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Editie 17 - Mei 2019



Masterclass breakbulk

“Girlpower in breakbulk”




ntil your correspondent made the switch three years ago from the general media to the trade news platform Flows, I mainly associated the port with container carriers and tankers. This is probably how the average layperson sees the port. After all these are the means of transport that most frequently appear in the media. During the past three years, however, I have learned about the many other transport modes, inside and outside the port. But with due respect to all the rest, if there is one sector that really made an impression on me it was breakbulk. Both in Belgium and abroad you can hardly fail to be impressed by the companies operating in this sector. It’s not just the cargoes that speak to the imagination. Frequently you encounter companies with a very rich tradition that despite the rapid advances in technology and huge increases in freight volumes still have a very authentic, craft-based approach. You have to admit, a company with a name ending in “Nation” has something majestic about it.

“You have to admit, a company with a name ending in ‘Nation’ has something majestic about it” The fact that more and more shippers are trying to put their freight in containers has an undeniable economic logic behind it. Fortunately, however, there are still many products and cargoes that won’t fit in a steel box. These are the consignments that appeal to the imagination of a layman such as I used to be, three years ago. It would be a smart move for authorities and port companies to showcase this particular sector. Big events such as Antwerp XL are a good thing. Specialists getting together and meeting one another always creates added value. At the same time events around the world such as these are an opportunity to draw the attention of the mass media to this sector. For sure, any journalist finds a consignment of steel coils, exotic timber from far-flung places or parts of a windmill much sexier than a container. Even if the container in question is wearing a smart red jacket. Add the mighty cadre of specialist companies and stevedores in Antwerp with their huge heart for this type of cargo, and you have a “love story” that puts any soap opera to shame.


CONTENTS Editorial 1 All-weather rail warehouse opens at unique location in Antwerp


NxtPort: Bulkchain in the spotlight at AntwerpXL


North Sea Port captures leading position in Scheldt mouth range


“We see it as sexy cargo”


Breakbulk is increasingly important for container carriers


G2 Ocean sets innovative course after merger


Mammoet goes big in Antwerp


Barging Solutions: “If it fits in a barge, we carry it”


“The core of our task is know-how and coordination”


New terminal gives wider access to water transport for ArcelorMittal Ghent


Breakbulk Masterclass is a big hit


“As a woman you have to work harder to prove yourself”


Antwerp has breakbulk partners around the world


Column: Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO Port of Antwerp





COLOFON Flows is the leading Dutch-language news platform for the freight transport world. Flows brings independent, expert reporting on facts, developments and people in shipping, transport and logistics. It offers news from a Belgian perspective, but with a broad view of international business. The reporting in Flows is the work of professional journalists, each with a sharp focus on one or more sectors in the wide landscape of freight transport. Flows is owned by Havenkoepel, a non-profit organisation that guarantees editorial independence.

PUBLISHER Havenkoepel vzw, Brouwersvliet 33, 2000 Antwerp www.flows.be




Chantal De Clerck

marketing@flows.be henk.wathion@flows.be

Quentin Macilray




Bart Timperman






All-weather rail warehouse opens at unique location in Antwerp Three big-name companies team up for rail project (L. to r.) Grégory Brion (Conti7), Stefanie Feys (Zuidnatie), Benoit Van Dyck (Edm. Van Dyck & Sons) and Peter Larose (Conti7): confident that Antwerp Railhouse has everything necessary to ensure success. (photo Koen Heinen)

The opening of the Antwerp XL breakbulk exhibition coincides with the official inauguration of the Antwerp Railhouse in the Churchill dock. This project, a collaboration between freight handler Zuidnatie, ship’s agent Conti7 and forwarder Edmond Van Dyck & Sons, consists of two intermodal warehouses for rain-sensitive commodities, with direct rail access right inside. The location in the Churchill dock near the AntwerpNorth rail fan is an enormous advantage, according to the initiative-takers.



he story of Antwerp Railhouse begins with Edmond Van Dyck & Sons and Conti7. “We started in 2015 with Abudyck, a 50/50 joint venture between Dyck and Conti7. A customer had particular questions to which we responded jointly with initiatives for loading barges, storage etc. It went so well that we had to hire ad-



Antwerp Railhouse offers an all-in package including handling, storage, stuffing, lashing & securing and traction (photo ARH)

ditional warehouse capacity, but we soon came to the conclusion that we would be better to build the capacity ourselves. The good

“The two warehouses are now ready. The first one has been fully used since the beginning of this year, and the customer

