is exacerbating bottlenecks in the supply chain.

Container bookings are hard to find. Delays are long, with many shippers waiting 6-8 weeks for a container. Prices are high — often 3-5 times normal rates — and air freight alternatives are even more expensive.

The container imbalance is impacting all sectors of the global economy. It contributes to inflation, which is on the rise, reducing consumer buying power in the midst of persistent shortages of key consumer goods. Small and medium enterprises are priced out of global trade by the high costs of shipping. Time-sensitive shipments of food are stuck in home ports. Even recovery from wildfires in the U.S. West is slower and more expensive because of the rising costs of building supplies.

What’s Causing the Container Imbalance?

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the world went into lockdown. Many factories shut down, reducing supply. Simultaneously, demand for many consumer and business products plummeted.

With many ports closed and crewing complicated by public health restrictions, shipping companies took many container ships offline to wait out the crisis. This left empty back-haul containers stranded, with no ships available to collect and return them to net exporting countries such as China.

Over the past year, as the global economy has come back to life, recovery has been uneven. Many countries in Asia came out of lockdown first but found themselves with a shortage of head-haul containers for export, while continuing restrictions in Europe and the Americas stranded back-haul containers.

With restrictions now loosened, demand in the Americas has rebounded strongly in recent months, amplifying the historic trade imbalance between Asia and the Americas.

This has all prompted aggressive measures by Asian exporters to retrieve any available containers, placing other regions in competition for an insufficient supply.

Throughout the global shipping network, port congestion caused in part by staffing shortages and lockdown regulations continues to further delay any attempt to rebalance container supply.

How Are Container Imbalances Impacting Procurement Managers, Technical Directors, and Purchasing Agents?

“First and foremost, air freight rates right now are through the roof,” says Alex Durante, Horizon’s global sales director, “because there’s limited capacity. In some cases, air freight pricing is 2-4 times higher than what it was pre-COVID. That has led to a fundamental shift toward ocean freight, because ocean freight is much cheaper than air freight. So you have a huge shift of cargo that needs to be moved by sea now because it’s cost-prohibitive to move it by air.”

However, that cargo — including smaller ship spares — that might once have been moved quickly by air must now compete for an insufficient supply of shipping container space. Meanwhile, oversized equipment and bulk supplies that have always been too large or too costly to ship by air are taking longer to deliver by sea, at much higher prices.

Procurement managers, technical directors, and purchasing agents are having to make sometimes impossible choices. Wait 6-8 weeks to ship by container, at 3-5 times normal ocean rates or ship by air, at 10 times what the same shipment would cost by sea?

For critical equipment needed urgently to keep a ship in service, delays can be catastrophic, yet the solutions can quickly exceed a fleet’s budget.

What Is Horizon Doing to Help Customers Keep Their Fleets Running Smoothly Without Exceeding Their Budgets?

“We’re doing the same thing we always do,” says Durante, “but putting in a lot more overtime doing it. All of our attention is focused on finding solutions, because we know that every order is critical.”

Horizon has always managed emergency shipments for our clients, finding ways to move critical parts halfway around the world when every hour counts. We take pride in always finding a way, no matter how hard the ask. However, in the current crisis, even shipments that once would have been routine are requiring the full force of our agents’ experience, creativity, and persistence.

“Whereas in the past we might go to 2-3 steamship lines to find available capacity at a good price and schedule, now we’re going to 10 or more to find the best availability,” says Durante. “We have to move quickly, too, because pricing that was once stable is now changing every day.”

Throughout the crisis, our staff has often pulled rotating 12-hour shifts to find, confirm, and monitor appropriate bookings for every delivery, so that our customers get what they need, where they need it, to keep their fleets safe, able, and sailing.

What Can Procurement Managers and Purchasing Agents Do to Secure the Best Available Shipping Options for Their Fleet’s Equipment and Supplies?

In short, two things: plan ahead, and confirm quickly.

Planning ahead is good practice even in the best of times, but it’s really essential while the container imbalance persists. As much as you can, anticipate what your ships will need in two months, then go ahead and order it now rather than waiting until the last minute. The more lead team you give us, the better we’re able to find solutions that balance costs with your deadlines.

Whether you order with plenty of lead time or need a last-minute shipment because of an unexpected emergency, we’ll work hard to find available container capacity that meets your timeline and won’t bust your budget.

