Transcom Sharaf – Expanding Horizons
Transcom Sharaf, a specialized freight forwarding and logistics service company operating in the southern African region, is ready to grasp new opportunities.
Headquartered in Beira, Mozambique, Transcom Sharaf has developed into a reliable provider of fast and secure shipping, clearance, transport, and warehousing services to support its customers in southern Africa.
As part of the UAE-based Sharaf Group, the company operates offices in Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, with most of its 350 staff based in Beira.
“Regionally, Beira is best-placed for the exports out of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe that were previously shipped via Durban in South Africa. We started here 15 years ago when the place was really underdeveloped, and basically established trucking capacity in the country from scratch,” says General Manager Justin Jahme.
Since then, a lot has changed. The company became engaged with Universal Tobacco, which was just opening its production in Tete in Mozambique and was looking to move its tobacco from Tete to the port of Beira, the closest exit point. Transcom was soon providing that service with 350 trucks. Freight forwarding was a natural addition, later becoming the core business.
Justin points out that business development was significantly boosted by the partnership with Sharaf – a major investment was made in warehouses and general business expansion, making the company what it is today: one of the leading freight forwarders in the southern African region, with top-level hygiene and efficiency standards backed by advanced technology.
The company also became very resilient, able to handle the string of continuing challenges that have occurred over the last few years in an already challenging environment, heavily agriculture-based and riddled with political instability.
In 2019, the region was severely hit by the Idai cyclone, followed by two further smaller yet still damaging cyclones, arriving just at the onset of the global pandemic. Once the Covid-19 restrictions seemed to be lifting, world shipping was hit again, this time by the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
Justin Jahme says: “After expanding at a massive rate in 2016-2019, we had to put the brakes on, and focus on consolidation and internal improvements. One of our big advantages is that we have a very non-corporate, flat management structure. This allows each senior manager to make rapid decisions – and that’s exactly what you need to survive and flourish in this part of the world.”
Today, the company offers a variety of services from bulk vessel handling, container handling, collateral warehouse management, custom clearance and more. The Beira facilities are located 6 km from Beira Port and are spread across an area of 283,000 m², housing 30,000 m² of warehousing, all equipped with automated fire protection and CCTV cameras for added security of clients’ cargo.
The facility also has 20,000 m² of hardstanding split between its 2 adjacent sites, that can be dedicated to container storage and the stuffing and de-stuffing of various products, and there are plans to increase this capacity by a further 10,000 m².
Advanced technology has been another competitive advantage of Transcom Sharaf. Justin explains that the company has partnered with the international fumigation company Eco2 to provide a high-quality level of fumigation for its clients, and as one of the very few companies worldwide is using advanced pioneering technologies in the form of wireless sensors to read and record fumigation readings throughout the fumigation cycle.
For transportation from the customers’ premises to Beira, the company uses over 30 registered and approved transporters who combined have over 2,000 trucks between them. “At any given time, we have hundreds of trucks that are in rotation, moving various commodities for our clients between Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe,” says Justin.
Local Knowledge, Local Competence
Still, the most important asset is of a different kind. “All the machinery and equipment would be worthless without the people. Any business success is about getting the right people and creating an environment where everyone is comfortable and able to do what they want to do and do it the right way. I believe we have done that. We have a very high staff retention rate – we have people who have been with us for 10 years, something unheard of in Mozambique, a country where people move away for an extra 20 dollars.”
He admitted that it was not easy to find an educated, qualified workforce in Mozambique a few years ago but the standard of education has now improved greatly. “Many of our key positions are now taken by locals and having skilled labour has allowed us to offer a higher degree of specialisation, something increasingly required by customers.”
Tobacco still remains the top commodity for Transcom – what started as handling 20% of the Mozambican tobacco crop has become 99%. The tobacco is shipped to different clients around the world and Transcom Sharaf keeps on top of all the changing requirements, providing dedicated treatment to the utmost satisfaction of the clients.
Diversified for the Future
Justin revealed that the company has recently been looking at other commodities, in order to have a firmer footing, and has found an exciting opportunity in handling vermiculite from Zimbabwe.
“We have tailor-created a logistics plan for a fairly new company that has massive market power supplying its products all over the world. Shipping was holding them back and now that we have stepped in, their production could triple next year if we continue to ship it out at the same pace.”
“We have also been approached by the Zimbabwe citrus growers horticultural producers, discussing opportunities in fresh produce shipping – Beira offers a convenient exit point not only to Europe but also to the Middle and Far East. Mozambique avocado growers have recently contacted us for the same reason.”
To be ready to accommodate these new opportunities, the company has just purchased another sixteen and a half hectares of land, making Transcom Sharaf by far the biggest single site in Beira, further improving the company’s competitiveness.
“We have just started land clearing and are looking to build a bulk facility for products designed for export,” said Justin. “With these emerging new opportunities and the growth potential this region has to offer, the future looks truly exciting.”