“Is the market waiting for something like this? We are convinced it is.” (Patrick Merlevede/Zuidnatie)

collaboration with Zuidnatie and the fact that we are very complementary with steel forwarding, handling, port agency etc. led to a three-way partnership. We obtained a unique location on quay 472 were everything was dedicated for sheet steel, with direct rail access. The modal shift also played a role: we were able to offer customers a trimodal solution with an attractive concept. And so it all started,” explains Peter Larose, Head of Projects at Conti7.


is very satisfied. The Container Freight Station (CFS) has been operational since the beginning of April, and we now await confirmation for it from potential customers,” says Benoit Van Dyck (Edmond Van Dyck & Sons).


multimodalism Antwerp Railhouse is a multicustomer, multi-commodity warehouse. “With this all-

weather facility we are aiming at steel, forest products, paper and other very specific rain-sensitive products that arrive by rail. There are two rail tracks into the facility, the gates can be closed and the goods can be stored temporarily and then shipped by container. The containers can be brought in empty or full, by barge or rail, or in urgent cases also by road: all three modes are available. We naturally promote the water solution with barge transport, but rail solutions are also possible. This is all in preparation for the large-scale roadworks in and around Antwerp that are due to start soon. To avoid them we’ve been offering a shuttle barge service between the import and export terminals, within Zuidnatie at least. We also want to make maximum use of multimodalism within Antwerp Roadhouse,” explains Patrick Merlevede, business development manager at Zuidnatie.

tional or containerised. Antwerp Railhouse offers an all-in package including handling, storage, stuffing, lashing & securing and traction. “We also do imports. At the moment we don’t have a lead there, but the concept works on both sides: it’s not purely a CFS facility. A combination with conventional is perfectly possible, thanks also to the ideal location,” Van Dyck insists.

Churchill dock

Success story With rail accounting for only 7% of transport in the port, the partners are all too aware that there is a long way to go. “I think that we’re all responsible for this situation. If we want to promote something then we have to do something about it, all the partners together,” says Larose. “We already have the logistics solution and a covered rail terminal in our services. Naturally we are looking for partners who can use a significant part of the warehouse and who can also guarantee the container volumes. That’s a bit of a challenge: is the market waiting for something like this? We are convinced that it is. Of course the price is also important, but the possibilities are logistically and operationally ready to make a success of it,” Merlevede adds.

Steel The steel arrives by rail from surrounding countries. “Germany

and Austria are important targets for us. Of course there are already significant volumes that come to Antwerp and to neighbouring ports, containerised or

Antwerp Railhouse sees the location in the Churchill dock as an important advantage. “The shipping lines that call at the Churchill dock represent 80% of the volumes of coil and steel, not counting the Left bank area. We can profit from this cluster of conventional lines,” Larose explains. “Here we’re also close to the consolidation point for all rail wagons at the Antwerp-North marshalling yard. The cost per last mile is fairly limited in comparison with the service on other terminals, especially those on the Left bank,” Merlevede em­ phasises. “This is an all-in package, and the warehouse with rail

“This is an all-on package, and the warehouse with rail line is part of it” (Peter Larose/Conti7)

not. But there’s still a distance of one thousand kilometres to be bridged, which is an attractive distance for rail transport. We are convinced that this offers a lot of potential, even if the German ports are possible competitors. We’re working very hard at it,” Merlevede insists. The steel arrives as conventional freight by rail and is sent to the export ship either conven­

line is part of it. The location is also very important, and so is the cluster of lines. I think that Antwerp is still incredibly well placed for steel distribution in Europe, and a large number of companies are taking advantage of this. Antwerp does 8 million tonnes annually in steel alone. That’s a really substantial share of the total breakbulk activity,” concludes Larose.




Administrative simplification in the breakbulk world

NxtPort: Bulkchain in the spotlight at AntwerpXL The Bulkchain project by NxtPort occupies pride of place at the AntwerpXL trade fair. This flagship product of the NxtPort data platform will be unveiled in a series of demonstrations. Breakbulk project manager Steven Schutter at NxtPort spoke to us about the objectives of this brand-new application. SVEN GOYVAERTS


t the beginning of last year the breakbulk sector came to the NxtPort data platform with a request. There seem to be all sorts of data sharing developments in the container sector, but could it also be possible to do something similar for breakbulk operators? Now, one year later, NxtPort in-

panies represented at the meeting all agreed that they were. This was followed by meetings with the various companies in sessions known as Co-Envisions, during which we drew up the blueprints for a new solution.” “In this approach the import and export process for breakbulk in the port was broken down into

“How can we help the next party in line doing administration by sharing data?“ troduces the first answer to this request at AntwerpXL, under the name of Bulkchain.

