SHIPPING giants Brian Roux (BBR Bloodstock) and Kevin Connolly (Connolly and Turner Bloodstock Forwarding) have engaged themselves in a war of words with Racing South Africa Chief Executive Peter Gibson after Gibson’s announcement that RSA will soon be providing a quarantine and transport “package’’ to clients shipping horses to overseas destinations.

This move will have a direct influence on the business conducted for decades by BBR and CTB. A chunk of profits derived from their exports will come under threat as Gibson, with the cooperation of veterinary Professor, Dr. Alan Guthrie, has promised to deliver his service at a reduced cost to clients.

Gibson stated: “Given the fact that Racing South Africa already controls the quarantine operation at Kenilworth, it is a logical next step to provide a quarantine and transport package. As with any charter-based operations, the cost (of the package) will be dependent on numbers.’’

He made it clear that neither he nor Racing South Africa have a personal vendetta against BBR and CTB and listed four reasons for his move.

1) To grow exports:

“A cheaper package will enable South Africa to compete with Australia, New Zealand and Mauritius as export centres. Overseas clients are purchasing from Australia and New Zealand because it is significantly cheaper to export their buys. If we can compete, more buyers will come to South Africa and as a result exports will grow and the entire industry will grow with it.’’

2) An alternative transport solution:

Cape Town is not a part of the major hub of exporting due to the veterinary regulations, which are being addressed so that the city can become a more popular and economical base for shipping.

3) To introduce competition to the export shipping environment:

Shipping of horses has been dominated by BBR and CTB for over 20 years. Competition is healthy.

4) To nurture a culture of exporting in South Africa:

Owners with good horses, those of high value, must have the confidence to export their runners. Cheaper rates for the shipping of racehorses, showjumpers, stallions and endurance horses will stimulate the export market.

Gibson added that big export shipments could be increased from three to as much as six per year if all goes according to plan. In addition, he said, the proposed “package’’ charter, MK Airlines, uses a fleet of newer generation Boeing 747 freighters and that international standard, lifted jet stalls would be used when horses are loaded in a secure environment, as opposed to horses walking up a steep ramp.

“Furthermore,’’ he said, “there will be no reliance on back-to-back flights which invariably lead to delays/hiccups and the resulting impacts on quarantine testing.’’

In a strongly worded response, Brian Roux distanced himself from Racing South Africa’s 9 November press release, saying that it gave the false impression that RSA’s plans carried his agreement and approval. (And for purposes of this article the approval of CTB).

Roux commented: “ It is very important that I do not come across as a whinger, one who is scared of competition! This is not the case. My biggest gripe is that Peter Gibson and Alan Guthrie are promoting their “export package’’ using erroneous price comparisons, misrepresenting the racehorse industry as to my involvement and sanction off the back of my company and my hard earned experience gained over more than 25 years!

“I have withdrawn totally from their new shipping company and shipping plans as either I drive the bus and take full responsibility and try to do things properly or NOT AT ALL! My company is 100% privately owned and I am not affiliated in any way whatsoever to Gibson and Guthrie!’’

Roux said that he was strongly supported by a base of regular contributors to the export flights, including the owners of Polo Ponies that make up a good base load for each flight.

He explained: “BBR and CTB’s export airfreight costs are very similar as I normally charter the aircraft and the costs are pro rata by the number of horses actually intended for airfreight. One major exception is that I subsidise the Polo Ponies down to US$10 500.00 per horse, all inclusive.

“Over the years many big freight/logistic corporations such as Safcor Panalpina (Bidvest Brian Joffe), Grindrod, Mitchell Cotts, Kuehne & Nagel, Freight Services, Micor etc. have all tried to start horse shipping departments. After immediately encountering the highly complex problems and logistics involved in shipping horses worldwide, they have all bowed out and the consensus has been that I am crazy to continue in the business and good luck and godspeed!

“Another important factor is that Gibson and Guthrie have a mandate to operate the Kenilworth Export Quarantine and to promote the exports of South African horses worldwide, not to become shipping agents!

“Racing South Africa is funded by the TBA, Bloodstock SA, Equine Trade Council, Gold Circle, Phumelela and the Racing Association. The generous funding for the building of the Kenilworth Export Quarantine has been provided by Bernard Kantor.

“ It would seem to any outsider that Alan Guthrie is trying to ensure funding for his OP Research Institute (rumour has it a minimum of R1 million a year is needed) and obviously Gibson’s salary package, which includes frequently arranging lavish cheese and wine parties at various horseracing venues worldwide!’’

“Gibson and Guthrie have been privy to all of mine and Kevin Connolly’s confidential client information, contacts, professional horse grooms/skyjockeys and agents worldwide - a certain dastardly breach of trust considering they are now going into direct competition!’’

Roux and Connolly pointed out that, in their belief, MK Carriers, the airline proposed by Racing South Africa, had a “questionable past’’ and that they hadn’t conducted business with MK in over 8 years.

“My latest indirect involvement with this airline came in 2004 when their aircraft, chartered by a third party, blew an engine on takeoff, delaying the export horse consignment in Cape Town for a week, and playing a part in the subsequent outbreak of Equine Flu.

Kevin Connolly added: “If we are going to fly horses, let’s fly them in the manner they deserve with the emphasis on safety and reliability and not (within reason) basing the criteria purely on saving the odd Rand.’’

To this, Gibson responded: “After the incident in 2004, MK Airlines moved the registration of its fleet to the UK, which has amongst the most stringent CAA audit requirements in the world. It is clear that MK Airlines is serious about the business and to exclude them on the basis of safety is unjustifiable.’’

Green%20Camera%20Link%20Sml.jpgWatch an unknown horse being loaded onto a KLM flight, bound for distant shores.

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