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Edition 5 - May 2016


Hope for improvement‌ and higher container rates

Container shipping companies reopen hunt for OOG


We keep

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EDITORIAL The final contraction?



t seems to be an ending story: the share of conventional general cargo in total cargo handling at ports has been declining almost year by year. The vigorous expansion of containers and (especially in recent years) liquid bulk is driving total handling volumes up, and in the pie charts the slice of breakbulk in all its forms, from conventional cargo to project cargo and outsize loads, is becoming proportionally smaller. However, a different reading of the figures provides a more optimistic view of things. Despite the aggressive competition from container lines, bulk operators and car carriers, who seize every opportunity to carry anything that will fit into their containers, their loads or between their ro-ro decks, the breakbulk volume showed a slight increase last year. Rates will undoubtedly come under pressure as a result of the fierce competition from those other sectors, and that should be a source of concern for the players in the breakbulk market. In the Dunkirk-Rotterdam range, however, the breakbulk tonnage

“The breakbulk pie did not shrink last year, it only appears to be that way because the traffic table, on which it lies, has become bigger� was at its highest (or least low?) level in four years. After two increases in a row, it is even the best result since the beginning of the latest crisis, not counting the relative outlier year 2011. Therefore, the pie has not shrunk, it only appears to be that way because the table, on which it lies, has become bigger. It could mean that rock bottom has been reached and that, if the economy were to pick up, breakbulk could still climb a little higher. Only time will tell. In the meantime, the relationships between ports keep shifting. Antwerp’s lead on the competition has never been as tiny as in 2015. This is due to a number of factors, and not in the least the fact that breakbulk has become a global market where established positions are no longer relevant. To consolidate its lead again, Antwerp probably needs a well-considered reform of dock labour. But that will not be the only determining factor. There, as anywhere else, a mix of factors is at play, the total sum of which will eventually determine the winners and the losers.



Shipping companies pass  on problems Economies of scale in liner shipping not only imply an increasing number of giant container ships with a capacity of 18,000 to 21,100 TEU sailing between the Far East and Europe. They also imply the emergence of 10,000 TEU ships in Latin America, West Africa and India, which is at least equally spectacular for the ports there.

New European customs legislation simplifies and digitizes, but... The second customs congress was devoted mainly to the new European customs legislation (UCC, Union Customs Code), which entered into force on May 1. The great merit of this legislation is that it takes into account the economic reality, simplifies the existing procedures, focuses on digitization, and brings significant added value to the status of Authorised Economic Operator (AEO). During the congress, however, it quickly became clear that the legislation and in particular the remaining lack of clarity could create quite a few obstacles.

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Members States are hitting the brakes


Hope for improvement… and higher container rates


Multipurpose shipping Headwinds not expected to abate this year


“Pallet transport by barge on the eve of major breakthrough”


No project too heavy or too big


Zeeland Seaports threatens to overtake Antwerp Never before the difference in breakbulk volume between Antwerp and Zeeland Seaports was as small as last year. Antwerp noted modest growth, but Zeeland Seaports made a giant leap, leaving it snapping at the heels of the Belgian leader in this market segment. Last year’s other big winner in the Dunkirk-Rotterdam small range was Ghent, which achieved its best result ever in conventional cargo.


THEME: BREAKBULK Container shipping companies reopen hunt for OOG

Size isn’t the challenge

The fact that container volumes are growing slower than they used to, has not only to do with economic factors. It is also true that most breakbulk cargo that can be containerised is already effectively transported in containers. Because shipping companies seek to fill their ships to capacity, they are now also looking ever more actively for out of gauge (OOG) cargo, i.e. cargo that does not fit into a container.

It is sometimes argued that the future of wind energy is at sea, and that onshore wind farms will not experience any further significant growth. This would mean that demand for transport and assembly of onshore wind turbines will stagnate. Also, wind turbines are ever increasing in size, which complicates the land transport of its components and not in the least the blades. This too would cause demand for land transport of wind turbines to decrease. However, both conclusions are premature.


Modal shift from road to rail  for transport of logs Rail operator B Logistics, in collaboration with sawmill Pauls based in Gouvy in the province of Luxembourg, has achieved a modal shift from road to rail for the transport of logs. The logs are delivered by coaster from Scandinavia to RCT along the Sea Canal in Willebroek and then, for the time being, by barge to Liège and from there by rail to Gouvy.



COLOFON PUBLISHER Havenkoepel vzw, Brouwersvliet 33 – box 8, 2000 Antwerp www.flows.be



Chantal De Clerck

Jon Bogaert Eef Ghys Christoph Meeussen

© Hapag-Lloyd

EDITORS Philippe Van Dooren Jean-Louis Vandevoorde Koen Heinen Stefan Verberckmoes Annemie Morbee redactie@flows.be

SALES marketing@flows.be veronique.dedecker@flows.be

SUBSCRIPTIONS abonnementen@flows.be




Shipping companies pass Economies of scale in liner shipping not only imply an increasing number of giant container ships with a capacity of 18,000 to 21,100 TEU sailing between the Far East and Europe. They also imply the emergence of 10,000 TEU ships in Latin America, West Africa and India, which is at least equally spectacular for the ports there. STEFAN VERBERCKMOES


n recent years, economies of scale occurred most quickly on a number of north-south routes. Last year, a shipping company like NileDutch put new 3,510 TEU ships specially built for the Asia-West Africa route, into service. Considered to be the largest possible ships for this market, they have an extra wide beam to limit the draught to 12.5m and are equipped with three cranes of 45 tonnes each.

in length, meaning they are also Bosphorusmax and can be used for services to the Black Sea.

Fallback options The advent of very large container ships (VLCS) on north-south routes is in most cases not related to the changes in cargo demand. Most carriers simply do not have any other fallback options for ships from 8,500 to 13,000 TEU,

“Some carriers are transferring VLCS and widebeam neopanamax ships to North-South routes because they do not have any other fallback options� This year the Dutch company has sold and leased these ships to Hapag-Lloyd and discontinued the service with its own ships between the Far East and Africa. NileDutch signed a slot agreement with CMA CGM and now uses space aboard ships of its French partner. These are gearless ships of up to 10,034 TEU that call at ports like Pointe Noire and Luanda. They are extra widebeam neopanamax ships that can accommodate nineteen container rows just short of 300m


which in the Far East trade are replaced by even greater tonnages. Figures from the French database Alphaliner, illustrate the buoyant growth of the container fleet: early April there were already 37 ships of more than 18,000 TEU in service, to which another 72 under construction are to be added. In the 13,300 to 17,999 TEU category, already 113 units are in service, with 60 more to come. They are meant to replace the 10,000 to 13,299 TEU ships, 205 of which were already

active in April, with another 74 being under construction. This whole cascade effect is becoming problematic for all those 7,500-9,999 TEU ships, of which no fewer than 465 are in service. This type of VLCS has now become the conventional workhouses in, for example, liner services between the Far East and Latin America, where already over 80 units of 8,000-10,000 TEU are active, with another 16 ships of 10,000-13,299 TEU. Given the weak economic situation in countries like Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, there is no extra cargo for these large ships and carriers are forced to form large clubs in order to get them filled. One example is the joint operation of MSC, CMA CGM, Hyundai Merchant Marine and Cosco between the Far East and the west coast of South America with twelve 8,77210,622 TEU ships, on which also


© Stefan Verberckmoes

 on problems

CMA CGM already has twenty extra widebeam neopanamax units of 9,288 to 10,662 TEU in service, which are used for West Africa, Latin America, between Europe and India, and as Bosphorusmaxand between the Far East and the Black Sea as well. Another six will be added.

Hapag-Lloyd and Hamburg Süd have an allocation. The advent of too large ships in combination with weak cargo demand in the trade between Asia and Latin America led to the same effects as in the trade between the Far East and Europe: shipping companies are increasingly being forced to join forces, the number of weekly services is decreasing, and rates are becoming increasingly volatile. Spot rates between Shanghai and Santos, for example, already plummeted once to 99 dollars per TEU all-in, which is peanuts for such a long distance. In other words, the larger ships also result in problems being passed on.