When we present you with a good option, please confirm it with us as quickly as you can. Because of the intense demand for container space right now, that available space may disappear hours later. If it’s still available the next day, the price may have gone up.

The sooner you confirm a price and schedule with us, the sooner we can go back to the steamship line and lock in that space for you.

When and How Will the Container Marketplace Rebalance?

The short answer: we don’t know. But, with current container shipping delays averaging between 45 and 60 days, we know this will continue for many months at the least.

“I think this is going to go on for at least another year,” says Durante. “The port congestion alone is not letting up anytime soon. That paired with the labor shortages that we’re experiencing, there’s not enough hands, there’s not enough equipment to conduct regular operations. Just think of a traffic jam where they’re not clearing the accident from the road.”

However long the crisis lasts, we’ll do whatever it takes to deliver to our customers, door to deck, on budget and on time. Despite all the challenges, ships will keep moving the world, and we’ll be by their side, ready and able to help.

The container imbalance is complicating shipping, but we love a challenge. Give us a call. We’ll get you what you need, where you need it, on budget, with our industry leading 99% on-time delivery.

Keeping Fleets Shipshape for 50 Years

Featured in “Inside Marine” (M47 issue, August 2021)

Celebrating 50 years of operations, marine logistics firm Horizon Air Freight (HAF) continues to keep the world’s shipping fleets equipped and supplied, serving more than 3,000 ships around the globe.

Daniel Barnes asked HAF’s Director of Sales, Alex Durante, about the company’s longevity, the importance of proximity, the growing impetus of digitalization within the shipping industry, and, of course, how best to operate during a global pandemic.  

Horizon Air Freight (HAF) has reached its milestone 50 year anniversary. I imagine celebrating the company’s 50-year anniversary during a global pandemic wasn’t what you initially had in mind?!

Certainly not! However, we approached and invited this unexpected challenge to further demonstrate to our customers why HAF has been one of the global leaders in marine logistics for the past 50 years. We went above and beyond the call of duty to serve our customers, ensuring their business operations were minimally affected by all the issues that plagued the transportation industry.

There were days when most of our staff rotated 12-hour shifts to ensure our clients’ critical spares were delivered on board and on time. We thrive on these types of challenges by finding a way, any way, to always get the job done.

Horizon has reported a 99% on-time delivery rate, even through a pandemic – how did you accomplish that?

Maritime logistics is a very niche industry. Transportation providers like Horizon must have very unique skill sets to ensure the success of our clients’ missions. We execute with extreme diligence and have a wealth of experience, all of which our clients greatly depend on.

With global flight capacities cut by over 60%, getting space onboard commercial aircrafts was incredibly challenging. However, Horizon is aligned with the best partners globally, allowing us to be highly successful in accomplishing all that we do.

Horizon offers onboard delivery in over 350 ports globally, many of which are in some of the most remote and hardest to reach areas. Servicing these inaccessible ports naturally comes with a great deal of complexity and sizable obstacles, which, unlike most last-mile agents, Horizon is able to overcome.

From working with the world’s most reliable airlines to partnering with the world’s most expedited customs brokers, all of our partners are superb at what they do to ensure the job gets done, door-to-deck, on budget, and on time!

Female Horizon Air Freight working on computer

What steps has the company taken to ensure the business is as COVID-secure as possible?

The lagging effects of COVID-19 continue to cause a tremendous amount of transportation delays. These delays require advanced planning on our part when putting together transport solutions for our clients’ air and sea freight shipments.

One of the many value-added complimentary services we provide is global management of our clients’ fleet maintenance schedules. Our clients trust us to make the best economical decisions for consolidation and delivery of their global spares. This allows us to get ahead of these unavoidable transportation delays so that such burdens do not fall on our clients. Having a partner like Horizon to efficiently execute this type of fleet maintenance logistics management is invaluable.

Horizon has introduced proprietary shipment tracking software called WorldTrack. How did that software get developed, how does it work?

Without giving away our secret sauce, I can share that, at Horizon, purchase order (PO) transparency is one of our main goals. Horizon’s WorldTrack software includes a homegrown global PO management system and a state-of-the-art shipment tracking portal.

Our goal was to empower ship owners with as much information as possible, so they have the utmost visibility into all aspects of their purchase orders and shipments. WorldTrack provides clients with complete tracking from the time a purchase order is issued to their vendor until delivery is made onboard their vessel. For every single PO issued, Horizon documents each milestone of the PO process in real-time.