Co-Envision “In July last year NxtPort brought representatives of the breakbulk sector together to see whether everybody was in favour of a new approach. The 35 com-


five logical blocks. NxtPort will make these available in separate modules. Just as in all other ‘use cases’ for NxtPort, we have adopted the principle that companies will network with each other using Application Program Interfaces (APIs),” Schutter explains. “But because the impact on some companies will be particularly large we have teamed up with

Port+ to provide a comprehensive user interface. This will make it possible to get the project up and running more quickly.” Port+ is responsible for developing the front end and the first-line training for users, and for marketing Bulkchain. NxtPort for its part will provide the back end.

Simplification The demand for solutions came from the sector because the administrative processing of breakbulk is very labour-intensive. There are also problems when it comes to communication with Customs & Excise. “For example, there is a legal requirement for confirmation to be sent to Customs the day after a ship leaves port,” says Schutter. “Within the breakbulk sector it is normal to allow a period of 30 days for administrative processing of cargoes. The objective of Bulkchain is to complete this administrative process in a single day, as in the container market.” How might it be possible to help the next party in the line with administration by sharing data? This was the nub of the challenge, where NxtPort has an essential role to play. “NxtPort acts as a central hub,” Schutter explains. “The various parties involved in a particular case communicate with us, and we in turn communicate with the others as necessary. In the first case worked out by us we will collaborate on creating a large file in order to fill a ship that


can then leave for another port. This initial phase in the export process for breakbulk includes booking the terminal and detailing the transport modes by which the goods will be brought to the quay. Bulkchain makes the administrative process much quicker and smoother.” “I visited the terminals to see how much cutting-and-pasting was done on the computer,” says Schutter. “We can now avoid all that copying and re-copying from files that go back and forth.”

Contrast with containers

The entire file management process has been put in a new package, as it were. This is in contrast to the approach with containers. Since there are many different standards in the container market, it is more difficult to redesign the administrative process as a whole. “At the moment our solutions for the container market consist of separate blocks,” Schutter explains. “You can opt separately for a Next Mode of Transport and for an Import Consignment and Export Manifest, but there is no unified flow from NxtPort to connect all these different steps. By integrating with Bulkchain, by contrast, you eventually integrate the entire series of steps in the export or import process. This new way of working, by going via NxtPort, will be extended to other markets in the second half of 2019.” The unifying case file in the background makes the link


Steven Schutter (Photo Sven Goyvaerts)



Breakbulk steel. between all the steps, but this does not necessarily lead to an additional reference number. “We make sure that everyone

on blockchain. The intention is then to market the result of the completed Bulkchain case elsewhere around the world.” People

to communicate with each other, so making it possible to organise international trade in an efficient way.”


“We can now avoid all that copying and pasting from files that go back and forth” can continue to use their own number. We link that number with our own reference for the shared file in the background.”

Blockchain “Bulkchain” may sound similar to “blockchain,” but it is not actually based on the latter technology. “The original idea was to run Bulkchain on blockchain, but we decided against it,” says Schutter. “On the other hand we do plan to develop a case based


in the destination port also want to receive the data of the previous process in a structured form. This information could be made available in the port of arrival, sealed and approved on a blockchain by all the parties involved. “Of course people will be interested in being able to consult the data in a structured way, for a price,” says Schutter. “The best of all would be if they also had Bulkchain running at their end. This would enable the platforms in the different ports

Case processing with Bulkchain naturally comes at a price. Once the entire export process has been completed, for instance, the cost would be 10 cents per tonne of steel, to be divided between the three largest stakeholders, namely the ship’s agent, the terminal and the forwarder. “It has to be profitable,” Schutter emphasises. “The profit will then be ploughed back into the project. This can be used to keep the cost down, or the money could go to other projects, in consultation with the stakeholders. We’re not trying to maximise profits, but it has to be self-financing. We want it to benefit the market. The whole point of Bulkchain is to bring ports into the future of breakbulk.”

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North Sea Port captures leading position in Dunkirk-Rotterdam range


