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UK digital freight forwarder Beacon closes $15 million Series A fundraise, with investment from Jeff Bezos

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UK digital freight forwarder Beacon closes $15 million Series A fundraise, with investment from Jeff Bezos. Image: Wikimedia/ Geni
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London-based Beacon, the next generation freight forwarding and supply chain finance company, has raised over $15 million in its Series A fundraising round, with investors including Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, and leading US venture capital firm 8VC.

Beacon was founded in 2018 by CEO Fraser Robinson and COO Dmitri Izmailov, both former Uber executives. They were joined by CTO Pierre Martin, previously at Amazon, bringing together a management team with deep expertise in logistics, technology, finance and hyper-growth, which is committed to radically simplifying how companies import and export goods globally.

The freight forwarding and supply chain finance industries are worth an estimated $1 trillion and $12 trillion a year, respectively, with the former still a highly fragmented market in which the top ten forwarders globally control just 43%. Many of the logistics incumbents have been slow to digitise, and with fewer than 30% of shippers being satisfied with the customer service they receive, the industry is ripe for disruption.

Beacon already has an established customer base and is growing rapidly, with a mission to become a global leader in logistics and supply chain finance by making trade simpler, more transparent and more reliable for businesses. It offers a full range of services, including global ocean, air and truck freight, together with supply chain finance, all of which can be accessed and managed on a single platform.

The company uses best-in-class AI, search, optimisation, data science, cloud and automation technologies to unlock significant operational efficiencies. The platform combines a real-time view of the global delivery of cargo and a marketplace view of global shipping costs and prices, all powered by machine learning that optimises shipping routes and processes for improved cost, speed and predictability.

Beacon’s supply chain finance offering sets it apart from traditional freight forwarders by helping to solve one of the biggest challenges faced by importers today – cash flow. Suppliers often demand payment before goods are shipped and, with months-long shipment times, importers need flexible finance to meet their working capital needs. To address this, Beacon offers qualifying customers financing within 72 hours, which also entitles them to shipping discounts.

Participants in Beacon’s initial seed round included Uber founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, as well as venture firms such as Neo, Red Sea Ventures, Mantaray and FJ Labs. The money raised in this Series A round will be invested in new hires, technology and market expansion.

Beacon co-founder and CEO Fraser Robinson said:

“Beacon has attracted investment from some of the best minds in business and technology. The traditional freight forwarder model remains surprisingly analogue, using systems and processes that are slow and inefficient, with opaque pricing and limited use of technology.

Our goal is to disrupt the trillion-dollar freight forwarder market by vastly improving the experience for importers and exporters with a more transparent and smarter shipping product. We also believe that our ability to offer supply chain finance can be transformative for our customers by allowing them to better control and manage their cash flow.
We have built a team with deep expertise in technology, logistics and finance in a short period of time – these new funds will enable us to continue to strengthen that team and invest in our technology, while also increasing our international presence.
With digitalisation accelerating globally as a result of COVID-19, we believe the future of the traditional freight forwarder is more precarious than ever. Shippers are seeking technology-led products and services that will meet their needs more effectively, enhance their experience and cut their costs. We look forward to meeting that demand.”

Freight Forwarding

Freight association welcomes further funding for customs training

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Freight association welcomes further funding for customs training. Image: Pixabay
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The British International Freight Association, the trade association that represents UK freight forwarding and logistics companies, says that it hopes the package of measures unveiled by HMRC recently to accelerate growth of the UK’s customs intermediary sector is successful.

Director General, Robert Keen says: “Whilst we welcome the additional funding, as we did when the first two rounds of funding were announced, we can only keep our fingers crossed that it produces the thousands of additional customs experts that the government agrees will be needed come January 1st 2021.

“During our regular meetings with both HMRC and HM Treasury, BIFA has highlighted the concerns of our members regarding the capability of the Customs brokerage sector to increase capacity, at a time when that sector already faces a huge shortage of staff of suitable quality.

“We have regularly emphasised that it could take up to a year to train staff to be fully conversant to prepare a range of basic Customs declarations, even if there was a sufficient number of trainers to train those staff, as well as relevant courses for them to attend.

“Clearly the Government is finally getting the message that increased capacity in this sector will be important whatever our future relationship with the EU.”

The scheme represents a new round of funding for employee training and IT improvements for customs intermediaries, traders and hauliers that make customs declarations to help them prepare ahead on January 1st 2021.

BIFA says the new funding could be used to support a business that is extending and taking on new staff, or to help train an existing employee to start completing customs declarations for the company.

Training can be delivered by an external provider, or an in-house trainer.

As one of the largest providers of Customs-related training courses, BIFA decided to replicate almost its entire course range and deliver it via video conferencing, due to the Covid-19 crisis preventing face-to-face training.