Although our primary business is logistics, in many ways we become an extension of our clients’ purchasing department, at no additional cost. Many of the value-added features that our system provides our customers are designed to resolve all the day-to-day headaches that purchasing departments encounter. PO monitoring, vendor follow-up, managing past due orders, access to supplier documents, vendor compliance reports, financial reporting, etc, are just some of the ways that our system goes above and beyond what other logistics companies provide.

Male Horizon Air Freight working on computer with multiple screens

With global transportation costs at all-time highs, what has Horizon done to help its clients stay within budget and mitigate their operating expenses?

Horizon has over 30 warehouses for spares consolidation worldwide. This strategic investment has allowed our clients to consolidate their spares globally more than ever before. Our spares consolidation model allows shipowners to reduce the number of shipments to their vessels and most importantly, cut their logistics costs drastically.

Consolidation of spares is the most efficient way for a shipowner to operate compared to allowing their worldwide vendors to ship their orders to destinations individually. Our warehouses are located in proximity to all global areas of spare parts supply. In addition, our WorldTrack software is connected to all Horizon locations so clients receive a global snapshot of their spares inventory with just a single click.

With many companies adopting a work from home policy, how did Horizon adjust during the past 18 months? What worked well and what was implemented to help support Horizon’s clients’ requirements?

Horizon Air Freight teamWorking from home due to COVID-19 has definitely caused many disruptions in our customers’ day-to-day internal operations. These disruptions have resulted in our customers relying on Horizon’s value-added services more than ever.

Services such as PO expediting, electronic data interfacing, and inventory controls have all helped fill the huge voids from not being in the office. All of the services, software, and technology we offer shipowners cater specifically to their unique business requirements. In many ways, as I’ve stated previously, we become a complimentary extension of their purchasing and technical departments.

All of HAF’s value-added services were designed particularly to reduce the redundant, manual, and tedious tasks that purchasing and technical departments encounter. By automating solutions to these tasks electronically, we saw a huge uptick in the usage of our value-added services. I am happy to say our clients were beyond grateful and ecstatic that we had such accommodating services available to ease the burden of COVID-19 and support their business during such a tough time.

What does the post-COVID industry look like for the maritime industry? In what ways do you feel COVID-19 has forced ship owners to operate more efficiently?

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has forced ship owners to implement many changes in how they operate. Labor shortages, port congestion and rising transportation costs have caused many obstacles in their day-to-day operating procedures. One of the many ways HAF combats these obstacles and differentiates itself from other marine logistics providers is by interfacing electronically with our customers, also known as electronic data interfacing (EDI).

Our complimentary EDI services allow us to upload up-to-the-minute PO statuses, shipment tracking updates, documentation, and financial reports directly into our customers’ internal systems. Horizon’s EDI service allows for the instantaneous exchange of data between HAF’s system and our clients’ internal system so that all pertinent information is transferred and available for them in real-time. Simply put: one system, one world, one Horizon.

You’ve had a successful and interesting 50-year history — where do you see the next 50 years going for Horizon Air Freight?

Our vision for the future is the same vision that our CEO’s father initially built this company with – to always have a “We Care” mentality. At HAF, we always go above and beyond the call of duty for our customers. Our clients’ success is our number one priority. By always being there for our customers, it reassures them that they can sleep with both eyes shut at night.

As the world grows ever more connected, the importance of commercial fleets will only increase, and so will the complexity of keeping those fleets supplied and running. At Horizon, this is what we thrive on. Shipowners trust us with the critical equipment needed to keep their fleets safe, able, and sailing, and we take that trust very seriously. Ships keep moving the world, and we’ll be by their side, ready and able to help! Reach out to us directly to let us know how we can serve you best.



Stuck in Dry Dock: Keeping a Ship’s Panama Repairs on Schedule

A Horizon customer’s ship was in dry dock in the Balboa Shipyard in Panama, and they needed our help to get the vessel back in the water, back to work.

The ship was an articulated tug barge (ATB) that had won several awards for safety, reliability, and environmental responsibility. But with the ship delayed in dry dock for critical repairs and maintenance, that reliability would be put to the test.

The customer needed a large delivery of spares, including a sealant module, crimpers, stop ball valves, and a wide variety of electrical equipment including wires, conductors, and adapters. A total of 9,085 pounds of freight.

