“If we detect a visual problem during the loading we urgently inform our customer at any hour of the day and step in. In this way, our customer knows that his products arrived as it is expected without going to the port. For this reason, we underline that inspection is not an extra cost, it is rather an added-value for the trade.”
We have made a very pleasing and informative talk with the Bahar Söner, Deputy General Manager and Inspection Manager of Control Union, Netherlands-based inspection company. Bahar Söner said that Control Union is giving inspection service both during loading and discharge in international grain and feed trade and explained how they are closely keeping an eye on the products of their customers who they are continuously providing information. Söner said some companies which want to decrease their expenses consider inspection as an extra cost and explained why this is a misguided plan: “In case you realize you have taken the delivery of damaged products, you will suffer a loss tens of times more than the amount you thought you saved avoiding inspection service.” The manager said they did not outsource the staff services and each employee is being qualified through the training provided by the company. Reminding that the grain and feed trade are subject to GAFTA (Grain and Feed Trade Association) standards, Söner warned the grain and feed trader companies to pay attention whether the documents they get have evidentiary value in the international courts.
Ms. Söner, can you briefly introduce your firm?
Control Union is a Netherlands-based inspection and documentation company established in 1920 and it has been carrying on business in Turkey since 2001. It has an experience of around 100 years. It is a hundred percent Dutch-invested company affiliated with Peterson Holding established by Peterson family. In Turkey, we are around 120 employees. In Turkey, we have certification department as well. As for the global scale, we have a freight forwarding department, department of oil rig logistics all of which are affiliated with Peterson Holding. Control Union is a company giving service in many industries. Among the businesses conducted in Turkey, there are control and certification for organic farming and textile. Apart from those, we are giving laboratory services. Control Union has been giving inspection service in Turkey for around 20 years now.
Across the world, we are conducting business in more than 70 countries. We are giving service through our agencies in the countries where we do not have a headquarter. I can say that there is barely anywhere out of our reach thanks to the global network we have. As for the inspection, we are giving services such as quantity controls of all commodities on behalf of the seller and the buyer, quality controls, and damage assessment.
What are the problems you face about the inspection in grain and feed trade in Turkey? What are the solutions you offer to these problems?
Since the inspection service starts from the loading port, the companies in Turkey assign us for the loads at the loading ports. And we are getting into contact with our office there, and taking samples from the product during the loading. This has standards for sure. Feed is subject to GAFTA standards. If we detect a visual problem during the loading, we urgently inform our customer at any hour of the day and step in. In this way, our customer knows that his products arrived as it is expected without going to the port. We are conducting quality control services and checking whether the products comply with the specifications in the contracts of our customers with our GAFTA-accredited laboratories very quickly and give feedback to our customers. The temperature and moisture level of the product is very important in order to avoid harm because during the cruise the products are exposed to heat and humidity both due to storage and air conditions. We also check these and provide insight. In case the product is directly loaded into a ship despite its high temperature coming from the production, a decrease in quality may occur due to the increase in the temperature and humid in the lazaret. For this reason, we behave very careful in such conditions and try hard to protect our customers from negative conditions. Another service that we provide during the loading is quantity control. We conduct the controls at the weighbridges and give information to our customers about the real weight. We closely watch the process and continuously inform the customers.
In case of a problem about products, do you step in and interfere?
Our function is inspection and notification. In problematic situations, we prepare a letter of protest as evidence in order to safeguard our customer’s rights. Of course, the key point here is notifying the customer quickly about the problem. The customer submits the document we provide to his shipper and this is how he or she interferes.
‘WE HAVE PROVIDE CONTINOUS
What are the services you provide during the discharge of the delivered product?
During the discharge, we check whether there is any damage similarly. We have staff all across Turkey. We hold no brief for hiring workers from outside the company and send them to the port. All of them are our personnel. All of them are trained and have the necessary equipment. They are measuring the temperature and moisture of the products in the lazaret. We have to provide our customers with a continuous flow of information. Our main job is information flow during both loading and discharge. So, being off the clock is out of the question in our job.
THERE IS NO ROOM FOR UNSKILLED
STAFF IN OUR JOB
You said you are not hiring workers from outside the company. In general, we hear some complaints about the lack of skilled workers from flour and feed companies. How do you conduct training within the structure of the company?
There is no room for unskilled staff in our job. Some companies are working with tallymen. They may also work with people who they did not train and follow up by giving them day wages. We are employing workers in each region and undertake their training as well as OHS considering safety is crucial in the ports and ships. We employ them and send them to the ports and factories as our own personnel.
‘EVERYTHING HAS TO CONFORM
WITH THE GAFTA STANDARDS’
A couple of minutes ago, you mentioned that there is barely anywhere out of your reach on the global scale. On the other hand, you are a Netherlands-based company. Where are the places you are operating densely and that are comparatively untouched regions from your point of view?
We are not that busy in Africa since the space for events is limited there. We supervise plenty of feed and soybean meal loading in Argentina and Brazil. Apart from that, we are carrying on a lot of business in the Black Sea. We are so busy in the Black Sea due to the business in Russia, Ukraine, and Romania.
