In September 2016, we imported our first vessel: 35,000 tons of natural gypsum, to our bulk distribution center in the Republic of Congo. Within that shipment, we included gypsum intended for four multinational cement companies, each with local factories.
We surprised local stevedores by bringing in the gypsum vessel itself and, in an empty hold, the equipment to discharge the materials ourselves. We discharged the equipment — three hoppers — from the vessel, then we discharged the gypsum onto the hoppers. Once in-land, our team managed all the logistics up to the factories, including the storage in our two-hectare port platform.
For our customers to be able to procure these relatively large quantities, we also developed a smart payment model. In this “consumption payment” model, customers minimize stock at their plants and pay for materials when they’re dispatched from our warehouse. This enables customers to use their sales cash to pay for materials. The payments are done to our local company, in the local currency, to minimize the payment cycle time and to provide greater convenience.
With this unique model, these inaugural customers saved up to $20 per ton compared to previous smaller cargo imports — and all of them still leverage our end-to-end services for their bulk raw material needs.
“I listened to the local cement companies expanding on their needs, took over my pregnant wife’s desk and moved it to the living room (as more comfortable than in the garage), designed a supply-chain solution, and persisted to finally convince four direct competitors to add value to each other – by grouping their cargos in a single vessel, and subsequently a single stock storage solution. Port authorities immediately understood the advantages of a professional supply-chain solution, in terms of reduced congestion, storage space requirements and carbon footprint.”
Chief Executive Officer
While sourcing this initial gypsum vessel, we discovered Morocco had a large reserve of natural gypsum that could be used for exports — at that time, very few high-quality bulk materials were exported from Morocco. We quickly set to work, building out a quality management system that not only overcame common sourcing and exporting challenges but, also, ensured we exceeded international standards for seaborne natural gypsum. From there, we set the wheels in motion on our Moroccan export supply chain, delivering natural gypsum globally, including to the world’s largest cement groups.
We exported more than 100,000 tons the first year, while also establishing our international trade, chartering and maritime operations. Our first large vessel, MV Charlotte, was chartered in November 2017.
Throughout 2018 and 2019 our customer base — and our bulk raw materials capabilities — diversified and expanded, and we began sourcing and chartering clinker, limestone, and coal. We introduced two new distribution centers, in the Ivory Coast and Cameroon, following the request of our loyal customers in these countries who required the same service they had in the Republic of Congo. Here, our expert teams oversee end-to-end supply chains, from sourcing at the supplier site up to warehouse delivery at the end-user factory. With an eye on services to suppliers, we also fostered partnerships with gypsum and limestone suppliers in Tunisia and Morocco.
In 2020, we successfully faced the COVID crisis, demonstrating the strength of our business model, and started the implementation of a scalable organization in terms of human resources and systems.
During this time, we also decided to make our biggest shift to date: moving from a traditional “buy-and-sell” to a marketplace and service provider model. This pivot helps us provide greater transparency to stakeholders while strengthening our value-added services throughout the entire supply chain.