Horizon Project Manager Pixie Gibbs took the call from the customer on a Wednesday. They needed everything in Panama… immediately.

“So many times we get calls,” Gibbs says, “and they tell us they need it there by yesterday. I’ve been trying for years to find a time machine, but I haven’t found it yet.”

But she did get the message: They needed Horizon to pull out all the stops and get the delivery to Panama without delay. Gibbs immediately started making calls.

Three Trucks Converge on Miami

The suppliers were located across three U.S. states, in:

  • Harvey, Louisiana (New Orleans metropolitan area)
  • Riverside, Missouri (Kansas City metropolitan area)
  • Jacksonville, Florida

Getting the parts delivered to Horizon’s consolidation warehouse in Miami via standard truck freight would have taken too long for the customer’s needs. The ship was waiting.

So Gibbs reached out to one of Horizon’s trusted trucking partners and arranged for three dedicated trucks: one for each supplier. Each truck would drive directly from the supplier to our warehouse, no stops along the way.

By the end of the day Wednesday, all three trucks had picked up their deliveries and were on the road, driving straight through the night to Miami. 24 hours after the initial call, we had all the equipment in hand in Miami, consolidated and cleared for export.

Chartering a Plane to Balboa

The consolidated delivery filled six crates. At four and a half tons, it would have to fly on a cargo carrier, but the next regularly scheduled cargo carrier to Panama — an Amerijet flight — wasn’t departing until Sunday. That delay would put the ship’s repairs badly behind schedule.

Gibbs reached out to several cargo chartering companies, air carriers we turn to whenever we’re in a rush. One had a plane available to fly the equipment to Balboa the very next day. Gibbs confirmed the flight, then let the customer know the spares would soon be on their way.

“On Friday, I was on the edge of my seat all day,” says Gibbs, “checking in with everyone.”

She was in constant communication with the charter plane, wanting confirmation from the carrier every step of the way, then passing updates along to the customer. When the charter confirmed that they had finished loading the freight, she told them, “As soon as the wheels are up, I want to know.”

The plane took off on time, at 8:20 p.m. Gibbs informed the customer, then immediately got back on the phone with the charter. “As soon as you touch down, let me know,” she told them.

The plane was scheduled to land in Panama at 11:00 p.m. When Gibbs hadn’t heard confirmation of the landing a few minutes after, she called the charter plane again.

“Did you land?” she asked them.

“We still need to taxi in,” they replied. “Can you please let us taxi in?”

“Too funny,” Gibbs says, “but when you’re taking care of a delivery like that, you watch it closely all the way through.”

The Feeling When a Plan Comes Together

Gibbs waited to confirm that the customer’s agent in Panama had received delivery of the cargo, then finally allowed herself to feel a sense of relief and satisfaction at another job well done.

“It feels great when a plan comes together,” she says.

The customer was very happy with the quick delivery, and their vessel was soon sailing again.

“They were very grateful for our services,” says Gibbs. “They said that, whenever they’re in a jam like this, they’ll come to us right away.”

Vessel in a jam? Need a fast, reliable solution? Contact us anytime. We’ll get you sailing again.

Expanding Horizons

Featured in “Inside Marine” (M45 issue, March 2021)

During its 50-year history, the landscape of marine freight forwarding has changed for Horizon Air Freight. For this forward-thinking business, moving with the times is part of this company’s modus operandi. Laura Watling finds out more.

Horizon Air Freight has grown from humble beginnings. Founded in 1970 by Anthony Leondis, the founder built the business from just $600 borrowed from a friend. What started out as Mr. Leondis driving to customers and filling out orders on a typewriter, grew to an international marine logistics service by air, land, and sea.

Today, the business helps to keep more than 3,500 ships safe, able, and sailing across the globe, servicing over 350 ports.

“Anthony came from a very international background,” explained Global Sales Director Alex Durante. “Hailing from Sudan but with Greek ancestry, he was able to use his international understanding to inform Horizon’s global approach.”

After 50 years in business, Horizon culture is still very much family-oriented with Anthony’s son Steve now at the helm as the CEO. However, all four of Anthony’s children have played key leadership roles over the years to shape the company into the leading marine logistics provider we see today. Steve’s son, Alex Leondis, has also recently taken on a role within the business under the CFO.

Family isn’t purely by blood, however. It’s clear that for Horizon Air Freight, all its employees fit under the wider Horizon family.