India One trade that showed good growth in the past few months is the one between Europe, the Middle East and the Indian sub-

continent. In its Himalaya Express between India and Europe, MSC is the first to deploy two ships of 13,000 and 13,102 TEU (‘MSC Cristina’ and ‘MSC Maria Saveria’) as well as a series of 11,660 TEU sister ships. At the end of 2012, the Geneva-based company had also been the first to send a ship of more than 8,000 TEU to Nhava Sheva. The competition has followed this example in the past few months. In the spring, Maersk Line harmonised the fleet of its ME1 service when the last 6,600 TEU ship was replaced by a bigger unit. The Danes now have a total of eight neopanamax ships of 9,472-9,962 TEU. CMA CGM and UASC systematically introduced 8,465-9,365 TEU ships between February and December 2015, and the German duo Hapag-Lloyd/ Hamburg Süd is also restructuring its fleet to keep its 8,600-9,034 TEU ships busy. Of the 205 neopana-

max ships between 10,000 and 13,299 TEU, slightly more than half (110) are still active between Asia and Europe. According to Alphaliner, there are also already 45 of them sailing on the trans-Pacific route, 16 on Latin America, and 11 in services to the Middle East or India. The remaining 23 were idle at the start of April, e.g. because their journey from the Far East to Europe had been cancelled. The opening of the Panama canal will be an important game changer. The larger locks will be officially opened on June 26 and the first transit slots have already been reserved for the G6 and CKYHE Alliances, which will be deploying ships of 8,500 and 10,000 TEU between the Far East and the east coast of North America. It opens up new possibilities for shipping companies, but this will be at the expense of many tens of panamax ships of 4,000-5,000 TEU.



Members States are hitti The digitization of transport documents should enable the European logistics sector to achieve tremendous efficiency gains. Yet there is resistance. In particular the Member States - or at least the majority of them - hit the brakes. That is why transport organisations such as the ECG - the Association of European Vehicle Logistics - will increase the pressure on politicians. PHILIPPE VAN DOOREN


t the ECG’s annual dinner debate in the European Parliament in Brussels, this message was conveyed to Gesine Meisner, German European Parliament Member (ALDE), and Desirée Oen, Deputy Cabinet Head of Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc. However, the ‘main culprit’, the Council of Transport Ministers, was absent. And therein lies the nub of the problem: the

Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain and the Czech Republic. All four major Member States - Germany, France, Poland and the UK - have not yet signed the protocol, with Germany reportedly being the main roadblock. Michael Bünning, ECG Board Member and Managing Director of the German logistics company BLG Automobile Logistics, illustrated what the impact of this reticence is. “BLG handles 1 mil-

“Most Member States missed the 1st June 2015 deadline for implementation of the Single Window” European Parliament and the Commission are aware of the need to speed up digitization, but the 28 Member States by contrast are not thinking along the same lines. By way of example, only eight Member States (and Switzerland) have signed the e-CMR protocol of 2011. They are Bulgaria, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, the


lion cars per year, which need more than 2 million sheets of paper for the transport documents. The automobile logistics companies of ECG – which represent 85% of the sector in Europe – move some 16.5 million cars per year, requi-ring 33 million paper transport documents. Their total weight is 135 tonnes. That is the equivalent of 200 trees”, he said.


in road transport “The e-CMR provides a legal framework to allow electronic consignment notes for international transport, but as only eight EU Member States and Switzerland ratified this international treaty, it remains just theory,” Bünning said. “The Netherlands and Denmark adopted the e-CMR and their logistics sector has developed tools (like Transfollow in the Netherlands), but they can only be used on a national basis. On top of that, they would be useless for transport between the two countries, as Germany doesn’t recognise the digital CMR,” he added. Nonetheless, the German Commercial Code was updated in April 2013 to allow electronic consignment notes, bills of lading and warehouse warrants. But


ng the brakes Michael Bünning

these are only allowed if the authenticity and integrity are ensured and equivalent with paper. “The Ministry of Justice has been entitled to regulate more in detail, but it has been dragging its feet. As a result, private companies don’t take the risk of using e-documents, since they could end up in court without paper as a proof,” according to Bünning.

Proof of Delivery (PoD)

”MEP Gesine Meisner spoke openly of the lack of sufficient harmonisation at Member State level” on the market. The IT-providers hesitate to invest in their development because of the legal uncertainties,” he presumes.


in rail freight In rail transport too, digitization still has a long way to go. In that sector, the rules are those of the CIM (uniform rules concerning the contract of international

is not accepted for transportation of dangerous goods in most countries. “One example of the tremendous gains in efficiency that could be obtained with the e-CIM is the freight transport by train between China and Europe. Moving a container by ship takes roughly 40 to 45 days, while transport by train takes 20 to 23 days. If all formalities were digitized and didn’t require paperwork, the

“Another problem is the Proof of Delivery. A receipt as PoD is common practice and it is legally possible to have it in electronic format. But the main uncertainty is its value during court proceedings, since there is no paper proof nor written signatures. The main obstacle is to ensure regular recordings and prevent manipulation by a

file protection system. This could be addressed with appropriate IT solutions, but these are not yet

carriage of goods by rail). A main problem for the e-CIM, is that not all countries accept the CIM. Only a few Member States, like the Netherlands, Latvia, Sweden and Finland do. Moreover, not even all countries accept the paper CIM. “A first step could be to do all rail freight documentation electronically, at least in the EU. The operational side is willing, but the obstacles are legal and political. In this case too, some Member States are hitting the brakes,” says Bünning. In rail transport too, the hurdles for e-CIM are that not all EU Member States recognise e-CIM; that electronic signatures on e-CIM are not recognised by insurance companies, courts, authorities, etc.; and that e-CIM



Gesine Meissner train journey would take only 15 to 18 days,” according to Bünning.

E-documents in maritime transport

Some six years ago, the EU ‘Reporting Formalities Directive’ (RFD) was published (2010/65/EU) aiming to simplify, harmonize and rationalize the administrative procedures and reporting requirements for maritime carriers calling at EU ports. By the 1st of June 2015, the Member States should have implemented measures to allow the electronic submission and reception of reporting formalities concerning vessels, their crew and cargo via a ‘national single window’. “That deadline was missed by most Member States, so the current paper based systems remain in place at port- or national level, sometimes in parallel with the new system,” Bünning noted. As a result, the concept of a national single window has been seriously compromised. “Each Member State is developing its own independent system. There are even differences in ports within the same Member State!”.


Désirée Oen As a consequence, the RFD itself might be reviewed in 2017. “And what about an electronic seaway bill or the “e-manifest?”, asked Bünning.

Lots to do “There is still a lot of work to do, the main challenges being the noninteroperability of standards; the absence of recognition of e-transport documents by the authorities and financial institutions, the lack of ‘critical mass’ of stakeholders using data sharing systems, etc. There is a clear need for a more robust legal framework as well as standardisation when it comes to digitization in the field of logistics. So when will this become reality? Difficult to say. But the solutions clearly lie with the Member States,” he advocated.

Legal validity MEP Gesine Meisner answered that digitization in general is a big challenge for lawmakers, because the pace is so fast. “How do we cope with new technologies that are made possible by the digital revolution, like drones, platooning, self-driving trucks, etc.? And, in the case of electronic freight

documents, how do we make sure that their legal validity is fully guaranteed?” she said. But she concurred that the opposition in this respect effectively comes from the Member States, not from the European Parliament. “This is best illustrated by the confusion surrounding the national single windows”, she said. She recognised that her own country is one of the main culprits for the excessively slow digitization process.

“Knock on Dobrindt’s door” Also Désirée Oen, who represented the very IT-oriented Violeta Bulc, stressed that the various stakeholders within the European transport sector would be well advised to increase knocking on German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt’s door. For if Germany opens up to digitization, the other doubters will follow suit. However, she also subtly pointed out that some companies and sectors are not without guilt. “Digital documents should be ‘default’. But this will require a change of mindset: not all the stakeholders are open to sharing data and information,” she said.


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he second edition of the customs congress, organised by Voka-Alfaport and Flows, was another huge success. Almost 300 participants found their way to the KBC Tower in Antwerp to learn about the major changes to be brought about by the new European legislation. Although the outlines had been known for some time (simplification, greater emphasis on AEO, and fully electronic declarations), the recent European implementing decisions threw a clearer light on the issue. Admittedly, though, some speakers found them in certain cases to be obfuscating rather than clarifying. Read more on pages 12, 13 and 14.

