Mainfreights Don Braid says Russian operations had to close

Mainfreight’s staff and business in Russia, Ukraine and Europe have been impacted by the war, managing director Don Braid says.

The company has a small office in Kyiv which is now down to two staff from the dozen or so in 2020 as people have left the country or gone to war.

And Braid said the company’s staff in Romania helped Ukrainians to get out after Russia invaded Ukraine.

“Our people in Romania did marvellous things, helping not only those who work for us that needed to leave but also to rescue relatives and/or pets,” he told the Herald.

“Sad but we have been to assist them where possible.

“The Ukraine people that worked for us that wanted to leave Ukraine, we have been able to assist to get over the border and where possible, we’ve either found them housing and/or jobs with us in varying other countries that we have in Europe like Romania, Poland and the Netherlands.”

Braid said Mainfreight’s operations in Moscow and St Petersburg have had to close.
That meant redundancy for 26 loyal people and having to wear the additional cost to close the business down.

He said the New Zealand sanctions had not required the business to shut down in Russia but it was the right thing to do.

“The business that we had in Russia operated mostly for trade from the rest of our network outside of New Zealand and Australia but it is very difficult to access when you have no access to banking facilities and the likes. It became the right thing to do.”

The third impact of the war was a driver shortage across Europe because many freight drivers were Ukrainian and many had returned to Ukraine to defend their country against Russia.

“As a consequence of all of that you’ve got air freight delays, you’ve got energy cost increases, you’ve got a shortage of manufactured goods, particularly automotive products that come out of the Ukraine.”

Mainfreight operates in 10 countries in Europe: UK, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Romania, Poland and Ukraine and the supply chain had been disrupted.

“We have had to work closely with our customers to ensure that we still have capacity to help where driver shortages are limiting that capacity but as typical with Mainfreight people, they have got on and done the job and we still remain in a good position and are still positive about what is in front of us in Europe,” he said.

But he was disappointed that Air New Zealand had not restored its service to London.

Earlier this week, Braid, when speaking at the US Business Summit organised by the Auckland Business Chamber and NZINC, identified a positive from the past few years.

“What I think is a good thing … is that cargo has finally made it to the board room,” he said.

“Cargo kept Air NZ moving and has probably kept a lot of other airlines moving too. Now it is seen as a really, really important part of the global growth strategy.”

Research he had seen suggested normal passenger levels would be back to 2019 levels by 2025, but air freight was likely to be 30 per cent more by 2025.

“So we would encourage Air NZ to invest in a few more freighters as well as more belly space and whilst the US market is an important market for all of us, I’m not quite sure that the decision not to go to Europe or continue is the right one.”

Mainfreight is a listed New Zealand company that began 44 years ago. It operates in about 25 countries and has about 9000 staff.

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