“Many of our employees have spent much of their professional life at Horizon. The average longevity of our management and team leaders is over 25 years,” said Mr. Durante. “We have a very low turnover of staff, but we understand the next generation of colleagues will also be at the forefront of the next 50 years in business.”

Employee driving a forklift

A Military Operation

Horizon Air Freight has grown to become a relied upon extension of its customers’ businesses. Operating throughout the global marketplace sees the company support customers operating all manner of vessels; from container vessels and RoRos through to cruise liners and military support vessels.

The military sector is an area in which Horizon Air Freight has a notable history. During the Gulf War, operations in 1990-1991 required a massive mobilization of military equipment and supplies to Saudi Arabia. Much of the operation was handled by Military Sealift Command (MSC) — Horizon Air Freight became a critical partner, providing the marine logistics support to keep the fleet of 125 MSC ships running and supplied.

“We pride ourselves on longstanding relationships with our customers,” said Mr. Durante, “and 30-years on we are still supporting Military Sealift Command to ensure they are fully operational and ready to respond to the military’s time-sensitive demands.”

Warehouse with high industrial racking

Above and Beyond

Horizon Air Freight prides itself on its dedication to always going above and beyond for its customers.

“We have partnered offices across the world, and if we need to open an office in Germany in the middle of the night for an urgent ship stopper, we have the ability to do that,” said Mr. Durante.

This can-do ethos is neatly explained using an anecdote from Horizon’s past. When a customer wanted to show their gratitude after purchasing a ship in Tokyo, George Savich, an employee based at Horizon’s offices in the US, purchased $150,000 of gifts (from Tiffany and Cartier, no less) on their behalf, boarded a plane and flew it to the client the same day. He was, of course, back home the next morning — he had a softball game to attend.

Not only does the business itself have a 50-year experience and foothold in the industry, but many of its employees have experience of working on ships.

“Our customers don’t need to spend time explaining why they need a particular shipment delivered urgently – our staff’s experience means that they already know,” explained Mr. Durante. “Some of our employees have even worked on the very same ships we deliver spares to; it’s easier to teach logistics than it is to learn a lifetime of experience in the field.”

For the past 15 months, Horizon Air Freight has been expanding into remote ports across the world.
“Shipowners typically keep away from these ports due to logistical challenges and customs issues,” shared Mr. Durante. “We vet and seek partners in these areas using our industry knowledge and experience.”

By expanding into these ports, Horizon makes it easier for customers to work in these regions. It’s also given customers the opportunity to expand their own businesses into these ports, which they would have otherwise avoided.

Acquisitions are also a focus for the business, with the aim to acquire other logistics firms that will complement and expand Horizon Air Freight’s existing service.

Two employees in a meeting

Technology of the Future

Another key area of attention for the future is developing technology, with the recent hiring of Horizon’s first Director of Technology, a clear indication of the company’s commitment to staying ahead of the game.

“As part of Horizon’s technological development, 2021 will see the launch of Horizon 2.0, an updated version of the business’ current PO track and trace platform. HAF’s web-based World-Track customer portal is specifically designed and catered for marine purchasing and technical departments. Horizon 2.0 will provide even more visibility over every order,” said Mr. Durante.

“We offer complete visibility and transparency for vessels and shore-side staff to track the status of their purchase orders from the time they are issued to suppliers, until they are delivered onboard. We differentiate ourselves from our competitors by tailoring our system to a client’s specific needs. It will put the steering wheel in the hand of our customers and bring the portal into more than the present day – the future.”

Employee on a computer

Passion Above All

What is clear above all is the passion Horizon Air Freight and its employees have for its industry.

“Horizon Air Freight doesn’t have a small sub-division that works in marine the way many of our competitors do; our whole company solely focuses on freight forwarding for the marine industry. We eat, breathe and sleep marine,” Mr. Durante proudly exclaimed.

What sets Horizon Air Freight apart from its competitors, said the Global Sales Director, is its ease of contact, its value-added services, and 50 years of experience. Despite being a global business, Horizon offers customers one point of contact to call to get the job done.

“Many of our customers see our office as an extension of theirs,” said Mr. Durante. “As our customers evolve, they take us on the journey with them as they know we are an integral and vital part of their business model. When they thrive, we thrive, so it’s our duty to build long-term, valuable relationships with them.”