Customs provides a number of scoops The presence of the General Administration of Customs and Excise was quite noticeable and indicates that the customs congress is taken very seriously by the customs authorities. They also took the opportunity to present a number of scoops on issues of great interest to the industry. For example, Werner Rens, Advisor General of the Administration of Customer Management and Marketing of the General Administration of Customs and Excise, announced that the centralised clearance license for the pilot project of the Antwerp port community is on the home straight and will probably be a fact before May 1 (the date of entry into force of the new Union Customs Code). Centralised clearance fits in with the new Union Customs Code as part of the simplified cross-border procedures whereby the flow of declarations is disconnected from the flow of goods, and the declarant can submit his declaration in any EU member state. In preparation for this concept, the Antwerp port community launched the Centralised Clearance Light pilot project in 2011. Three Antwerp forwarders, five industrial shippers and the Belgian and Dutch customs authorities examine the practical implications of the system. Kristian Vanderwaeren, Administrator General of the General Administration of Customs and Excise, was pleased to announce that King Philippe had signed the long-expected Royal Decree on direct representation, with which Belgium, at long last, provides the legal basis for a European regulatory framework for which the Antwerp port community has been lobbying for more than ten years. However, this is only a first step: two important implementation decrees remain to be approved before customs declarants in Belgium can effectively act as direct representative: linking this statute to credit accounts/guarantees, thereby enabling the direct representative to grant payment facilities to his customer, plus defining the responsabilities. This last aspect is paramount, since the direct representative cannot be held responsible for post-clearance recoveries that have arisen beyond his control.

Third customs congress The numerous attendance, the many positive reactions and the strategic importance of such a customs congress make it clear that there will be a third edition next year.

More info on www.flowsevents.be


New European customs legis and digitizes, but...

The second customs congress was devoted mainly to the new European customs legislation (UCC, Union Customs Code), which entered into force on May 1. The great merit of this legislation is that it takes into account the economic reality, simplifies the existing procedures, focuses on digitization, and brings significant added value to the status of Authorised Economic Operator (AEO). During the congress, however, it quickly became clear that the legislation and in particular the remaining lack of clarity could create quite a few obstacles. ANNEMIE MORBEE


he UCC supersedes the European customs legislation of 1992 and aims to adapt the procedures to today’s digital business practices. A number of changes were implemented on 1 May 2016, others will be rolled out on a phased basis as the IT applications become operational. The new legislation can broadly be split up into two main parts: ensuring that all import duties

12 6

are collected as required and simplifying the procedures for businesses.

Customs value not clear (yet) In his speech entitled “Major changes in the UCC and their impact”, Daan De Vlieger, senior manager customs & global trade at Deloitte, dwelled extensively

on the concept of customs value. The basis of the customs value remains the transaction value: “the price actually paid or to be paid for the goods when they are sold for export to the Union’s customs area”, but the UCC drastically changes the moment of the transaction value. The so-called ‘first sale’ principle in this context will in fact be replaced by the ‘last sale’ principle as from 2017. This means that import duties will no longer be based on the first sale value (e.g. the sale price in China), but on the last sale value before the goods enter the EU. For some companies, including multinationals, which often work with intermediate sales, this may cause import duties to increase by 30% to 70%. De Vlieger pointed out that the European implementation decisions and the associated draft directives, are still unclear at the moment. “The transaction value of the goods will be determined at the time of acceptance of the customs declaration on the basis of the sale that took place immediately before the goods entered the Union’s customs area. But


lation simplifies what is ‘immediately’? Is it the value of the goods just before they geographically enter the EU or the value of the goods at the time they are ordered by a buyer?” It is up to Europe to clarify this situation.

Pest or cholera?

Ambiguity reigns Fransman really cut loose when he demonstrated the incompatibility of the harmonised European customs legislation with the national VAT regulations, which impose different requirements on the concept of exporter. “It is unadulterated Kafka, which causes industrial companies to end up in a legal vacuum. We have to choose between pest and cholera: when we act according to the rules of the new Union Customs Code, we are in breach of the

Bruno Fransman, trade compliance director at Avnet Europe, discussed the ‘impact of the UCC on the activities for an industrial company’, by far the

most animated speech of the congress. He expanded on the theme of customs value raised by Daan De Vlieger and immediately brought the issue into focus: “When our end customer in Poland places an order with Avnet Poland and the latter in turn places an order with its supplier in the US, which in turn activates production in the US, who is then the seller? Is this determined by the time (production in the US) or by the place in the supply chain (the Polish reseller)?”

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Achilles’ heel

national VAT legislation,” he stated in no uncertain terms.

The EU:

one big RTO The greatest achievement of the new European legislation lies in the simplified, cross-border procedures. Dominique Willems, policy advisor at Fenex, Netherlands Association for Forwarding and Logistics, was enthusiastic about the ease with which cross-border movements under temporary storage become possible under the new system. “Each member state can be made into one big space and movements are possible in two directions: from one warehouse that transports the goods to another warehouse, but also from the second warehouse that receives the goods from the first warehouse. There is, however, one drawback: the UCC does not provide for a standardised licence for cross-border movements, which makes that companies still have to apply individually for the licence. He nevertheless urged that as many RTO systems as possible be introduced as quickly as possible, a task that involves both customs authorities, logistics players, and port community systems.

Smoother cargo flows

Other major simplifications are centralised clearance, en-

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try into the declarants records (EIDR), and system based approach. Jan Van Wesemael, senior advisor customs and compliance at Voka-Alfaport, elaborated on these in his speech. Centralised clearance means that a declarant anywhere in the EU can declare the goods regardless of the location where the goods enter the EU. In principle, this simplification applies to all customs procedures, except for transit traffic and goods under temporary storage. And importantly: centralised clearance is only possible for companies that are AEO-C (customs) certified. Another simplification is EIDR, the simplified customs declaration procedure whereby the goods are registered in the electronic database of the licensee. This administration, to which customs must have access either on or off-site, must contain all information related to the customs declaration that the customs authorities need for inspection of the goods declared under the relevant procedure. Finally, system based control is supposed to put an end to the transactional controls: AEO certified companies will no longer be inspected during the shipment, but afterwards via their IT systems. This should result in huge time and cost savings for the economic operators who will no longer see their flow of goods interrupted.

While on paper these simplifications may appear to be a gigantic revolution in the declaration process, in practice, sadly, the situation looks quite different. In fact, for centralised clearance to be applied in practice, it is necessary that the communication systems of the customs authorities are able to communicate with each other. This is absolutely not the case at present. The 28 member states will find it a big challenge to have all IT systems communicating with each other by 2020, the deadline imposed by Europe. In this respect, the UCC provides a number of technical specifications, but the member states are free to implement them as they see fit. Deviations are therefore likely to occur depending on the interpretation by the different member states. For example, some data elements must mandatorily be included in the electronic declaration, whereas others are optional. What will happen when one member state includes the optional part and another does not? This is an odd European ‘concession’ that goes against the spirit of the European law to standardise declarations within the EU.

Screening of

business processes The above simplifications will create a great upheaval in the EU customs landscape and have a particular impact on the industry. Jan Van Wesemael emphasised the need for companies to critically examine their processes and make an analysis of the impact of the UCC on their current licences and processes. “Leave the safe path driven by the force of habit and critically assess the extent to which existing procedures can be carried out more efficiently.”

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Gosselin Logistics sets fo Gosselin Logistics, the logistics division of the Belgian Gosselin Group, has recently expanded its activities with new services for containers, air freight and project cargo from Europe and China to landlocked countries in sub-Saharan Africa. For this, it employs the CrossTrades network of which it is one of the main partners. KOEN HEINEN


he logistics division offers a complete range of logistics services, from forwarding and warehouse storage to customs formalities and specialist services such as securing breakbulk cargo and building custom transport crates.

tral Asia and the Caucasus to Europe. This network enables us to monitor shipments by rail from China to their final destination in Europe (OBOR). We also have a maritime connection with Antwerp. What we’re doing now is making a triangle between our of-

Network To accomplish this, the group co-launched the CrossTrades network a few months ago. “We are one the driving partners, together with Rik Spruyt who worked in China and Africa and knows these markets inside out. The idea

“What we’re doing now is making a triangle between our offices and partners in China and the Silk Road to Africa, and from Antwerp directly to Africa” “The expansion to Africa is a new service. We already have a whole network on the ‘Silk Road’: we have our own offices from China across Cen-

fices and partners in China and the Silk Road to Africa, and from Antwerp directly to Africa”, explains Walter Van Mechelen, senior director of Gosselin Logistics.

Go Breakbulk, Go Gosselin


is, with the partners of this network, to keep our hands on more and more Chinese cargo destined for Africa. With our network partners, we ensure that shipments

are handled and made available to inland destinations as quickly as possible. In addition, we guarantee the traceability of shipments to their final destination. We now have a number of outstanding partners in Africa, with which we work together to enable inland transport to be organised very rapidly and professionally”, adds Van Mechelen. The cargo is mainly destined for large countries like Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania on the east coast, where Gosselin Logistics works with KenFreight, and AMI, which are strongly represented in Mozambique and Madagascar. On the other side, in West Africa, we also work with a number of big agents, all members of CrossTrades. Today, the network has some 45 members including five main agents. “We’re not


cus on Africa

reinventing the wheel, it’s a modest network that specialises in Africa, but also in China and India. It’s an innovative service, for such a finescale triangular network with serious partners is the first in its kind”, says Van Mechelen. CrossTrades has registered a number of successes since its creation. “We had a first meeting in Johannesburg in early April, and things are starting to get going. Why the interest of Gosselin Logistics? Antwerp is saturated, and we want to row along with our customers. On the other hand, we don’t intend to open our own offices in Africa. We already have enough of them in Central Asia and China. What we want to do is professionally approach the African market with good partners”, emphasises Van Mechelen.