40.0 38.1

39.2 35.9



41.0 37.3







30.0 25.0



30.5 30.0




20.0 15.0 10.0 5.0 0

‘00 ‘01 ‘02‘ 03 ‘04‘ 05 ‘06 ‘07 ‘08‘ 09 ‘10 ‘11 ‘12‘ 13 ‘14‘ 15 ‘16 ‘17 ‘18

Share of conventional/breakbulk in Dunkirk-Rotterdam range(%) 25.0




Share of breakbulk volume

8 ‘1


7 ‘1



‘1 4



‘1 3



‘1 1



‘0 9



Share of total freight volume

‘0 7



‘0 4



‘0 3




ntwerp, Zeebrugge, North Sea Port, Rotterdam and Dunkirk – the five seaports of any significance in the mini-range around the mouth of the Scheldt* – between them handled 866.26 million tonnes of seafreight last year, up 2.5% on the previous period. All breakbulk together accounted for 395.20 million tonnes or 45.6% of this total, up 4.2%. Containers formed by far the largest category of this with 300.33 million tonnes or 34.7% of the total, up 5.3%. Ro/ro for its part accounted for 64.42 million tonnes or 7.4%, up 1.2%. Each of these figures is not only an absolute group record but also the highest result for at least five years in a row. When it comes to conventional breakbulk in its various manifestations the picture was slightly less rosy. This third main category of breakbulk came to 30.45 million tonnes. Compared with 2017 the situation was static, but in 2008 the volume was more than a fifth higher at 37.26 million tonnes. Looking back over the past ten years the decline is even more marked in relative terms, from 4.8% to 3.5% of total maritime freight and from 11.6% to 7.7% of all breakbulk volumes handled.


‘0 1


Total breakbulk volume in Dunkirk-Rotterdam range (million tonnes)

‘0 0

With the merger of Ghent and Zeeland Seaports to form North Sea Port a new market leader in breakbulk was created last year. The figures for 2018 show that Antwerp has lost the dominant position that it held for decades. In fact North Sea Port was the only one to register growth in the Dunkirk – Rotterdam mini-range.


Stable volume, fewer shifts

Market share in breakbulk within the Dunkirk-Rotterdam range

The good news for breakbulk players is probably that the market is no longer contracting in absolute terms, with the conventional breakbulk volume remaining stable at around 30 million tonnes for the seventh year in a row since 2012. In other words the decline in the relative share of this type of freight is explained by the sharp rise in other categories, especially containers. This does not mean that there have no longer been any shifts, but only that the shifts remain within much narrower brackets. Antwerp is a good example of this phenomenon: its result of 10.16 million tonnes for 2018 was a good 40% lower than in 2008, when it had already lost a significant part of its breakbulk trade, but a decade ago it was still head and shoulders above the rest with 16.94 million tonnes. The situation in 2018 was only a straight continuation of the development over the five previous years. The last sharp drops in the breakbulk volume came in 2012 and 2014, with a fall from 12.70 to 10.90 and then to 10.09 million tonnes. In Rotterdam (down 1.6% to 6.35 million tonnes in 2018) the variations from year to year are slightly more pronounced.

Containerisation as the scapegoat? The continuing trend towards containerisation of many freight categories is generally blamed for the decline in breakbulk volumes, with some justification. However this is only part of the story. The figures also show that two ports – which as it happens are not container ports – while not actually improving their breakbulk volumes have nevertheless managed to keep them at the same level over the past ten years. Zeeland Seaports (Flushing and Terneuzen) accounted for 7.61 million tonnes of conventional breakbulk in 2008, and now ten years later the figure is pretty well the same at 7.99 million tonnes. Ghent is doing somewhat better with a new absolute record of 3.77 million tonnes last year, compared with 3.12 million tonnes in 2008.

North Sea Port

2000 Rotterdam 23.0 %

Antwerp 54.6 %

Dunkirk 2.6 % Zeeland Seaports 8.1 % Ghent 8.0 % Zeebrugge 2.6 %

2008 Rotterdam 19.6 %

Dunkirk 3.9 %

Antwerp 45.5 %

Zeeland Seaports 20.4 %

Zeebrugge 2.3 %

Ghent 8.4 %

2018 Rotterdam 20.9 %

in the lead

Antwerp 33.4 % Dunkirk 3.8 % 26.2 % 12.4 % Zeebrugge 3.4 %


As of the beginning of last year these same three ports are operating under the name of North Sea Port. The combined total volume for conventional breakbulk has made the merged entity the market leader in this segment with 11.76 million tonnes, a good 1,5 million more than Antwerp. This performance is not a one-off: if Ghent, Terneuzen and Flushing had merged five years


North Sea Port 38.6 %


earlier they would have already left Antwerp behind in 2012. Moreover North Sea Port (as a whole and for its two separate parts) was the only port to make progress in this segment last year, with growth of 4.6% compared with 2017 (11.24 million tonnes). All other ports slipped back, including Zeebrugge (down 21.8% to 1.04 million tonnes) and Dunkirk (down 1.3% to 1.14 million tonnes).