Having just celebrated 50 years in business, it’s evident that Horizon Air Freight is well set for a healthy future. As Alex Durante said: “The sky’s the limit for Horizon.” Reach out to us directly to let us know how we can serve you best

Horizon Air Freight employees

When You Must Deliver in Remote Regions: A South America-to-Mexico Success Story

It was a relatively small and inexpensive spare — a 20-kilo part for the main air compressor, worth about $700 — but what a journey it had chasing down a vessel making its way up through the Americas.

When the call came in, there was plenty of time. The vendor assured Horizon routing specialist Nick Scotto that the part would be ready for pickup in Singapore on a Friday, giving us ample time to meet the vessel in Chile the following Wednesday. But that timeline was not to stand.

“The vendor was unable to give us the freight until Tuesday of the following week,” says Scotto, “so we had to urgently airfreight it to Chile where one of our agents was ready to collect it, clear it, then deliver it onboard the vessel.”

There were no direct flights available from Singapore to Chile, so Scotto routed the part through Amsterdam. In Amsterdam, COVID-related delays put the flight to Chile three hours behind schedule.

“With our new timeline, those three hours were crucial,” says Scotto. He alerted the agent to the situation, then got on Google Maps to see how long the drive from the airport to the port would take. The vessel was due to depart about three hours after the plane was scheduled to land in Chile, and the drive would take almost exactly three hours… without traffic.

Scotto kept searching and discovered there was some road work along the way, creating about a 15-minute traffic delay. He got on the phone to the client, telling him, “You’re going to have to delay your departure maybe 15 minutes in order to get this piece on board.”

In what would prove a fateful decision, the vessel’s agent declined to wait. Their main air compressor was currently running fine, they just didn’t have this spare onboard should something go wrong. He asked Horizon instead to simply connect the part to their next port.

The Risks of Running Without Spares

Scotto knew how important the spare was to the ship. A graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, he had worked on three vessels before coming to Horizon: the car carrier GREEN COVE, the bulk carrier OVERSEAS MYKONOS, and the container ship APL GUAM.

On the ships he worked, the chief engineers made sure to carry crucial spares for the main air compressor. “We always had anything that was important,” he says. “You have two or three of them. It’s never, ‘If this breaks, we’re floating around.’ Engine emergencies are very common on most vessels. You can’t let it stop the operation.”

“You can run without the main air compressor,” Scotto says, “but you’re playing around with a dangerous situation. It puts a lot of pressure on the other parts of the engine. And when you put pressure on where it’s not supposed to be, you have things break that would usually operate fine. It would be a series of events of main engine pieces failing.”

Not wanting that to happen to the client, Scotto quickly got to work rerouting the crucial part.

Out of Chile and Onward to Ecuador

En route to Ecuador, the vessel’s main air compressor failed. Without the spare, they were unable to repair it.

“So they were limping along,” says Scotto. “They didn’t want to stop. This vessel loses about $20,000 a day when they’re behind.”

Unfortunately, with the part already in Chile, export customs would take another three to four days.

“We were pushing our way through export customs,” says Scotto. “I think I made three or so phone calls every day, to multiple people in the region, getting an understanding of what was going on and how we could speed things along.”

The customs process in Chile is not very efficient. Multiple people needed to stamp the paperwork, all of them in different areas. Horizon’s agents were carrying the paper back and forth between offices to move things along as fast as possible.

“They worked in shifts,” says Scotto, “and they would wait 24/7 at the customs agency offices, getting whatever they needed to expedite the export.”

By the time the part was finally cleared for export, Horizon had three to four days to get it to Ecuador: once again a very workable timeline.

Scotto arranged for a courier service to pick the part up in Chile and deliver it to Ecuador. Because of the low monetary value of the spare, the courier service wouldn’t have to get import cleared. The schedule was looking good.

An Early Departure from Ecuador

“And then, the next morning, I get a call from the client,” says Scotto. “‘The vessel’s in Ecuador now and leaves in a few hours. When’s the piece arriving?”

It turned out that there had been a miscommunication between the vessel’s charter and management companies about the main air compressor problem.

“Instead of waiting at anchor for a couple days as planned,” says Scotto, “they were bumped up in their schedule load. They brought them right in.”

The good news: Scotto got on the phone to the courier immediately and managed to get the part pulled in Panama for rerouting to the vessel’s next port. The bad news: The next port was the Port of Manzanillo, in Mexico.