Air freight and project cargo

As for air freight, Africa can increasingly be reached by Middle Eastern airlines flying to Africa via Dubai or Qatar.

KenFreight, AMI and Comexas Congo. We deliberately keep the number of partners low. This network is built around business development, providing tailored solutions to customers in collaboration with

Asia Gosselin offers a similar service in Asia for air freight and sea freight groupage through its own CrossTainer network. This network is made up of seven offices.

“We’re not reinventing the wheel, it’s a modest network that specialises in Africa” “Project cargo is also quite important. Europe we do ourselves. In other continents, we work with major players specialising in breakbulk and project cargo. In China, this is the Syntrans group, a large Chinese player. In Africa, we mainly work for with

local partners in Africa who know their markets through and through”. “All transports are monitored by Gosselin Logistics, so we know exactly what happens with the cargo between departure and arrival, be it air freight, container transport or project cargo”.

With the new network in Africa, Van Mechelen says Gosselin is the only Belgian forwarder to connect Europe with China and Africa. The group is convinced that the new offering represents a key asset for companies active on the African market.



Zeeland Seaports threat Never before the difference in breakbulk volume between Antwerp and Zeeland Seaports was as small as last year. Antwerp noted modest growth, but Zeeland Seaports made a giant leap, leaving it snapping at the heels of the Belgian leader in this market segment. Last year’s other big winner in the Dunkirk-Rotterdam small range was Ghent, which achieved its best result ever in conventional cargo. JEAN-LOUIS VANDEVOORDE


ast year, the six ports in the small range (Rotterdam, Zeeland Seaports, Antwerp, Ghent, Zeebrugge and Dunkirk) handled a total maritime traffic volume of 819.12 million tonnes, i.e. 3.1% or over 23 million tonnes more than in 2014. Never before the six ports combined had passed the mark of 800 million tonnes. Especially the top performances of Rotterdam (+4.9% to 466.63 million tonnes) and Antwerp (+4.7% to 208.42 million tonnes) were responsible for the new record.


strongest grower Strikingly, the increase was mainly attributable to (wet) bulk. General cargo in all its forms (containers, ro-ro, conventional/ breakbulk) showed only a slight overall increase of 1.5%, from 344.07 to 349.36 million tonnes. The growth rate here is only half that for the overall total. Within the general cargo sector, the containers were not the big pullers: in the six ports, they even showed a slight decline, totalling 258.82 million tonnes


(-0.4%), despite the new record in Antwerp. The ro-ro traffic, by contrast, climbed by no less than 7.5% to 59.12 million tonnes. However, the strongest limber was conventional cargo/breakbulk. This sector noted a 7.9% increase. This traffic, which in the two previous years had been hovering below 30 million tonnes, again surpassed this volume, totalling 31.42 million tonnes. The share of conventional cargo/breakbulk in the total maritime traffic in the small range thus notched up to 3.8% compared to 3.7% in the two previous years. This is, however, still significantly less than the longer term average. Until 2008 the share had never fallen below 5%. The downward trend has not been broken yet.

Antwerp Antwerp consolidated its leading position in breakbulk in the small range. In 2014, the port of Antwerp had ended the year slightly below 10 million tonnes, but last year it again exceeded this level, albeit just, with a score of 10.01 million tonnes. This represented a 1.2% increase, which


 ens to overtake Antwerp in itself is not a bad result in a sector that has undergone some major shifts, e.g. in the fruit sector. It left Antwerp with a market share of 31.8% in the DunkirkRotterdam range. In 2014, this was still 33.9%, probably the lowest percentage ever. The traffic in a market that is of such paramount importance for Antwerp thus remains at an historical low level. To a large extent, this is due to the advancing containerisation of certain cargo flows. Last year, conventional cargo/breakbulk accounted for 4.8% of the total maritime traffic in Antwerp. This is also the lowest share ever. Iron and steel remain the main pillar of the conventional cargo/breakbulk activity in the Belgian main port. Their total weight amounts to 6.85 million tonnes, around 6% more than in 2014 and this is also the best result in this niche since the heydays before the crisis. Paper and cellulose stagnated at 1.05 million tonnes. Fruit traffic showed a steep decline from 1.03 to 0.68 million tonnes. The relocation of Chiquita to Vlissingen clearly played a role in this.

Zeeland Seaports


Last year, Zeeland Seaports fully lived up to its role as challenger to Antwerp in the breakbulk segment.

Last year, the most remarkable news came from the Zeeland ports. Over the past ten years, they have emerged as the main rival to Antwerp in the breakbulk segment, having already left Rotterdam behind them since 2010. However, the gap between Antwerp and Zeeland Seaports (Vlissingen and Terneuzen combined) was still quite significant. Despite the erosion of its volumes in this segment, the Belgian port was still playing at a higher level than its Zeeland rival(s).



Ghent set a new breakbulk record last year. This is to a large extent attributable to the slab traffic. This situation changed last year when Zeeland Seaports ended 2015 with a breakbulk record of 9.71 million tonnes, a staggering 25.5% or almost 2 million tonnes more than in 2014 and only a few hundred thousands of tonnes less than Antwerp. The previous record of 8.33 million tonnes in 2012 was demolished. Breakbulk accounted for 29.4% of the total maritime traffic. No other port performs better. The market share in the small range rose from 26.6% to 30.9%. The Zeeland Port Authority does not release any detailed figures, but attributes this spec-

tacular result to a combination of increases in the banana traffic (with the arrival of Chiquita), metals (aluminium and crude steel), steel products and cellulose. According to a market analyst, it cannot be excluded that the steep increase in breakbulk volumes is at least explained in part by the changes introduced by the London Metal Exchange (LME) to its warehousing rules to speed up the transit of metals such as aluminium. Vlissingen is one of the most important storage locations for aluminium that are recognised by LME. This means

that the situation would in part be a cyclical phenomenon.

Rotterdam After two sluggish years, Rotterdam appeared to be staging a comeback in 2014, but this trend was not confirmed in 2015. The breakbulk volume fell by 5.5% from 6.04 million tonnes to 5.71 million tonnes. The Dutch main port thus tends to go back and forth between better and worse years. Last year’s result is the worst but one since at least 1999. It is, however, still well above the

Share in total breakbulk traffic in Dunkirk-Rotterdam range 2000


8,1% 31,8%




3,8% 8%


Total share Belgian Ports: 65,1%

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Antwerp Zeebrugge Ghent Dunkirk Rotterdam Zeeland Seaports (Flushing + Terneuzen)



11,3% 4,0%

Total share Belgian Ports: 46,9%




The other major climber in breakbulk, alongside Zeeland Seaports, was Ghent. The Flemish port recorded a 12.3% increase to 3.56 million tonnes, a new record. This allows Ghent to consolidate its number four slot in the breakbulk ranking in the small range. No less than 13.5% of its maritime traffic is generated by this type of cargo flows. This, too, is unprecedented. Ghent’s breakbulk share in the small range amounted to 11.3%.

Dunkirk and Zeebrugge In Dunkirk and Zeebrugge, conventional cargo/breakbulk traffic continues to live in the shadow of the container and ro-ro activities. Dunkirk loaded and discharged 1.26 million tonnes of breakbulk (+14.4% as compared to 2014). This represented a handsome recovery after three poor years, but the result is still below the rapid growth which the northern French port experienced in this sector only a few years ago. Zeebrugge saw 1.17 million tonnes of conventional cargo pass through its quays and terminals. This is 1.6% less than in 2014. The arrival of Verbrugge with their breakbulk terminal at the Albert II dock in the outer port has not yet translated into growth for the

Belgian coastal port, but the facility went into full operation slightly later than planned. The share of these volumes in the ports’ own totals - 2.7% for the French and 3.1% for the Flemish port - is higher than in Rotterdam. Their respective weight within the small range, however, is comparatively limited: 3.7% for Zeebrugge and 4% for Dunkirk.

