Tasman Logistics offers rational response to coronavirus

By: Rob McKay

Vanis sees plain communication of simple steps keeping transport’s essential service operating

Tasman Logistics offers rational response to coronavirus
Ivan Vanis


Tasman Logistics Services has made public a ‘pandemic business contingency plan’ to reassure customers and its own workforce that it is operating under a safe work regime in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

The intermodal transport and port logistics firm’s CEO, Ivan Vanis, is happy for anyone in the industry to take it up if they feel the need, in the hope that a considered and systematic response will help the industry fulfil its essential service of getting goods to where they need to be.

Vanis is particularly perturbed at the "fear factor" involving some member of the public and which has been given a high profile in mainstream media coverage of the crisis and feels emphasising to his own staff that there are policies and practices in place is crucial to morale in uncertain times.

"To ‘take it seriously but not to fear it’ is our massage," he tells ATN.

The Tasman Logistics initiative, formulated in-house with consultation with the medical profession, comes in two parts:

  • the plan itself, explaining its policies for internal and external operations while the pandemic is underway and how its workforce is expected to perform under the prevailing circumstances
  • a one-page letter for business partners stating plainly what it is doing and why.

"We are operating on a business-as-usual basis to ensure minimal or no disruption to supply chains and maintaining a quality service to our customers," the letter explains.

"We understand our drivers have relationships with receiving and dispatch teams, however we have advised all drivers and staff to cut off all physical contact including shaking hands etc.

"This may seem like overkill; however, we are protecting not only our teams, but also your staff from unnecessary contact during these times of uncertainty."

Key items implemented within the business to reduce exposure include:

  • paperless systems have been deployed to avoid the need for human contact between drivers, staff and customers
  • no unnecessary travel between Tasman sites is to occur
  • IT Infrastructure is being set up for staff to work from home in case of depot outbreaks
  • back up staff are on standby to run depots should we require whole depots to be in isolation
  • all three Tasman sites have been fitted with additional sanitising units in key action areas
  • all Tasman trucks have been fitted with sanitiser units
  • no physical contact where possible.

Vanis is keen to take the heat and fear out of the operational equation to allow as much of a common sense approach to the task as possible to apply.

Read how trucking views the economic stimulus plan, here

Tasman’s management came to the understanding that the contingency plan was needed about a month ago.

Noting that "a lot of us have family overseas and some of us have family in Italy, and when we saw what was happening over there, we started working on a plan early on."

As the response from the federal government evolved, one that Vanis supports, the company developed the practices its plan crystallises – starting with rolling out hand sanitiser throughout the workplace, something he has always been keen on.

"Now we’ve got hand sanitiser in the trucks, we’re going to limit human contact between our drivers-our staff, our drivers-our customers’ staff," he says.

We sent an email out to our customers saying, ‘Don’t be offended if our drivers won’t shake hands, it’s for this reason and this’.

"We’re not going to go to the extent of wearing masks and [protective] suits. We think that’s unnecessary – [we’re] just reducing human contact.

"It’s inevitable, given the size of our business and [the virus] spreading, that someone might get it eventually.  It’s how we contain it – as the government has done. I think they are doing a great job, to be honest."

He pays tribute to the work of safety and compliance manager Peter Balding, now taking the lead as the firm’s ‘pandemic coordinator, for doing the research and liaising with Victoria’s chief medical officer, Andrew Wilson, and other experts.

"He’s been a superstar with all that," Vanis says.

Vanis says the response to the contingency plan, from customers and others, has been "pretty positive".

"We work for a couple of big ‘blue chips’ who asked what our contingency was if this was to spread [to ensure] business continuity so we said ‘Look, we’ll have

"We’ve had other transport companies – our competitors and others in the industry that we don’t directly compete with – asking if they could use our documents and I said ‘no problem’.

"For the sake of a piece of paper, to spread the news and do it all in a positive manner, let’s do it."

He continues: "I’ve posted it on social media and through to our customers.  I’ve pushed everyone to share it – because I think it was worth sharing – and use it.

"Although it is an in-house document, I don’t see why everyone else couldn’t look at implementing some of those things after tweaking them to suit their own business."

Meanwhile, the company is starting to see a return of container volumes after the coronavirus Covid-19 hiatus in freight from China.

"Last week and this week in particular, the ships seem to be coming in pretty consistently, which is a positive," Vanis says.

Tasman’s pandemic business contingency plan and letter can be found here.


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