Navigating Mexico

“In freight forwarding,” says Scotto, “Mexico is a bad place to go.”

In Mexico, it typically takes one to two weeks for spares to clear customs, with capricious decisions by government officials making it difficult to predict how long it might take or how difficult it might be.

“In most countries, you can deliver something in bond,” says Scotto, “which is an agreement that it’s leaving the country, so you don’t have to pay duty on the value. That’s common practice in just about every other country we’ve delivered in. In Mexico, they don’t have that. Wait three weeks and then fork over 30% of the value to the Mexican government. I don’t understand why they operate like that, but that’s just the understanding.”

It’s why Horizon typically advises clients to take delivery in neighboring countries. But with each day’s delay putting the vessel’s main engine at further risk of catastrophic failure, we had to find a way.

We didn’t have an existing relationship with an agent in Mexico, so Scotto reached out through his network and connected with a trusted agent. Over several phone calls, they discussed how to move the spare through customs as rapidly as possible.

When the piece arrived in Mexico City, the agent explained, “We either get lucky, or we don’t.” Customs randomly chose what to inspect, and inspection would come with delays.

“And of course,” says Scotto, “it got picked.”

But after a short delay, the part was cleared and the courier service took it to Manzanillo, where it was released to Horizon’s agent.

It was late on a Wednesday afternoon, and Scotto was driving home from work. Notified that the spare had finally been cleared, he called up the agent in Mexico.

“He was very happy to finally get this piece,” says Scotto. “I asked him, ‘When are you delivering?’ And he said, ‘I’m going to drive it to the port myself right now, and it should be onboard tomorrow morning.’ The vessel’s departure was scheduled for Monday morning, so it was perfect. We had plenty of time.”

“So I let the client know. And then I got another call from the agent that night, and he said, ‘Unfortunately, the customs here is requiring more paperwork in order to expedite this delivery.’”

Government officials were holding the spare at the port. A tense few days followed, with Scotto in constant communication with the agent. Then, on Sunday night, they finally released it. The agent delivered it onboard with only hours to spare.

The vessel’s main air compressor was soon repaired, and it sailed out on schedule once again.

After finally bringing a 26-day routing to a successful resolution, Scotto got right back to work on the next delivery.

Don’t be caught without critical spares. Whatever you need, wherever in the world you need it, we’ll find a way to get it onboard. Contact us anytime and let us know how we can help.

Suez Canal Statement

Steve Leondis, CEO of Horizon Air Freight

As I write this, there’s some great news coming out from the Suez Canal.

The container ship Ever Given ran aground on March 23 during a storm, completely blocking passage through the Suez Canal. For nearly a week, two salvage teams have attempted to dislodge the ship, with CNBC reporting that the blockage is delaying $400 million an hour in trade.

Earlier today, the Suez Canal Authority announced that the Ever Given had been partially refloated and its course corrected by 80%. Then, just moments ago, the Associated Press reported that the ship had been completely set free by a “flotilla of tugboats” which are now pulling the ship toward the Great Bitter Lake.

We don’t yet know with certainty when the Suez Canal will reopen, but this news gives us hope that it will be very soon. Nevertheless, a backlog of about 300 ships is presently waiting in or near the canal. As Maersk said in a statement earlier this morning, even if the canal reopens today, it could take a week to clear the queue.

At Horizon, we’re not in the salvage business, so we couldn’t do anything to free the Ever Given any faster. But for the past week we’ve been monitoring the situation 24/7 and helping our customers keep sailing safely while adjusting to the delays.

We’re fortunate to have several graduates of the Merchant Marine Academy working at Horizon. They have classmates sailing on U.S.-flagged ships in the canal, and through them we’ve been receiving on-the-scene updates as the situation develops.

Three of our customers have seven ships currently delayed by the Suez closing, and we’ve been in regular contact with all of them. Many had plans to pick up spares for scheduled maintenance at major equipment supply hubs such as Rotterdam. With their ships delayed, chief engineers have been monitoring engine hours, concerned they won’t reach their planned supply ports in time.

Some ships have been waiting out the delay, while others turned around, exited the canal, and headed south for the Cape of Good Hope. For those still waiting, we’ve rerouted and expedited their spares to Port Said, Egypt, for delivery just as soon as they exit the canal into the Mediterranean. For those heading south, we’ve rerouted and expedited to Durban, South Africa.