Belgium vs abroad The steep increase of Zeeland Seaports naturally brought down the market share of the three Belgian ports vis-Ă -vis their foreign competitors in the small range. Last year, Antwerp, Zeebrugge and Ghent combined accounted for 46,9%, which is 2% less than the 48.9% in 2014. This, too, is an all time low.

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low point of 4.72 million that was reached in 2013. In the largest port of Europe, only 1.72% of the maritime traffic falls under the heading of breakbulk. However, the market share in the small range is still a hefty 18.2%.

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Hope for improvement… and For the Antwerp breakbulk handlers, 2015 was a year of relative stability in terms of operations, according to three players in this market. All three of them are cautiously optimistic for 2016. Their biggest hope is... for container rates to rise again. JEAN-LOUIS VANDEVOORDE


he breakbulk market is still going through a difficult patch.” This analysis by Marc Ivens, CEO of Mexico Natie, is shared by Marcel Dubourg, his counterpart at Zuidnatie, and Dirk Mondelaers, general manager of Wijngaard Natie. 2015 was a year in which breakbulk traffic in Antwerp recovered slightly, but volumes are still at a historically low level. In such a severely contracted market, operators of specialised terminals still have to fight for every single tonne. Moreover, it is a fight that is fought with rates under severe pressure.

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competition The three unanimously agree on one of the main causes of the slowdown in the breakbulk sector. “The regular breakbulk services are faced with enormous competition from the container operators”, observes Marcel Dubourg. In his view, a recovery of conventional general cargo will to a great extent depend on the further evolution of freight rates in the container sector. “A great deal of cargo has shifted to the container segment”, Marc Ivens concurs with him.

Ivens and Mondelaers each have a comment to make in this regard. Low rates are not the only factor that pushes cargo to the container liners, says the first. “It also has to do with the frequency of departures that is offered in the container liner shipping industry. Breakbulk operators have a handicap in this respect. Furthermore, even the container business might generate work for breakbulk terminals. “Our stuffing & stripping activities are picking up. For his part, Dirk Mondelaers points out that the interaction between container and breakbulk is growing remarkably.

Positive signs Despite the intensified competition with other sectors, we also see a number of positive signs for conventional general cargo. At Zuidnatie, both incoming and outgoing steel volumes showed an overall positive trend, and project cargo remained rather stable, “in spite of the fierce competition from Rotterdam”, says Marcel Dubourg.


of Zuidnatie view Rotterdam as their major rival. Mexico Natie is looking at North and West Africa in particular. Ivens, by contrast, identifies Vlissingen as its major competitor.

2016 The three breakbulk handlers are therefore rather cautiously optimistic for 2016. Marcel Dubourg is the most cautious of the three. He expects the current year to be “no worse” than 2015. Marc Ivens uses exactly the same words when he looks forward to the developments on the horizon for this year. He estimates that the shift to container will not continue, and expects the economy to produce slight growth in the breakbulk volume.

Dock labour Breakbulk is and remains a labour intensive sector. Amendments to the framework on dock labour would enable Antwerp to better commercially exploit its recognised expertise in the handling of conventional general cargo in all its forms, according to the three terminal operators. The July 1 deadline imposed by Europe for the reform of the Belgian dock labour systems is approaching fast. However, it is as yet unclear what the social dialogue on this sensitive issue will bring. Marcel Dubourg expresses the hope that it will result in a “truly innovative, future-oriented solution”, but immediately adds that “in such an issue there can be no winners if a solution is forced upon

higher container rates In a context that is overall characterised by a certain stability, Dirk Mondelaers also sees growth in other markets. For Wijngaard Natie, Russia (which, alongside Scandinavia and Turkey, is gaining in importance for the handler) is at the top of the list, but expansion is also planned for its subsidiary which focuses on maritime packaging of general cargo. Both the general manager and the CEO

Dirk Mondelaers counts on its company being able to sustain growth in traffic with Russia. “We’re working on a number of new traffics”, was all he wants to reveal on the subject. None of the three companies have planned any major investments. Various Antwerp handlers, including Zuidnatie, Wijngaard Natie and Katoen Natie, have already made great efforts in recent years to upgrade their crane fleet.

the parties.” A social conflict is the last thing he needs. “We keep going for dialogue and hope that a balance can be found.” He could live with long-term commitments that would safeguard social peace, while at the same bringing a turnaround. It is also his personal opinion that further consolidation, in a sector where ten or so players are still active in Antwerp, would be a good thing. Last year, there were no signs pointing in this direction.


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Multipurpose shipping

Headwinds not expected to A recovery in the multipurpose shipping market is not to be expected before the end of next year. Only then will specialist operators see a decrease in competition from other players in the market, says shipping consultancy firm Drewry. JEAN-LOUIS VANDEVOORDE


he market for multipurpose shipping had to face strong headwinds during the past twelve months. “Rates at rock bottom and competition for cargo from every angle”, that is how the British consultant describes the situation in its latest ‘Multipurpose Shipping Market Review and Forecast’. Amongst others, operators of handysize bulkers and container ships saw breakbulk cargo as a means of generating income, which they were unable to find in their own sectors, plagued as they were by overcapacity and weak demand. This intensified the competition and pulled freight rates in an already weakened market further down, says the British consultant. According to Drewry, demand for multipurpose ships fell by almost 3% last year. Freights plummeted as a result of the increased competition. “Rates are down to levels not seen since just after the global financial crisis”, says the consultant.


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“End to this recession” “We expect the effective demand for the MPV fleet to return to a positive trend with an average annual growth of 2.7% to 2020. However, this growth will be very subdued through 2016 and will not show any signifi-

There are no immediate signs of improvement this year. A real turnaround will not be possible until the end of 2017, with forecasts indicating an increase in

breakbulk and project cargo volumes. The growth rate could rise again to almost 3% by 2020. A return to the boom years before 2009 is, however, out of the question and only those that can manage their way through the current turmoil will be able to benefit from it. “There now is a very real risk to the financial stability of a number of companies”, experts say. Also, after 2016 much will depend on the developments in the competing sectors. If the bulk market recovers and demand for handysizes from this side picks up, this will be reflected in more breakbulk cargo for multipurpose vessels. However, on the side of containerised liner shipping, the market will probably take longer to reach a more viable balance again. “Container vessels are likely to continue to aggressively set their sights on breakbulk and project cargo”, concludes Drewry.


 abate this year

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port are highly attractive”, adds Etienne De Vel with reference to the steel sector.

Cargo is coming back

cant improvement until the end of 2017. This is due to a combination of the lack of project financing and aggressive competition from the container and Handy bulk carrier sectors”, comments Susan Oatway, lead analyst for multipurpose shipping. The multipurpose fleet itself see annual growth rates of less than 0.5% in the coming years. Growth will be recorded mainly by the project carried fleet, with an expansion of almost 4% per year. Meanwhile, the ‘simple’ MPV fleet is expected to contract at a rate of almost 3% a year. “All this suggests that for those that can survive 2016 and position themselves with unique qualities – whether that is financial stability, good management, eco-friendly engines or extraordinary lift – there is an end to this recession”, Oatway adds.

Hard times Several breakbulk operators located in Antwerp – BBC Chartering, Rickmers-Linie… – agree with the analysis made by Drewry of the intensified competition in the market and its impact on rates. “The hunger of container operators to fill their capacity is such that they do anything to get their hands on cargo”, says Eddy Rondeaux of MACS Benelux.

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“They’ve also been successful at it in sectors such as paper and steel, where more and more cargo goes into containers.” The shifting of increasingly bigger container ships from the east-west axis to the north-south routes on which MACS has been active for decades, has also had its impact there, he adds. “My biggest rival is the container”, that is how the general manager of MACS Benelux summarises his standpoint. Container lines also focus on cargo that cannot be containerised. More and more often, they take outsize or heavy cargo on board which is then placed on special platforms. “Container ships are converted, as it were, into non geared multipurpose vessels”, says Etienne De Vel, director of Fednav Belgium. He questions the efficiency of this type of operations - as in the case of the containerised shipping of steel coils - but “air does not pay. If they can do better than air...” Rondeaux also points out that big forwarders prefer to be offered standard solutions and are less familiar with the world of breakbulk cargo and multipurpose vessels, which plays into the hands of container operators. “Every shipper has to deal with cut-throat competition. In such a situation, the extremely low rates in container trans-

“Once cargo sits in a container, it almost never comes out of it again.” Rondeaux immediately refines his own statement by pointing out that he effectively sees certain cargo flows making the step back from container to breakbulk. “For certain traffics and trades, multipurpose shipping still remains the best solution. Etienne De Vel sees the same happening in his specific area. He thinks this movement could even be accelerated with the compulsory weighing of containers, which will come into effect on July 1. It strengthens their conviction that multipurpose shipping still has a future, a belief that led Fednav to invest in a large-scale renovation of its fleet. They believe that Antwerp still has the greatest know-how in the breakbulk sector, but in a market that has contracted sharply in recent years, the struggle is becoming harder. According to Rondeaux, the Port of Antwerp should urgently address the problems encountered by the sector.