Breakbulk volume 2000-2018 (million tonnes)




Market shares up and down 10


0 “00‘ 01 ‘02‘ 03 ‘04‘ 05 ‘06‘ 07 ‘08‘ 09 ‘10‘ 11 ‘12‘ 13 ‘14 ‘15 ‘16‘ 17 ‘18 Antwerp


Zeeland Seaports


North Sea Port

Breakbulk as share of total sea freight volume (%) 30.0


This result gave North Sea Port a market share of 38.6% in the mini-range in 2018. Since it still experienced growth while the market as a whole shrank, the merged entity made progress of just under 10% compared with the combined total of Ghent and Zeeland Seaports in 2008. This was due in the first place to the former Zeeland Seaports (from 20.4 to 26.2%), but Ghent too made a significant contribution (from 8.4 to 12.4%). Antwerp follows in second place with 33.4%, but has lost 12% market share in the past decade. In third place comes Rotterdam (from 19.6% in 2008 to 20.9%). Zeebrugge for its part has made modest progress, from 2.3 to 3.4%, but just like Dunkirk (stable at 3.8%) its total volume is too small to make a large impact on the market.




(*) Comparable figures for the other large ports in the Ham5.0

burg – Le Havre range are often difficult to find, because among other things they tend to lump ro/ro and breakbulk together. The


largest breakbulk player in this group is Bremen/Bremerhaven ‘00 ‘01 ‘02‘ 03 ‘04 ‘05‘ 06 ‘07‘ 08 ‘09‘ 10 ‘11 ‘12‘ 13 ‘14‘ 15 ‘16 ‘17 ‘18 Antwerp



Zeeland Seaports


North Sea Port

with a non-containerised breakbulk volume of 4.1 million tonnes (not including wheeled vehicles) in 2018.





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Breakbulk raiders in the offing Non-traditional players show growing interest in breakbulk While many conventional breakbulk operators are wilting under declining market share, other players see opportunities to snatch part of the breakbulk cake away from them. Both ro/ro and container carriers are looking enthusiastically to breakbulk as an additional source of income. JEAN-LOUIS VANDEVOORDE AND ROEL JACOBUS

“We see it as sexy cargo” Ro/ro group Wallenius Wilhelmsen Solutions puts project cargo and heavy lifts on wheels There is a recent trend for putting heavy lifts on wheels. For the customer this generally affords time savings while for the ro/ro handler the margin on this type of customised service is more attractive than standardised, mass freight such as new cars. “There’s a reason why we call it ‘sexy cargo’: in technical terms it’s a unique challenge each time,” says Frederic Verhofstede of Wallenius Wilhelmsen Solutions in Zeebrugge.


added value. The margins for custom work are different, however, because each item has to be planned, prepared and handled differently. To cope with such freight our shipping company introduced special ro/ro vessels 15 years ago, with reinforced decks and high headroom. We also developed special terminal facilities and equipment, such as access ramps with a load capacity of 500 tonnes, where other players can only handle up to 150 tonnes,” says Frederick Verhofstede, senior cargo superintendent for project cargo & breakbulk. Born and bred in Antwerp, for the past 18 years he has been the brain behind the team for ingenious loading and unloading operations in Zeebrugge.

eird and wonderful are the objects waiting for overseas shipment or land transport on Canada terminal in Zeebrugge: crated helicopters, agricultural machinery, parts of construction cranes, an American streamliner caravan, giant wooden crates ... you name it. Over the past decade breakbulk has assumed growing importance for the Swedish-Norwegian ro/ro group Wallenius Wilhelmsen, which consists of the WW Ocean shipping division and the WW Solutions logistics branch “Standard work such as carrying new cars has become a fiercely-competitive, high-volume market where it is very difficult to achieve

Frederic Verhofstede: “The margins for custom work are different, however, because each item has to be planned, prepared and handled differently.” (Photo Roel Jacobus)


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Thinking in 3D “Our work begins as soon as the headquarters in Stockholm receives a request for an unusual transport job. Based on the technical drawings and specifications I look at how we can put the cargo on wheels and handle it. After years of experience you automatically begin to think in 3D. We have all the know-how and equipment in house for setting the very largest project cargo and heavy lifts on wheels and getting them on board seagoing ships, or putting them on barges or trailers. For very specific jobs we call

than 300 tonnes ... The only disadvantage of Zeebrugge is the limited capacity of the inland waterway connections.”

