We’re embarking on a significant period of growth within our marine department at Certas Energy. We’re serving more and more UK and International customers from our physical bunkering locations at Aberdeen, Tyne and our brand new Thames facility, and in order to sustain that growth it’s crucial that we have the right people – people that understand the importance we place on service quality and reliability for our customers.
With that in mind, we’ve very recently added an experienced trader by the name of Benedict Barlow to our bunker trading team with the primary responsibility of serving our customers in the south of England. We sat down with him to find out a bitmore about his background and what the new role entails:
What are your responsibilities on a day-to-day basis as a bunker trader?
We’ve already got some fantastic customers here so a big part of my role is ensuring that they’re happy and get everything they need from us. That means organising fuel deliveries; liaising with customers regularly and ensuring their fuel arrives on time. We’re focused on offering best-in-class products and services to our customers so that’s of paramount importance.
In terms of growth, my primary area of focus is the south of England and particularly the Thames where we have got a brand new storage facility in operation. I’m helping to promote that facility and resource to the wider shipping industry, pricing the product competitively with our risk department and taking enquiries from prospective customers. There’s large capacity in the Thames region and strong demand that we can capitalise on so I’m keen to reach out to the wider industry and make sure people know about our offering there.
You’ve been at Certas Energy for almost two months now but where were you working before joining us?
I’ve spent the last two years working for Glander International Bunkering, operating out of their Geneva office. I actually grew up in Switzerland and lived over there for many years so I’d already established some good relationships in that part of the world and can speak fluent English, French and German. The opportunity to work in Switzerland presented itself and it was just too good to turn down at the time.
What attracted you to join the team at Certas Energy?
Certas Energy was a business I had always been aware of due to the excellent working relationship we shared during my time at Glander International Bunkering. Certas Energy were always willing to assist with even the most complex requests and this was a quality which attracted me to them. Along with the fact that I already knew a number of the team members in the department, it made a lot of sense to make the move.
Despite my love for Geneva, I’d always harboured ambitions of coming back to work in the UK and before joining Glander I worked for an offshore shipbroker based just outside of London. I think that’s when I really developed an affinity for working in the UK.
How much value do you place on establishing personal relationships with customers?
A huge amount! It’s much a part of this job as trading – maintaining those relationships is really important and shipping is quite an old fashioned industry in many ways so there’s nothing better than face-to-face meetings.
People like the familiarity of knowing who it is they’re working with and they want someone they can trust – a safe pair of hands. Personal relationships are built and kept for years as long as you get things right, and there’s very little margin for error in this industry. Some people have been using the same traders or same bunker suppliers for 20-30 years because they know them and trust them to do a good job. Certas Energy is quite a new player in the market but long-term relationships give you a great foundation to build on.
How can Certas Energy Marine continue to build on its success and increase its market share?
We’ve got the capabilities to support every type of bunkering need and we have a clear vision for us to become the industry’s ‘one stop shop’ for marine fuels and lubricants. We’ve also made some significant investments – the Thames facility being the most recent – and there are some incredibly exciting plans in the pipeline too.
On a personal level, I think I can support the growth here through working with the contacts I already have in the sector and by being proactive meeting our existing customers and potential customers. Relationship management is one of the keys to success in a role like this and I’ll be working hard to build on all the good work that’s come before me.
Working in a cost sensitive environment, what can you do to stand out from your competitors?
Cost definitely plays a part but I think when customers are dealing with the supplier directly, they’re more interested in the service that’s provided so that’s a big part of it. Having a fuel truck there on time to deliver the product is just as important as saving money on fuel, so having almost 1,000 fuel tankers across the UK is a great selling point.
At Certas Energy we’ve also got a wide range of products compared to some of the other physical suppliers in the UK, and I think that’s an attractive option for potential customers.