Recovery? No one can confirm whether 2017 will bring a recovery. “I’ve been in the business for more than thirty years and the majority of predictions, be they positive or negative, never came true”, says Etienne De Vel. If the economy starts looking up, breakbulk traffic will probably follow suit. “We aren’t there yet, but things can change fast”, says Etienne De Vel. He sees some signs that are pointing in the right direction, such as the fact that freight rates in the bulk sector are rising again, the fact that more vessels have to decommissioned, etc.


Container shipping compani The fact that container volumes are growing slower than they used to, has not only to do with economic factors. It is also true that most breakbulk cargo that can be containerised is already effectively transported in containers. Because shipping companies seek to fill their ships to capacity, they are now also looking ever more actively for out of gauge (OOG) cargo, i.e. cargo that does not fit into a container. STEFAN VERBERCKMOES


ontainer shipping companies carrying outsize cargo is in itself nothing new. Yet earlier this year large carriers contacted the media to showcase their know-how in the field of special cargo. Their hunger for cargo is insatiable and they actually have what it takes to convince shippers or forwarders. For shipping companies running full ships, outsize cargo is, in principle, not particularly interesting, unless sky-high freight rates apply. Cargo that projects beyond the top or side of a container in fact implies that quite a few slots are lost. It also means that the operational planning must be modified, because the standard spreader of a container crane is not suited for handling project cargo.

© Hapag-Lloyd

Slot loss

A sheerleg placing a 343 tonne turbine aboard a Hapag-Lloyd container ship, on two layers of flat rack containers.

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In times of massive overcapacity – around 7.5% of the container fleet was idle last month – slot loss is a relative concept. Today, portal cranes are often built so that 2 FEU or 4 TEU containers are grabbed with a

tandem lift, which makes them suitable to handle a large number of project cargo items. The strongest cranes of the MSC PSA European Terminal (MPET) in Antwerp, for example, can lift loads of up to 100 tonnes, as Philippe Lambrechtsen of MSC Belgium pointed out in an interview with Flows earlier this year. For even heavier cargo, ‘Brabo’, a floating derrick crane, can be used. Lambrechtsen was specially hired as sales manager breakbulk by the Belgian office of Swiss shipping company MSC. At the end of last year, MSC’s head office in Geneva asked its regional offices to target the breakbulk more actively. “By breakbulk Geneva means any type of cargo that cannot be loaded into a container or on a flat rack aboard. More specifically, high & heavy cargo such as e.g. transformers, generators, large crates or vessels that are hoisted aboard by a crane and then lashed on a row of platforms”, Lambrechtsen clarifies. “We are not directly interested in, say, a shipment of a few thousand tonnes of steel, we focus above all on large items.”


es reopen hunt for OOG Record

Growing The loading of special cargo usually makes for some nice pictures. In a newsletter published in March, Hapag-Lloyd, the Ger-

America, who specifically deal with special cargo shipments. “We have extensive experience in this market segment and we want to keep growing in this area”, says Thorsten Haeser, Chief Commercial Officer (CCO). A recent reference is the transport of a turbine from Charleston to Busan. The turbine was not much longer than

“Too long, too wide or too high are terms that do not exist in the dictionary of Maersk Line” a 40’ container, but it actually weighed 343 tonnes. A sheerleg had to be called in and it took a total of nine hours to place the turbine aboard and secure the cargo on two layers of flat rack containers.

© Hapag-Lloyd

man shipping company, selected a number of projects to once again reiterate the message that it employs over fifty people at its head office in Hamburg and in regional offices in, amongst others, Asia, North and South

On the large east-west routes, MSC works together with Maersk Line in the 2M Vessel Sharing Agreement. Early this year, the Danish company, too, once more highlighted its experience with OOG cargo. It did so on the occasion of the shipment of the heaviest piece of cargo ever on one of its own container ships. It was a project of the special cargo team in Rotterdam, which in February organised the transport of a tug weighing 350 tonnes. The ‘MTS Valliant’ was lifted out of the water by a sheerleg and placed aboard the ‘Magleby Maersk’ (18,340 TEU) in a hold on a “bed of flat racks”. With this shipment the Danish shipping company broke the previous weight record of a 310-tonne generator which the carrier had transported earlier from Norfolk to Busan. “Too long, too wide or too high are terms that do not exist in our dictionary”, says the company.

The longest piece of cargo ever carried on a container ship by Maersk, was a 46m long crane arm for Busan.

The catamaran ‘Luna Rossa’ and the associated equipment took up 370 TEU of space aboard the container ship.

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© Maersk Line

© Maersk Line


The tug ‘MTS Valiant’ with its 350 tonnes is the heaviest piece of cargo ever carried on a ship of Maersk Line. These are, of course, advantages that are offered by all big carriers.

RO-RO carriers This hunger of container shipping companies for OOG cargo is obviously bad news for providers of conventional liner services who are already having rough times in a number of routes. They had already seen that ro-ro carriers are increasingly focusing on so-called high & heavy cargo, and now they are having to face even more competition. Besides, competition in ro-ro services is also increasing. Following the example of e.g. Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, a Scandinavian shipping company, also Japanese carriers are having

car carriers built that are better equipped to take project cargo aboard. “K” Line, for example, is currently commissioning a series of ten Pure Car & Truck Carriers (PCTC’s) with a (postpanamax) beam of 37m. They have a capacity of 7,500 CEU (car equivalent units), but carry also large rail wagons from Japan to Durham, UK. MOL’s latest car carriers, four of which are under construction, are called units of the FLEXIE class because they will offer much greater flexibility. These 6,800 CEU car carriers will in fact have fourteen garage decks, including six hoistable decks. Older PCTC’s of this format usually have twelve decks, only two of which are adjustable in height.

© Henk Claeys

Cargo does not always have to be heavy to be special. A case in point is the transport of the Italian catamaran ‘Luna Rossa’ from Cagliari to Oakland, US, and back. This 50 knot sailboat weighs only six tonnes, but it is 22m long and 14m wide. Even after removing the sailing mast, the sailing mast, the total volume of the whole shipment amounted to 370 TEU. Two big advantages that container shipping companies like to publicise are the size of their network and above all the frequency of departures which in practice is nearly always at least weekly, what cannot be said of conventional liner services. “With us, if you miss a departure, you don’t have to wait a whole month”, says Lambrechtsen.

The ‘Drive Green Highway’ is the third in a series of ten newly built PCTCs for “K” Line. The ship has the appearance of a standard car carrier, but its internal layout is such that it accommodates sufficiently high garage decks for project cargo.

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“Pallet transport by barg breakthrough”

The ‘Oorderdam’ unloads a pile of pallets gypsum at De Rycke in the Waasland port.

Ever since the first modest trials on transport of palletised cargo by barge took place a number of years ago, this type of transport is gradually gaining a foothold in the market. One of the main protagonists in this story is Shipit, which in the meantime operates a fixed-route service with palletised building materials. KOEN HEINEN

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e on the eve of major


on the side of the ship. This had the drawback that people always had to be present in the load, thereby posing a safety risk. To solve this, we came up with the idea of installing a crane on the ship”, says D’Haeyer.

Crane ship The ‘Oorderdam’, which is equipped with a crane, is one of the seven ships of shipping company Fluviant, founded in 2010 and sister company of Shipit. The ship has a deadweight of 1,700

tonnes and is used mainly for the transport of pallets and big bags, but also concrete elements. It sails a fixed route between Flanders, Northern France, Northern Netherlands and Wallonia. “We can also load extra cargo at certain stops”, according to D’Haeyer.

Forward stock locations

The key customer for pallet transport is the Knauf/Isolava group (gypsum blocks and

hile the skipper is unloading a palletised load of Knauf gypsum onto the quay of the De Rycke concrete plant in Kallo, using the Oorderdam barge’s own crane, Jan D’Haeyer, co-CEO of multimodal operator Shipit, seated in the ship’s wheelhouse, explains how pallet transport by barge has developed in recent years. “When a few years ago we embarked on pallet transport by barge, loading and unloading was still carried out with platforms

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powders). “The most progressive building material manufacturers and traders prefer transport by inland waterway. We believe in the logistics of palletised cargo and are reinventing them based on the principle of forward stocks, whereby goods are transported in large volumes close to the local market, or, in

BreakthroUGh “This is only the beginning. We’re on the eve of a major breakthrough for pallet transport by barge. At Shipit, we’ve been working for twelve years on creating a modal shift for all sorts of cargo. Whenever there’s a new market, there is always

“We believe in the logistics of palletised goods and are reinventing them based on the principle of forward stocks” the case of export to the port for subsequent stuffing on the terminal. We firmly believe in this concept. The kilometre charge will result in renewed interest in such solutions”, says D’Haeyer.

that initial resistance among customers. Fortunately, there are always first movers. In the meantime, we’re transporting 50,000 pallets on an annual basis. We intend to commission a

The crane can load or unload up to 200 pallets per hour.

