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Image: DHL logoDeutsche Post DHL is the world’s largest courier company. It is headquartered in Bonn, Germany, employs over 400,000 people in 228 countries and territories, and in 2011 generated revenue of more than EUR 53 billion (US$  67 billion.)

Best known to most people for its parcel delivery service, DHL also transports very heavy objects around the world—and hence its connection to the oil and gas industry.

Although now a German company, DHL was originally started by three entrepreneurs in San Francisco to deliver documents between San Francisco and Honolulu. By the late 1970s its services had become global.  Deutsche Post began to acquire shares in DHL in 1998, achieving majority ownership in 2001, and completing the purchase in 2002. Deutsche Post has since also acquired Airborne Express and the UK logistics company, Exel.

The company now has four main divisions: Express; Global Forwarding/Freight; Supply Chain and Mail.

In Uganda, DHL has been registered and operating since 1986, under the company’s Equatorial Africa region which is headquartered in Nairobi. Seventy percent of the staff in Uganda are locals.

DHL Supply Chain Uganda is the largest division in terms of the workforce numbers, employing over 800 people. DHL express and DHL Global Forwarding are smaller by comparison, employing 65 and 50 staff respectively.

DHL Supply Chain manages the bulk of oil & gas projects and has its own specialised Oil & Gas division, which coordinates tasks with Express and Global Forwarding.

The Oil & Gas division offers “end-to-end logistics solutions”  —  meaning that DHL can transport goods, including heavy equipment and machinery, from their manufacturing stages, where parts may need to be brought from several different locations, to the end user.  Ugandan companies do not have the capacity to offer this complete supply chain service.   However, the DHL Oil and Gas division currently subcontracts all infield containerisation as they are building their own capacity in this area.

DHL Express deals with smaller courier business and is geared towards the local market.

DHL Global Forwarding deals with ocean, air and road freight (containerised).  It also has warehousing services, employing some 50 people in Uganda.

DHL’s clients include all the major oil industry players; Schlumberger, Halliburton, Baker Hughes, Tullow and TOTAL.  Apart from the oil industry, major customers include East African Breweries and BAT (British American Tobacco).

DHL markets itself as the ‘one-stop shop’ for logistics services, seeing its extensive network as its main strength, and describes itself as second to none in delivering goods urgently and on-time.

In terms of oil and gas, the company claims competitive advantage because of its industry experience in Angola and West Africa. DHL Uganda work in close collaboration with offices in these regions to offer services tailored to the oil industry.

Whilst DHL is the top international logistics provider in Uganda, ‘infield services’ –those that involve transport and logistics within Uganda—are significantly more competitive, with several domestic firms occupying large shares of the market.  DHL tends to charge higher rates than other domestic providers, but says this feel this is justified by the quality and reliability of their service.  Minimising the transit time for goods is vital to minimising costs of oil exploration works.

For more, see the company websiteReport by Chantal Sirisena