Keen concludes: “Government guidance allows furloughed employees to engage in training, provided that whilst undertaking the training the employee does not provide service to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of, their organisation.

“Hence, we are encouraging members that have furloughed employees to take advantage of the additional funding that has been made available by applying for it to finance some of BIFA’s online Customs training opportunities for those employees, as well as employees that have not been furloughed.”

BIFA understands that HMRC will unveil more details in due course and is reminding its members that applications for the new funding will be open from July 2020.

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Freight Forwarding

CEVA Logistics acquires AMI Worldwide

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CEVA Logistics acquires AMI Worldwide. Image: Pexels
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CEVA Logistics is launching a three-part expansion plan for the African market, through which it aims to become a leading, continent-wide market player.

With the acquisition of AMI Worldwide, CEVA Logistics is accelerating its expansion in East and Southern Africa

CEVA Logistics has acquired a controlling shareholding in AMI Worldwide, a third-party logistics provider with an extensive network in East and Southern Africa, which has more than 100 years of expertise in the region.

Effective July 1st, the AMI Worldwide office network in 12 countries in East and Southern Africa and its almost 1,000 employees will join the CEVA global network. They will provide a platform for further investment and expansion throughout the continent, with the objective of offering CEVA’s customers a seamless network, facilitating cargo movement within Africa and strengthening trade ties with the rest of the world.

CEVA Logistics is integrating three CMA CGM Inland Services facilities and opening its own new operations

Three CMA CGM Inland Services (CCIS) facilities are also joining CEVA’s network in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. These intermodal sites provide a launch platform for the company’s freight management ambitions. They offer freight forwarding services in addition to their full range of inland solutions related to container fleet management and ocean freight value-added services such as “Reefer” (refrigerated container) management services, stuffing and de-stuffing of containers, dry port and container depot functions. These entities keep their close relationship with CEVA’s parent company, the CMA CGM Group, a world leader in shipping and logistics, which enjoys a historically strong continental presence.

CEVA is also expanding in Mauritania, where a direct presence has been established with extensive expertise in transit corridor operations, and in Ethiopia, where a new joint venture with MACFAA will be integrated into the CEVA network once all regulatory approvals are obtained.

CEVA presses ahead to achieve its goal of becoming a market leader in Africa

With these new strategic investments, CEVA is greatly expanding its capabilities in Africa, where it is able to provide a full range of logistics services to meet the rapid growth of the retail and consumer goods markets there. Simultaneously, it is able to link its customers to its strong global network alongside its best-in-class services and unmatched expertise.

In total, CEVA Logistics in Africa will represent:

  • A presence in 41 countries through 79 offices;
  • 1,300 staff members;
  • 19 full-service warehouses providing 135,000 square meters of storage capacity;
  • A fleet of 1,500 trucks

Mathieu Friedberg, Chief Executive Officer – CEVA Logistics, states: “Businesses across the African continent enjoy significant growth prospects and logistics solutions are crucial to materializing these opportunities, by ensuring supply chains work well and trade flows run smoothly. With our strategic, continental expansion plan, CEVA will play an integral part in supporting the continent’s socio-economic emergence, offering our customers our full range of tailored, innovative solutions along with our recognized expertise and our operational excellence. In so doing, we aim to become a leading, continent-wide market player. From December 2020, CEVA Logistics will become the single brand representing all our activities in Africa.”

Countries served directly by CEVA in Africa now comprise:

  • West coast: Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania
  • Central Africa: Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Southern Africa: Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe
  • Eastern Africa: Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda

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Air Freight

Rhenus Air & Ocean opens new Liège Airport hub

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Rhenus Air & Ocean opens new Liège Airport hub. Image: Rhenus Logistics
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Rhenus Air & Ocean has opened a new hub at Liège Airport, as part of a strategic move that sees the company position itself perfectly within the ‘golden triangle’ between Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris. The new hub, which offers a portfolio of freight forwarding solutions, expands the company’s global air freight network.

Handling more than 900,000 tonnes of transported goods every year, Liège Airport is the fastest-growing cargo airport in Europe. A multitude of large airfreight and charter lines, such as Qatar Airways and AirBridgeCargo, use LGG as a European gateway to the rest of the world. 

Frank Roderkerk, CEO of Rhenus Air & Ocean Northern Europe, comments: “In addition to attractive flight schedules, LGG has excellent multimodal connections. This will enable us to offer customers more air and rail freight products, as well as sea freight products in the future. Several trains a week connect Liège with China along the land bridge, including Yiwu and Zhengzhou.” 

Future plans for the new Rhenus Air & Ocean Liège hub will see goods transported via key air, ocean and rail routes, while customs clearance and fiscal representation capabilities will also be available. In addition to its new hub, Rhenus offers the storage of goods within its Belgium network in the ports of Genk, Antwerp and Brussels and at Brucargo.

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