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second crane ship in the short term. This ship has the advantage that no heavy quay or special infrastructure is required. Loading and unloading can even be done directly on the truck”, stresses D’Haeyer. The crane can load or unload up to 200 pallets per hour. The Flemish government supports pallet transport by barge. Customers are granted operating aid that is limited in time, and Shipit receives investment aid for part of the reconversion of the ship. The price of pallet transport by barge varies from route to route, according to D’Haeyer. “Many routes are cheaper than road transport. There’s also the effect of the kilometre charge, which will stimulate the further development of pallet transport by barge, whilst our ships are already being overloaded. The wave of the past decade, with road transport becoming increasingly cheaper, has made the distribution chain unsustainable. However, the limit has been reached and everything is being re-examined. In fact, there is the uncertainty as to how long the goods will be underway. Carriers will also factor in these risks into their rates. The alternative are large forward stock locations closer to the customer”, D’Haeyer adds. Knauf has such a warehouse in Utrecht and in the port of Brussels, whereby the goods are located closer to the local market. This way, long truck journeys can be avoided. Shipit has its own trimodal terminal at the Northern Inlet Basin in the Waasland port on the Left Bank. In addition, it has concessions for the Wielsbeke inland terminal and at the Steamer quay in the port of Brussels. With the ‘Oorderdam’ having been freed of part of its load, D’Haeyer concludes that pallet transport by barge will not remain confined to building materials and that the consumer goods market will follow suit.


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“Breakbulk and container

Wim Dillen

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go hand in hand” Containers and breakbulk are increasingly becoming two sides of the same traffic coin. Antwerp is particularly well equipped to play the card of the complementarity between both, stresses Wim Dillen, head of business development at the Antwerp Port Authority. JEAN-LOUIS VAN DE VOORDE

Antwerp performed strongly in general cargo last year.

Wim Dillen: “With an end result of 208 million tonnes, 2015 was an absolute record year for the port. This result was mainly due to the sustained growth in container traffic, which was up 4.6% to a total of 113 million tonnes. Also conventional general cargo had a good year, recording a slight increase of 1.2% up to 10 million tonnes. This means that we managed to offset a number of shifts in the market by new volumes. In these difficult economic times this is a remarkable result.”

Does this mean that the containerisation of general cargo is slowing down?

WD: “Not really. Cargo that was previously shipped as breakbulk is now increasingly being shipped in containers. Steel and perishables such as fruit and vegetables are just two examples. The trend is still gaining momentum. One of the reasons for this is that containers are an easily accessible shipping method for maritime transport. Many ports that do not have the expertise to handle general cargo are quite capable of dealing with containers.”

port. What we’re seeing is that the complementarity between conventional and container is often greater than many think. Export goods come from the hinterland to Antwerp by conventional trucks and are here bagged up and stuffed into containers. Import containers are stripped in Antwerp, their cargo is stored and prepared for distribution in Europe. All combined – with steel products and chemicals taking the lead, followed by malt, coffee, fertilisers, non-ferrous metals, etc. – this amounts to many millions of tonnes per year. The Antwerp know-how in breakbulk therefore also benefits the container sector and the warehousing activities.”

Does this mean that containers and breakbulk go hand in hand?

WD: “Breaking down traffic by form of appearance is becoming increasingly meaningless. Such a breakdown is becoming more and more artificial. What matters are the cargo flows. Just as they

can employ different modes of transport, they can take different forms. Antwerp remains the largest breakbulk port in Europe and for this we are not dependent on the captive industry. Antwerp is a port for everyone.” “We owe our leading position to our outspoken multimodality, the enormous variety of products that pass through our port, the sustained investments by our specialised terminal operators, the expertise of our people, and the availability of regular and semi-regular general cargo services that is unmatched by any other port.” “But breakbulk increasingly comes and goes in containers and the fact that we can also receive the largest container ships, makes Antwerp’s position only stronger, also in breakbulk. It’s no wonder that the BreakBulk trade show attracts ever more container people.”

Will Antwerp not let go of breakbulk?

WD: “By no means. The Antwerp Port Authority is convinced that breakbulk will always be an important and necessary way of shipping general cargo. Moreover, breakbulk perfectly fits in with our mission. Tonnes are important, but even more important are the added value and the employment generated by the port activity. That is where our primary social mission lies. Breakbulk scores very high on these points.

Bad news for Antwerp?

WD: “This development is not necessarily negative for our

37 7

Size isn’t the challenge It is sometimes argued that the future of wind energy is at sea, and that onshore wind farms will not experience any further significant growth. This would mean that demand for transport and assembly of onshore wind turbines will stagnate. Also, wind turbines are ever increasing in size, which complicates the land transport of its components - and not in the least the blades. This too would cause demand for land transport of wind turbines to decrease. However, both conclusions are premature. PHILIPPE VAN DOOREN

“We can easily lift 100 tonnes up to 160m under the hook and even greater heights are possible”, says Frédéric Dufour.



There’s also

a future in repowering “Both have their advantages and drawbacks. For onshore, the cost price and connection costs are lower, but for offshore there is less interference and the wind is more stable. It is true that it is becoming more difficult to obtain permits for the construction of onshore wind farms, because space is, after all, a scarce commodity. But the trend for repowering is picking up pace. Old turbines are being replaced with new, often larger units. This, too, creates more demand for assembly and transport, according to Dufour. The typical lifetime of a wind farm is 20 years, although there are projects in the EU that have been operating longer. “Extending life of wind farms is an active area of research. But repowering existing projects with newer, scaled up technologies is also an important strategy in the long-term to improve cost competitiveness”, according to WindEurope.

“The more constant the wind, the more energy a wind turbine can produce. In contrast to the wind over sea, the wind over land is less constant. To compensate for this, onshore turbines must

cover a larger area. This explains the clear trend for larger wind turbines. The technical maximum has not yet been reached, but with the current cranes we can still assemble still larger

ind energy is the most cost competitive renewable energy source. Onshore wind energy in particular is cheaper than any other renewable energy and it is competitive with conventional power generation sources such as coal and gas. According to WindEurope (formerly the European Wind Energy Association, EWEA) onshore wind is the cheapest generation source in Europe, when taking into consideration pollution costs and subsidies, which are not included in the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) estimations. According to the European Commission, the LCOE of onshore wind ranges from 52 to 110 euros/MWh. Although offshore wind is on a steady cost reduction pathway with expected costs of 100 euros/MWh by 2020 and 85 to 79 euros/MWh by 2030, the onshore wind industry still has a bright future ahead, says WindEurope. “In some countries such as Denmark but also Belgium, a large quantity of energy is already being generated by offshore wind farms. But in other countries such as France, the first concessions are only now being issued. This means that Europe’s offshore wind energy sector is on the eve of a tremendous boom. But this doesn’t yet mean that the offshore energy sector will suddenly come to a standstill”, says Frédéric Dufour, who heads the wind turbines division of Groupe Dufour based in Tournai. This quietly, discrete Belgian company is one of the European market leaders in lifting gear for the construction of wind turbines.


ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF WIND ENERGY Wind power is one of the fastest growing industrial segments in the world. Starting off as a niche market 15 years ago in Europe, wind energy today can meet 11.4% of Europe’s electricity demand with a cumulative capacity of 142 GW at the end of 2015. Wind is set to be the backbone of the future power system. It is poised to meet a quarter of Europe’s power demand by 2030. The IEA’s World Energy Outlook predicts it to be the leading source of electricity generation in 2040.

More growth onshore

The alleged stagnation or decrease in demand for onshore wind turbines is also contradicted by the European wind energy industry’s vision to 2030. It is to install 320 GW of wind energy capacity in the EU by that year, of which 254 GW would be onshore wind and 66 GW offshore wind). That would be more than twice as in 2015 and an increase of two thirds from the expected capacity installed by 2020 (192 GW). By 2030, wind energy could produce 24.4% of the EU’s electricity demand.

