Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL), one of the world's largest container transport and logistics companies, is seeking to build its industry's most extensive internet-based, unified communications infrastructure by adopting technologies from networking equipment supplier Cisco Systems. Hong Kong-based OOCL, held by the family of Tung Chee-hwa, has invested more than US$8 million to roll out an integrated communications system across its 160 offices worldwide by year-end. Cisco applications will help streamline OOCL's business processes by integrating the firm's communications and collaboration systems including messaging, voice, video, web conferencing and communications links to clients. These applications integrate with business tools that OOCL and its customers use daily, such as Microsoft Outlook and IBM Lotus Notes. OOCL chief technology officer Steve Siu Kai-ho said the project with Cisco started last year and was aimed at replacing more than 100 voice-only, private branch exchange telephone systems with a centralised, internet-protocol-based PBX platform that handles both voice and data traffic. Some 4,000 wireless IP phones will also be deployed. The Cisco solution is also meant to create a virtual global call centre to help OOCL's 1,500 call centre agents address increasing business contacts and raise their efficiency, as customer self-service applications are also designed in the system. 'OOCL has made an astute business move that will enable it to pursue collaboration, interaction, real-time converged communications and service enhancements in a seamless and cost-effective manner,' said Charleston Sin Chiu-shun, Cisco general manager for Hong Kong and Macau. Mr Siu said OOCL's unified communications project would enable staff and customers to find their colleagues or decision-makers using a single telephone number or internet address. There would be cost savings in long-distance calls, as voice and data go through the internet. 'The long-term savings that internet-protocol telephony can achieve presents a compelling value proposition that information technology managers and chief information officers cannot ignore,' said Cindy Sim, a Singapore-based analyst at research firm Access Markets International Partners of New York. 'This becomes especially acute for companies that have multiple locations or branches within the country or abroad.' Shares of OOCL's listed parent, Orient Overseas (International), declined 1.14 per cent yesterday to close at HK$52.10.