Sensitive cargo “When we handled a 90-tonne transformer on the former Wallenius site in Antwerp at the end of the 1990s, it was a big event for our international commercial team,” Verhofstede recalls. “Now that sort of thing is an ‘ordinary’ job for us. The conditions have also changed greatly: nowadays every step is observed by surveyors, and a detailed administration must be kept

“Every year we handle more than 25,000 items ranging from 100 kg to more than 300 tonnes” (Emmanuel Torreele)

Wallenius Wilhelmsen operations in breakbulk. (Photos 2WGlobal)


upon regular subcontractors. For example, Michielsens for very heavy mobile cranes, or Mammoet for jack-up trailers. In contrast to containers this is never regular sliced bread: every job is a unique challenge. For example, when we had to ship an Italian helicopter for the New Zealand Coast Guard we got it to land directly onto a trailer.” “Last year project cargo accounted for nearly a fifth of the tonnage handled by Wallenius Wilhelmsen Solutions in Zeebrugge,” explains Emmanuel Torreele, terminal operations specialist. “It came to around 90,000 tonnes of imports and the same amount of exports. Every year we handle more than 25,000 units: a crane part weighing 100 kg, a 10-tonne pleasure craft, or transformers weighing more

of all operations and equipment. Safety plays a hugely important role for heavy loads, and frequently we’re dealing with sensitive cargo that is very expensive, fragile and/ or unique. We call this ‘sexy cargo.’ It demands a great deal of know-how for distributing the load over the ship, because you have to spread it over as much space as possible within the load-bearing limits of the decks and stability of the vessel. The work therefore has to be very concentrated. We like to work with small, specialist teams of experienced stevedores. Their craft know-how and their approach to the work are part of the strength of this port.”

URL www.2wglobal.com

Breakbulk is increasingly important for container carriers Container shipping companies are eager to take breakbulk on board, although the importance of this type of freight tends to vary for them.

ONE Luc Lenchant, head of sales at Ocean Network Express (Europe), Belgium Branch, is in no doubt that this Japanese alliance sees breakbulk as important cargo. “From the first day it started, exactly a year ago, ONE made it clear that it wanted to be an important player for carrying special loads. As one of the largest container shipping companies in the world, with a wide range of destinations, weekly departures and suitable equipment, we are a good alternative to conventional carriers.” “Breakbulk and project cargo remain a specialist market. But ONE has in-house teams of experts around the world: in our world headquarters in Singapore, in regional offices such as Rotterdam and with-

in the organisations in each country.” This activity is also important for ONE in Antwerp. “At the moment it’s not the biggest market for us,” Luc Lenchant admits, “but Antwerp is one of the top four loading ports for special cargo. Every week we receive price requests, and we ship cargoes ranging from flatracks with slight overdimensions to complex breakbulk consignments.” Given the Japanese connection the Far East remains the most important destination in terms of volume. The maximum dimensions are determined by the size of the bays below deck. Whenever the weight of the item to be shipped is more than 70 tonnes, Antwerp’s floating crane Brabo is used to sling it across. “But that doesn’t happen very often,” says Luc Lenchant.

An example of a breakbulk consignment loaded by ONE in Antwerp: two crates more than 6 m long and wide and over 4 m high, each weighing 6.5 tonnes. (Photo ONE)

Breakbulk cargo for CMA-CGM. (Photo CMA-CGM)

CMA CGM Breakbulk is important for CMA CGM too, the N° 4 in container liner shipping, emphasises Dietwin Rossaert, director sales & marketing at CMA CGM Belgium. “The market is expanding rapidly, and breakbulk is increasingly significant for us. We are very active in that market. Locally we are experiencing growth of 34%.” “Every day we receive tens of price requests for breakbulk, project cargo, oversize items and suchlike. However, the success of the offer doesn’t only depend on the price. Crane capacity at the destination or in transit ports is frequently the crucial factor, among other things because of the high railings on large container carriers such as the ones operated by CMA CGM.” CMA CGM doesn’t let itself be deterred by very heavy work, according to -Dietwin Rossaert. “We frequently ship items up to 450 tonnes. Actually we don’t have any restrictions, as long as the necessary floating cranes or dock-mounted cranes are available.” In Antwerp, CMA

CGM frequently makes use of Brabo, just like other operators. It’s a great asset for the port of Antwerp,” says Rossaert admiringly. “Something it’s best to keep operational at all times,” he notes. The Far East, North & South America and the French overseas territories are the main destinations for CMA CGM.

Yang Ming Yang Ming too regularly receives price requests for breakbulk, but these seldom lead to actual bookings, according to operations manager Frank Staelens. “We actually did get an order at the beginning of April. One of our ships took on three large crates bound for Taiwan. These crates held machines, one of them 15 m long. Two of the crates weighed around 70 tonnes. We used Brabo to load them on board. The other crates weighed between 20 and 40 tonnes, but that’s within the capacity of the gantry cranes operated by the PSA Noordzee Terminal which handles the Yang Ming services to and from the Far East.