39 7


possible. And we will see many more developments and innovations in the field of blades”, says Dufour.


© Nototeboom


The rotating blades are frequently 50 metres long and some can measure almost 60 to 70 metres in length. In the future, the blades will be slit to facilitate the transport.

Split blades

With the four rotor concept demonstrator, Vestas challenges the core scaling rules that turbines have to grow in size to increase their energy output. It also aims to ease as transport and installation difficulties. turbines. Moreover, also the cranes continue to evolve. Therefore, the inhibiting factor is not the technology, but the regulatory framework”, according to Dufour. “In Germany, where the highest onshore wind turbines may be built, a rotor height of 160 to 170m is per-

40 6

mitted. In Belgium, where the permits are issued by the regions, the maximum allowed height is 80 to 120m. But even if larger onshore turbines are to be built in the future, neither the transport nor the assembly equipment will be an inhibiting factor”, says Dufour.

He cites the example of one of the largest turbines existing today: the German Enercon E126 7.5MW, which is purely designed for the onshore sector. It features a concrete tower with a 135-meter hub height, and segmented steel-composite hybrid blades with a 127-metre rotor diameter. Its blades are split into two parts for logistical reasons. “Transpor-ting blades of 60 m or more in one piece would pose a considerable number of difficulties and an enormous amount of logistical planning and costs. The divided blade, however, alleviates this issue and allows to access very challenging sites”, says Dufour. Consequently, he does not identify the size and height of future wind turbines as a challenge to the transport of the various parts. Assembly is also possible with the currently available technology. “We can easily lift 100 tonnes up to 160m under the hook and even greater heights are

Both the transport and the assembly sector are therefore capable of handling even larger wind turbines. The restrictions are therefore of a political nature. That is why work is being done on the development of wind turbines with one tower and multiple rotors. This is an effort to boost the power of wind turbines without increasing their size and weight, which would lower transport and installation costs and boost the profitability of wind power. Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems A/S recently started testing such a wind turbine with four rotors attached to a single tower, challenging the conventional one-rotor turbine concept. The capacity of this test turbine is well below today’s conventional turbines, that typically have a capacity of 2 megawatts and more, but may be scaled up if the concept works. With this concept demonstrator, Vestas challenges the core scaling rules that turbines have to grow in size to increase their energy output as well as transport, installation and legal challenges in some markets. The test turbine should help to understand the structural dynamics, aerodynamics and loads of the four-rotor concept. One concern is whether the turbine will vibrate so much that the structure suffers damage. “Many new load and control features will need to be developed, tested, and proven to assess the technical and eventually the commercial feasibility of the concept”, the company says.

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No project too heavy or too big The port of Antwerp is home to the largest petrochemical cluster in Europe and the second largest in the world. Many of the involved companies are firmly anchored in Antwerp, which is reflected in regular investments in large-scale projects that call for logistics expertise and know-how. Headquartered in Wolvertem, Sarens has in recent years emerged as a specialist in heavy lifting and special transport projects for the petrochemical industry. KOEN HEINEN


424 crawler cranes and 101 heavy lift tower cranes. The transport fleet consists of over 700 conventional trailers, more than 300 modular trailers and 1,788 SPMT’s (self-propelled modular transporters). For water transport the group owns nine barges. The Sarens Belgium division works, among other things, on

large projects in Antwerp’s petrochemical industry.

PROJECTS The continued attractiveness of the port for the petrochemical industry is illustrated by several major investment projects that were recently carried out by

he company’s slogan is not for nothing: ‘Nothing too heavy, nothing too high’. The Sarens NV family group is represented in 60 countries with 105 business units, 4,200 employees and turnover of around €600m. The group owns an extensive crane fleet, including 1,162 hydraulic mobile cranes,

The CC8800, a 1,600 tonne crane, and the third largest crane of Sarens, at work in the background, and a pre-assembled module on SPMT’s in the foreground.



Special transport on the Scheldelaan is only authorised after 23:00, so that operations often take place at night. tank storage and production companies in the port of Antwerp. Sarens was closely involved in the implementation of a number of these projects. The company provided transport and heavy lift services for a project of Total Olefins Antwerpen (TOA), which involved the construction of a boiler. “The boiler parts

(1,600 tonne crane), which is our third largest crane. The transport of such a crane requires up to 60 trucks and its assembly takes several days”, that is how De Smet summarises the logistics involved in such a project. At Exxon Mobil, pre-assembled modules collected in Tarragona, Spain, with a sea pontoon, are put

“Cooperation with the Port Authority is essential for the completion of such projects” were shipped by water, landed and transported to the site by SPMT and lifted there”, explains Marc De Smet, key account manager at Sarens Belgium. Sarens also participated in Total’s Optara project (Optimisation Antwerp-Rotterdam Area). Some pre-assembled parts were transported by water via the ABES quay, from where they were transported to the Total site by SPMT’s. “At present, we are working on the successor of the Optara project. For this, we use the CC8800

44 6

together. Sarens leases a quay from BNFW/Sea-Invest to bring the parts ashore and transport them to the Exxon Mobil site.

COOPERATION WITH THE PORT AUTHORITY Not all project sites have a berth, so Sarens had to look for alternatives. “We work in close cooperation with the Port Authority, which helps us in find-

ing a solution. This cooperation is important for the successful completion of such projects”, stresses De Smet. Concerning a project for Nippon Shokubai in Zwijndrecht, a suitable unloading site was found on the outside of the Kallo lock, in cooperation with the Port Authority.

RULES AND LICENCES The land transport of such bulky and heavy items not only makes for spectacular pictures, but also involves a multiplicity of regulations and licences. “Allowance must be made for soil load restrictions for underground lines, traffic lights and lighting poles along the route, rail overhead lines and bridges that require a detour, and so on”, explains De Smet. Driving on public roads is also subject to special rules. On the Scheldelaan, for example, such special transport is authorised only after 23:00. The SPMT’s reach a maximum speed of 3 km/h. Sarens has its own engineering department in Wolvertem which is responsible for various calculations worldwide, including soil loads, cranes and lifting plans. 3D film simulations are used for this purpose.

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Modal shift from road to rail  for transport of logs Rail operator B Logistics, in collaboration with sawmill Pauls based in Gouvy in the province of Luxembourg, has achieved a modal shift from road to rail for the transport of logs. The logs are delivered by coaster from Scandinavia to RCT along the Sea Canal in Willebroek and then, for the time being, by barge to Liège and from there by rail to Gouvy. KOEN HEINEN


he sawmill processes some 1,500 tonnes of raw logs daily. Because the regional supply of timber is insufficient for production, logs are imported from other countries or regions, including Scandinavia. The timber arrives per coaster on the site of RCT. For

years, the transportation of logs between Willebroek and Gouvy was carried out by road.

NEW CONCEPT “The sawmill was originally located in Bullange, where a direct rail connection was

available. From the 1990s, rail transport was regularly used for the supply of timber from countries such as Russia. Each week there would also be one or two trains from France. In 2013 the sawmill was hit by a fire and instead of rebuilding it, a new sawmill was set up in Gouvy in

Unloading of the logs at the Pôle Ardenne Bois in Gouvy.




At present, one 20-car train each week carries 1,200 tonnes of logs between Monsin and Gouvy.

2014”, explains François Collard of sawmill Pauls. The company had already collaborated with B Logistics and wanted to transport the logs from Willebroek to Gouvy by rail alone. However, this required a new transport concept, which called for the participation of railway operator Infrabel, Waterways & Sea Canal (W&Z), and the intermunicipal association Idelux. In fact, Willebroek did not yet have a direct rail link. The site is owned by W&Z. For the time being, the logs are transported by barge to Monsin near Liège, where they are loaded onto rail

cars. From Liège they go to the Pauls site in Gouvy, where Idelux financed the realisation of a ‘Pôle Ardenne Bois’ including a rail connection of almost two kilometres. “It took us eight months to reach an agreement with B Logistics on rates that can compete with road transport. The temporary solution in the form of barge transport from Willebroek is still expensive, but at least it enabled us to get started,” continues Collard. The rail connection in Willebroek is supposed to be built in the short term, but Collard is also

thinking of a location in the port of Antwerp as a possible alternative. Pauls and B Logistics signed a three-year agreement.

40 TRUCKS At present, one 20-car train each week carries 1,200 tonnes of logs between Monsin and Gouvy. This allows 40 truck journeys to be avoided. The frequency may in future be increased to two trains per week, as soon as a sufficient number of special cars for lumber transport are available, which have to be rented in Germany for now.

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Flows magazine editie 5 mei 2015: breakbulk  

Flows magazine editie 5 mei 2015: breakbulk  

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