GAFTA is setting the standards for grain and feed trade for both the traders and those who somehow get involved in this trade. Otherwise, the samples you obtain from the product are no better than garbage. Likewise, the laboratory in which you conduct analyses and quality control has to be in conformity with GAFTA standards. Sending the product to an ordinary lab and saying “the quality level is this” is meaningless. We have obtained all the necessary accreditation within this circle in Russia, Ukraine, Romania, and Turkey.
‘WE ARE A CLASS-A INSPECTION COMPANY’
Can you give information about your expectations in Turkey? What are the things to be done in this regard?
We think more qualified personnel should be hired in the sector. Very significant standards are applied to us. And some specific regulations are carried into effect about hazardous material transport and sea trade inspection authorization certificate. However, we have some problems in the implementation phase of these standards. You cannot carry out inspection business in Turkey if you don’t have inspection authority in foreign trade. Still, we are hearing about some firms that are conducting inspection in the ports without holding the required authorization. The sector has to get rid of the people called ‘helper’. We are accredited by Turkish Accreditation Agency (TÜRKAK) in almost all areas that we carry on business within the context of inspection. We are a class-A inspection company. And this brings a level of quality as well as certain liabilities and certain costs.
What kind of advantages do you provide the companies? What kind of problems do the importer companies come across with?
When you don’t retain inspection you can be deceived in certain ways. What are these? For example, you are buying oil meal. It may be loaded with rubbish. Its quality may be lower than the level specified in the contract. This may cause the money you paid to be wasted. We remember winnowing out foreign substances and nylon bags from the oil meals. We have even heard that there were parts of a human body in a product shipped from India. We are taking samples from them and save our customers from such incidents. There is a transaction called “draft survey”: a calculation by looking at the logic “the difference between the empty weight and gross weight depending on certain calculations is the product weight“. Together with this calculation, we try to verify the weighbridges. Draft survey depends on very serious calculations. The performer has to be qualified.
To mention another service of ours, we are checking the lazaret cleaning. For instance, the previous load of the ship may be coal or the lazaret may be moldy. The very same ship is going to load your product now. Although, this is not something we usually experience in feed, just think that there are pieces of mold in your feed for a second. Dyestuff and moldy pieces decrease the quality and value of your feed, increases the level of foreign substances and make its appearance worse. Winnowing these out is a crucial problem. We are conducting lots of controls like this. Until your product is delivered to your factory, it goes through a chain of controls.
Let’s say, you are not an industrialist but a trader. You are importing oil meals from Argentina and Brazil. Such companies tell us that ‘we are going store our products in so-and-so warehouse’. Then we go to that warehouse and check the suitability and cleanness of it. We are checking everything without excepting the roof.
Do you also afford a guaranty at that point?
We are issuing reports. I conduct the inspection of a warehouse. However, something bad may happen in the warehouse after that transaction is completed. For example, a crack may occur in the roof. We cannot give a guaranty for that.
Let me clarify my question. What kind of a responsibility do you take in case there is an incidence escaping the attention in the product that has supervised and approved?
There is liabilities insurance of big inspection companies for this. All in all, we are human. Anyone can make mistakes. We are not robots. In case of a possible negative incidence, liabilities insurances of big companies may become active. Fortunately, we have not activated any liabilities insurance of ours up until now. Well, do not we come across with some small problems? Of course, we do. However, we try to eliminate them within ourselves. And this is an advantage of working with an accredited company which really has a global network.
THE DOCUMENTS MUST HAVE EVIDENTIAL VALUE
What is the situation when you compare the prices with Europe?
The prices are not lower than the European standards. There is a substantial difference between the supervisor working in the Europe and Turkey. There substantial difference between what we pay in Turkey and what we get in Europe. The work done is the same, yet the prices are very different.
Turkish companies are not aware of the importance of GAFTA. They do not know how to behave and apply for arbitration in case of damage. The inspection companies have to be approved and registered in the Undersecretariat of Foreign Trade of the Ministry of Economy. However, in some regions, some companies lacking any kind of authorization certificates somehow can carry on business without being approved by the Undersecretariat of Foreign Trade or accredited by TÜRKAK. The documents these companies issue may leave them in the lurch because documents given by unauthorized companies are not official. On the contrary, the documents we prepare have evidential value in the international courts. You can prove your claim only through these documents. We expect the state to increase the enforcement in this field. We demand a standard to be developed.
ALLOCATING SOURCE FOR
INSPECTION IS NOT WASTING MONEY
Do you want to add anything?
I want to highlight this for the firms. Inspection is not an extra cost it is rather an added-value for the trade. We feel bad when we hear the firms saying “We are trying to decrease our costs, we are trying to cut down extra expenses” because this is not an extra cost. In case you realize you have taken the delivery of farmed products, you will suffer a loss tens of times more than the amount you thought you saved avoiding inspection service.
In our sector, there are some people called ‘helper’ who do not have any investments. They do not have personnel cost, give some small amount of money to an ordinary person or a friend and tell him to do the job. This person takes bills of weight and issues a weight certificate. However, he doesn’t even know the state of the product, whether it is stolen or damaged.