Interview with vice-president innovation Leif Arne Strømmen

G2 Ocean sets innovativ A telephone call to the High North puts us in contact with the Norwegian Leif Arne Strømmen of the G2 Ocean shipping company. He is currently acting as a panel member at AntwerpXL, so we took the opportunity of speaking to the newly-appointed vice-president about the challenges of his job. SVEN GOYVAERTS

G2 Ocean is a new name to many. What does it stand for?

The name came from a combination of two shipping companies, Grieg Star Shipping and Gearbulk. G2 Ocean was set up in April 2017. When you have a merger there’s a lot of things that have to be done. You want to achieve synergies and gains in efficiency. That demands a great deal of time and concentration. A few months after the start-up the company decided to appoint someone to watch over future innovations.

Leif Arne Strømmen (Photo Leif Arne Strømmen)



e course after merger That appointment went to you. What made the company consider you?

The CEO contacted me and we began a long process of detailed discussions and interviews. We decided in January 2018 that we would team up. I still had six months of notice to serve in my previous job, so I actually started at G2 Ocean on 1 August.

What impression did you have then in the beginning?

I don’t think the organisation was ready for innovation at that moment.

achieving the target results for 2018, and this promises to continue in 2019.

Your background is in forwarding. Do you notice differences in the way of working in a shipping company?

Yes, I worked in the forwarding sector for 24 years. Before coming to G2 Ocean I was with Kuehne + Nagel for 11 years. So shipping companies are nothing new to me, but yet in a way they are. With forwarding you are not strongly tied to physical assets. Forwarders focus on finding solutions for customers without having

“The shipping companies have lots of potential for automating and digitising their processes” to worry about heavy possessions. Shipping companies, by contrast, are mainly concerned with ships and sailing routes. Moreover the biggest forwarders are much further ahead in terms of technology and automation. The shipping companies have lots of potential for automating and digitising their processes.

They were still too busy with combining the two companies. Departments had to be coordinated with one another, and the focus was more on driving up profitability. Many shipping companies have suffered in the past few years because of low prices and overcapacity on the market. The company has now succeeded very well in



G2 Ocean ship (Photo G2 Ocean)

What first steps did you take in putting G2 Ocean on the innovation path?

We began by identifying a number of initiatives for innovation, both in the long and in the short term. For 2019 we have a fairly long list of objectives. When G2 Ocean was first set up it didn’t yet have a real long-term strategy. We are now busy mapping one out for the long term. At the end of January our owners organised a digital kick-off to which we invited nearly 70 people from all over the world. They came from our offices in among others China, Brazil, Australia, Singapore, Chile and the USA. In Norway we organised a digital workshop

“We hope to automate the calculation of demurrage using blockchain”

lasting several days. This formed the starting point for our process of thinking about a long-term strategy.

Which elements came to the fore in this strategy?

We now have a digital roadmap with a clear indication of where we want to go. However, such a roadmap has to be revised regularly in order to keep up with all the changes that occur. That’s what we’re aiming at.


How does your to-do list for 2019 look like?

Well, for example we want to work on blockchain. We are looking at two blockchain initiatives. One of these is for issuing the bill of lading and distributing it to the various parties using blockchain to attribute ownership. I think this technology looks very useful. It opens up opportunities for digitising the process of distribution and handing over ownership. The main difficulty that we find with it is that the regulators are not yet entirely in favour. Some customs and port authorities are still wedded to “original” paper documents with stamps and ink.

What is the second project with blockchain?

The other pilot project is based on smart contracts, for automating the process of calculating demurrage. We link this to a copy that acts as a voucher, on the basis of perimeters that we mark out with the help of geofencing. We haven’t yet reached the trial stage, but development is going ahead rapidly. We are working for this with IOTA, a blockchain organisation.

What developments are in the pipeline for this year?

There’s a project that we have just started, provisionally called MyG2, for designing our online customer portal. That will take some time, but we hope to introduce the first version by the end of this year. All in all, these are some of our main projects at the moment.

