Honesty and integrity are the hallmarks of any successful business, Luke Vassallo, the CEO of Eurocargo Logistics, believes. And, as the mind at the helm of an emerging firm operating within the freight forwarding industry, his commitment to business ethics and his drive to expand the company’s engagement with social responsibility are set to position the enterprise at the heart of the sector.

Luke Vassallo, the CEO of Eurocargo Logistics, has a great sense of duty and a respectful approach to the business that he inherited from his father in 2016.

The firm, then known as Eurocargo Freight, specialised in the handling of temperature-controlled goods, but, since Luke’s appointment to the top job, it has been rebranded under the new name and its operations expanded, transforming it into a fully-fledged freight forwarding company. Today, it boasts representative offices in most countries in the world and is able to serve a broader range of logistics requirements to its myriad clients operating in retail, wholesale and manufacturing.

“We’re pivoting closer and closer towards our customers. We work hard to foster a sense of trust in what we do, and, while we’re relatively new, this approach has meant we are starting to develop long-lasting relationships with clients who feel they can rely on our word – even if this goes against our interests,” Luke explains.

He gives a practical example: “if a client has booked a shipment with us that is meant to arrive overland on a given Tuesday, for instance, but the truck breaks down en route, we will not wait to communicate this to the client. We will let them know as soon as we know, so we are still on time to offer alternative solutions. We always lay all our cards on the table.”

This nimble approach keeps Luke on his toes. “You can never let your guard down. But what keeps me going is the satisfaction and appreciation we receive from clients after we’ve completed a successful shipment, and after we have built those bonds of trust with them,” he says.

The firm’s dedication to customer satisfaction has been at the core of its operations from the start, and the encouraging results of 2023 have confirmed that the business is on the right track. “We’re a small company, but our ethos focused on customer loyalty allowed us to, last year, witness and enjoy results better than those we had originally projected. The last few months have treated us quite well, and we take it for what it’s worth. We live, to a degree, in the now – but we always have our eye on the horizon.”

Luke would describe his role as that of a chameleon. “Since we are still growing, I handle various aspects of the business, coordinating with our drivers and warehouse packers, as well as with our clients, including business owners, and the multiple suppliers we deal with. I’m adaptable and able to communicate across the board,” he attests.

These abilities have placed him in good stead, proving valuable as he transformed the family business. “When I first inherited the business, it wasn’t doing too well. We were the agents of an Italian operator, specialising mainly in the shipment of fresh and frozen goods, and we had been operational since 1999. However, I soon realised that the company needed to broaden its horizons and take a bolder approach. I believed it had more potential, so we officially rebranded as Eurocargo Logistics and, in 2017- 2018, we started to operate as a freight forwarding firm. Since then, we’ve streamlined the company, added more services and, effectively, turned the company inside out, looking at its strengths and flaws, to reshape it, trim it and strengthen it,” he recalls.

At the beginning of the process, “it was just me and our Head of Finance,” Luke laughs. “It was a struggle even to get away with my family for a few days with the phone ringing non-stop and emails continuously coming in,” he says. Fortunately, since those early days, the team has grown, with a recruitment drive put into place towards the end of 2022. “We had some very nice surprises with the recruits we found. We consider ourselves lucky in this aspect, as the shortage of talent within the workforce is becoming a recurring and worrying problem. However, we were picky and preferred to wait a bit longer and see what was truly out there rather than simply take the first decent option we could find. This strategy has definitely paid off,” the CEO asserts.

The logistics firm’s largest market remains Italy, Luke says, although the company is engaged in expanding further afield. Just last year, the firm successfully started to operate to and from sought-after markets such as China and Turkey. “As a company, we can continue to make larger strides there. The challenges in dealing with these countries include, for instance, the handling of certain commodities. Some items are straightforward – such as manufactured goods – while some might need complex customs clearance procedures, and, in those cases, you have to make sure the shipment leaves the origin country with the right paperwork.”

The firm has also recently launched an exclusive logistics consultancy arm, offering a one-stop shop to potential clients. “This idea actually came about during a meeting with a client, whom we saw grapple with the complexities of a logistics issue they were trying to solve. Instead of trying to upsell our services, we simply went through a possible solution. We saw the struggle, empathised with our client and helped guide them so that they didn’t have to worry unnecessarily. This is when we realised we could fill this particular niche. So instead of sitting across the table from our clients, we prefer to sit beside them, removing that virtual wall. We partner up with them and figure out the backend for them. In doing so, we have full visibility of their challenges and can understand better how to ease the burden,” he explains.

Eurocargo Logistics is also committed to its social responsibility goals, with sustainability at the forefront of its practices. “In mid-2022, we drastically reduced the printing of paper. This was a game-changer, even in terms of our productivity.” However, the company’s engagement in this arena goes beyond in-office changes. “We support various non-governmental organisations, such as Puttinu Cares and the Malta Hospice Movement. We feel our values need to be reflected throughout the company, and these are taken up by our staff too,” he continues.

This year, Luke is intent on continuing to improve the logistics process, and, in this regard, he sees AI as a transformative tool. “I believe that AI will significantly assist in strategic planning for technology adoption to minimise idle time and downtime, and to enhance the efficacy of processes, among others.

The sector has always been volatile; however, he continues, it’s been particularly so post-COVID-19, Brexit and in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “All these factors have been driving prices up and increasing delays. I believe that the freight forwarding and logistics industry has been and still is underestimated. Companies like ours are a vital link to the chain that keep the economy moving and unfortunately, as a result of the aforementioned events, we are among the first to feel the pinch of the upward pressure of prices,” he attests.

In the meantime, the firm also has a ‘few spinning plates’ for 2024, with an eye on promising markets within which to expand. “We’re always looking into how to grow, so our drive over the next few months is to extend Eurocargo Logistics’ presence across local industries,” the CEO says, “thereby improving our status and solidifying our position as a logistics partner of repute.”

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2024 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders

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