With delays of this scale, we’re also anticipating longer-term ripple effects across the global shipping fleet that could delay the shipment by seafreight of critical spares. We expect to reroute many of these spares via airfreight to get them on time to the ships that need them to keep sailing safely.

We know this has been a challenging time for many shipping companies, with this crisis costing you dearly for each day your ships are off-hire. Please know that we’re here for you and ready to do whatever it takes to support you in this critical time.

For fifty years, we’ve been helping our customers recover from vessel delays, engine failures, failed Coast Guard inspections, and anything else that might delay a vessel sail. Not a week goes by without us leaping into action to help keep a vessel on charter schedule.

Whatever you’re struggling with, during this difficult time or any time, please contact us directly to let us know how we can help.

How to Keep Your Deliveries 99% On Time

In the best of times, the global shipping network is extraordinarily complex. Hundreds of ports in hundreds of countries serve tens of thousands of commercial vessels. Yet through capricious weather, political conflicts, multimodal transit delays, and more, the shipping fleet weaves the world together.

The past year has not been the best of times. The COVID-19 pandemic has closed borders, grounded planes, and sometimes overwhelmed the capacity of ports and commercial vessels. Yet the world relies on shipping more than ever to transport critical medical supplies, food, fuel, and all the equipment we need as we adapt to this new reality.

So much can go wrong, and, so often, so much does. Suppliers fail to deliver to one of our hubs on the promised date. Clearance and delivery issues in problem ports result in delays or lost freight. Direct service routes from origin to destination become unexpectedly unavailable.

In global marine logistics, we don’t hope that nothing will go wrong. We plan ahead for all that can go wrong, so we can still get deliveries wherever they’re needed, on time. We do it all while maintaining Horizon’s longstanding 99% on-time delivery rate.

As we enter the second year of this pandemic, with hopes that the end of it is now near, we’d like to share with you some of what we do to keep your deliveries on time, and some of what you can do to help us keep your fleet on schedule.

How We Keep Your Deliveries On Time

Assume Something Will Go Wrong, Then Prevent It

The name of the game is being proactive. We never assume any stage in a shipment will go as planned. In fact, we operate as if something WILL go wrong — after 50 years in the business, we can usually anticipate the problems — then we figure out how to keep the delivery on schedule.

For example, we contact suppliers a few days before an order is due to be ready. Can they confirm that the order will indeed be ready as promised? If not, we start making a back-up plan: a different supplier, an expedited route, a private charter… whatever it takes.

Constant Communications

We stay in constant contact with airlines, ocean carriers, and trucking companies. Is high demand reducing their capacity? Are prices fluctuating? Are transit times slowing? We get the answers straight from the sources, all day, every day.

We pass this real-time intelligence along to you, so you can make well informed decisions. And we advise you on the best routings to get your deliveries where you need them, on budget and on time.

How You Can Keep Your Fleet On Schedule

Plan Ahead

We know that some emergency needs simply can’t be anticipated. But whenever it’s possible, book your deliveries as far in advance as possible, or even alert us that a booking is coming soon, so we can prepare. This puts some extra time in our pockets to solve whatever may go wrong along the way. With a tight deadline, even a few extra hours can make the difference between an on-time delivery and a critical delay.

Time is also often the difference between a cost-effective solution and blowing your budget. There’s not much we can’t rush around the world in a hurry, but chartered planes don’t come cheap.

Never Chase Your Vessels

If a deadline is too tight, it’s usually best to arrange delivery to the next port of call instead. Assume, as we always do, that something will go wrong. If the deadline is too tight, your delivery could easily end up one step behind your vessel, running up extra costs as we try to chase it down.

EDI System Integration

As you may already know, Horizon offers robust EDI integration with your procurement systems. Two-way transparency saves us time and gives you instant access to the real-time status of your deliveries. It allows Horizon to work as a fully integrated extension of your purchasing department.

Contact your Horizon representative if you’d like to learn more about EDI integration.

Together, We’ll Keep Moving the World

This has been a challenging year for the shipping industry. We’ve been honored to partner with you during this crisis, supporting your vital operations as you move the world.

Like you, we’re not big on “can’t.” With the right expertise, determination, and hard work, every problem has a solution. That’s how we operate, and we know you do too. Whatever the challenges the future may bring, we’ll solve them together and keep your ships on schedule.

How can Horizon help you keep your fleet shipshape and on schedule? Contact us anytime to discuss the possibilities.