GFG Investigates the Panama Canal Expansion – in person …



“The GFG investigates the world’s most logistic location – the Panama Canal – for its annual conference …

GFG Group Administrator, Rachel Marchant, reports on the Panama conference, 25 – 28 September 2016

With the build up to #GFGPanama16 growing, I’m sure there were many outside the GFG who were waiting to see what this hashtag related to.  Well, we’re pleased to report it was a resounding success!  Read below for the full report…

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Panama – a cultural, welcoming country at a cross-road of canal, continents and even climate!

“The weather in Panama is bi-polar” was possibly the best local introduction to a country that I’ve experienced.  It encapsulated the seasonal variations and proved to be absolutely true.

Admittedly #GFGPanama16 landed right in the middle of the rainy season.  However, ‘rainy’ was an understatement.  The rain literally blocked out buildings, trees and even the sea.  It was a wall of water, not just rain.  Then the sun came out again and Panama’s alter ego returned – sun sparkling everywhere as it the city had just been spring cleaned.

The #GFGPanama16 says it all – the GFG’s annual conference for 2016 was held in Panama.  It brought together over 60 top class freight forwarding companies to take part in the Global Freight Group event.

Many of the original founding members still remain in the membership, proud to have founded a group which values quality over quantity.  At our conferences members are not lost amongst the masses but are each valued individually in what has become a gathering of friends who do business with each other.  Trust and friendship provides the reliability of service required.

This conference we welcomed two new members in key locations – Los Angeles and Guatemala. Over the years, the GFG has sought to increase its presence in Central and South American and was delighted to welcome Lina Vinchira of ASE Logyca for her first conference. Although originally from Colombia, Lina moved to Guatemala where she set up her own freight forwarding business. She loves Guatemala but was also happy to catch up with three fellow Colombians representing MAP Cargo at our conference.  (Linna is lower left in the image below)



Karen West (lower right in above image) represented her company Earth Cargo Inc, attending as a prospective member, wishing to experience the conference and meet the members to weigh up the benefits of joining the GFG. We were delighted that her positive experience and the resulting potential for business encouraged her to join us as a member. Below: during a break in the meetings, members gather to compare opinions and comment.


Below: The cocktail party is the first social non-work event and members look forward to welcoming back old friends and meeting new ones. This year, along with many friends, we welcomed newbies from Guatemala – Linna Vinchira – and Los Angeles – Karen West.


The face-to-face sales meetings are where the members get down to serious business. It’s a chance to keep up with each other’s services, the latest trends and regulations in each other’s countries and generally develop business between their companies.

Below you can see meetings between Helka (China) and MAP (Colombia) on top right, Leo (Thailand) and CLand (Sweden) bottom right and Hansaeng (South Korea) and DAC (Panama) bottom left.


Below: With windows offering a marvellous panoramic view across the Panama Bay, members enjoyed their lunch with a view, along with great company and delicious food.


The GFG members naturally congregate so, even if you start off alone, you won’t be alone for long.

Below: Members join each other in conversation and business plans in various scenarios – formal, informal and social. For this reason the GFG also stands for the Global Friends Group – famous for its welcoming attitude.


Members gather on the stairs for a quick group photo – oh, and to shout ‘Happy Birthday’ to one member’s daughter!


We’re a family after all so we appreciate the importance of keeping in touch even from the other side of the world.

Below: As you can see below, the GFG members were fascinated by the canal. If you put 100 freight forwarders in a restaurant overlooking the biggest most famous canal in the world, you to have to expect them to ignore the food – at least for an hour or so! Above: the Miraflores Locks on the Pacific end of the canal.


Below: Ronaldo Buchanan of DAC Transport, the local host for the GFG conference, addressed the GFG members, thanking them for visiting his country.


Over the years the GFG has developed two awards to recognise worthy members and their employees.

The President’s Award is chosen by the incumbent President and this year Ilan Fidler presented it to the GFG’s member for North China, Headwin Logistics.

Another very popular award, created by a former GFG President, Les Allan, is the Operator of the Year Award. It recognises the employees within the member companies who, on a daily basis, work hard to provide an excellent service to other member companies. Helka Global Logistics have the most highly and frequently nominated employees and so, when their very popular owner, PK Ki, sadly passed away, the award was renamed in honour of him, and his company’s achievements. Thus we now have the PK Ki Operator of the Year Award.

This year, the award was shared between two equally voted upon employees: Ida Cheung of Helka Global Logistics and Wanderson H Pereira of ARI Shipping Florida. Ida had been invited to attend the Panama conference by her boss, Ms Sharon Ki, as a reward for her previous nomination and subsequent win of the award in 2016. It was perfect for her to be able to receive the award in person in front of the appreciative GFG members.


In 2014 the GFG celebrated 20 years of membership, business and friendship. At that point it became apparent how many companies had joined and stayed with the GFG during much of that time. As recognition for this loyalty, we designed and presented the first of a now annual recognition award. Members were presented with 5 year, 10 year, 15 year and 20 year awards at the 2016 conference in Seoul. (read Seoul conference report)

In Panama, we awarded the second round of awards, covering members who had now reached the 5, 10 and 20 year milestone.

The awards were presented to the following:

5 Year Award for:
– MAP Cargo, Colombia
– Meacher Global Logistics, UK
– Posey International, Texas USA
– ScanGlobal Finland OY, Finland

10 Year Award for:
– Universal Logistics, Illinois USA

20 Year Award for:
– Eagle Express Lines, Philippines
– Del Corona & Scardigli Srl, Italy (sea freight)
– Esse Emme Srl, Italy (air freight)
– Globe Cargo, Germany
– TFI Global, Australia and New Zealand
– Vogel Transport, Brazil


Following the conference I always arrange a day trip for members so they have a chance to appreciate their surroundings outside the hotel and conference events. We had a record number of attendees this year. It was perhaps due to the subject matter – a trip to the Agua Claras locks of the extended Panama Canal at Colón, at the Atlantic end of the canal.

Having appreciated the Pacific Ocean end of the canal at the closing dinner, members now viewed the other end of the canal.


Our timing was great in that a ship was passing through the canal as we watched, enabling us to fully admired the mechanisms and engineering of the lock system and its water management and flow. Admittedly, immediately after that ship passed through a torrential rain storm rolled in and visibility was reduced to zero. Another example of Panama’s ‘bi-polar weather’.

After returning to Panama City, we visited various culturally interesting sites, including Casco Viejo and the Bio Museum. Panama’s divide once more evident when comparing the fascinating vintage buildings in the streets of Casco Viejo against the backdrop of modern Panama City.


During the conferences, there is always time for GFG members to enjoy each other’s company and share the experience of travel in an interesting location. Panama was no different as members joined each other to enjoy socialising, exploring, being Barbie and even gate-crashing the owner’s birthday party in the renowned Diablicos restaurant – he seemed delighted!


Of course the main impetus of the conference is to promote business and join forces to increase efforts to build business. However, the strength of the GFG is that this is all done in a spirit of trust and genuine friendship. They say that those who “play together, stay together”. The GFG has proven this by the fact that over half the original founding members, from 1994, still maintain their membership and involvement with the Global Freight Group. Longevity and loyalty are good traits in an ever- changing world – long may it continue.

#GFGPanama16 may have passed but follow us via #GFGGreece17 and sign up for ‘business in friendship’ with the GFG in Greece, 14-17 October 2017.


Now looking forward to #GFGGreece17
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