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Mammoet goes big in Antwerp At the beginning this year Mammoet opened a new Belgian headquarter at the Bevrijdings dock in Antwerp. The location at the head of the dock was not chosen by chance: the 8,500 m² site will have a depot for cranes and machinery that can be used in the port, for among others the petrochemical concerns. The company has great ambitions in the port. PHILIPPE VAN DOOREN


ntil recently our largest branch in Belgium was in Ghent, beside ArcelorMittal,” says Paul van Vuren, managing director of Mammoet Belgium. “Our office in Antwerp, on the Beliweg road near the Royers lock, was small by comparison. Two years ago we initiated the strategic decision

tonnes, including crane towers and rigging material. SPMTs (selfpropelled modular transporters: platform vehicles with a large array of wheels) will also be stationed on the site. “We hope that it will actually be as empty as possible: these assets should be out working on construction sites, not sitting at home,” adds commercial Manager

“We drew up our business plan before these investments were even announced: the siting was by no means opportunistic” process to be more active in the port of Antwerp. Things really began moving fast in May 2018 when we had the opportunity to take a shared concession on a site at the Bevrijdings dock – then still called the Delwaide dock. Since January this year we have had our Belgian headquarters there, and we are developing a depot at the head of the dock. The planning permission process is now under way. It all went very quickly,” he says. The Antwerp depot is Mammoet’s second in Belgium, after the one in Ghent. It will be used for parking cranes from 40 to 500


Dries Lion. The group has a total of eight depots in the Benelux.

Finishing production modules

The site will also be used for intermediate storage and finishing of large production modules. “Chemical and petrochemical production plants are frequently made up of modules that are built elsewhere in Europe or overseas. They are generally transported by pontoon or floating crane to Antwerp where finishing work is carried out on them by specialist

companies. This is why the location on the waterfront was so important for Mammoet,” van Vuren explains. “Another advantage is that we can make lifting equipment for this work available on site.” “This niche is not very well developed yet in our sector. Many of our competitors cannot offer such a service, so this should give us a competitive advantage,” says Lion. In Antwerp Mammoet is developing its activities for project cargo and Master Service Agreements, for among others the chemical and petrochemical industry. “MSAs are contracts for three to five years related to maintenance work in these production plants. Regular teams go to work during the annual shut-downs and can also be called upon for urgent operations. All our members of personnel live locally. If necessary we can have the people here within 15 minutes,” van Vuren explains. Mammoet now has operational people – machine operators, foremen, drivers and riggers – as well as administrative personnel and engineers in its Antwerp office.


Thanks to its worldwide presence the Mammoet group can carry out large projects “from factory to foundation.” (Photo Mammoet)

Dries Lion and Paul van Vuren: “The implementation of the plans in Antwerp went much faster than expected.” (Photo Philippe Van Dooren)

“We can also call upon our personnel in Ghent (Zelzate) and Westdorpe in the port of Terneuzen. We work with a pool of people, which gives us the advantage of flexibility. For instance, if necessary we can carry out work on the Left bank in Antwerp with people and equipment from Ghent,” says Lion. “We also have another advantage: Mammoet is present all over the world. We can carry out large projects – such as these production modules – ‘from factory to foundation’ with our own engineers and

our own specialists, here or over there,” van Vuren adds. This opens up great opportunities for important projects in the port of Antwerp that are now being planned. “Ineos is going to build a mega-plant on the Right bank, Borealis is building a plant in Kallo and there are various other projects in the pipeline that will demand a large amount of lifting work. This offers opportunities for us. The good thing about it is that we drew up our business plan before these investments were even announced. This merely confirms the correctness of our decision to expand our presence in a big way: the siting was by no means opportunistic,” Lion asserts.

Large investments “Our plan is based upon growth. We have just taken delivery of a 60-tonne crane, and in the coming weeks we are expecting another two 100-tonne units. In the second half of this year these will be followed by a 60-metre tower crane and a heavy

autoloading crane. We will finish the year with a 500-tonne crane, and then our range of equipment will be complete.” “But that doesn’t mean that our investments will end there. Under our growth plan we will expand by a further five cranes per year for five years. We want to be ready for everything that’s coming! However, the growth will be carefully controlled, because the organisation and the number of personnel have to expand proportionately,” van Vuren adds. According to him these investments are urgently required not only because the market is much larger than it was just a few years ago, but also because the requirements are getting much higher. “You must be able to handle everheavier loads, offer all-in packages and work faster but also more safely. The time frames are getting smaller, and so is the time between winning a contract and starting the work. It’s a very competitive market with a limited number of players who don’t do each other any favours,” he concludes.



Barging Solutions: “If it fi Sending breakbulk and project cargo by barge Barging Solutions was set up in 2016 as a division of Manuport Logistics, specialising in carrying breakbulk, bulk freight and project cargo. And with Marissa Coupé the company also has the necessary in-house expertise. She now runs the breakbulk and project operations, drawing on the experience that she gained with her own barging company.

Three criteria



nyone who thinks that barging is above all a male affair urgently needs to change their attitude. Barging Solutions hired

sion of Manuport Logistics. Both now form part of the Euroports group. Barging Solutions positions itself as an independent ope­rator, working both for the Manuport family and for the Euroports group, as well as directly for industry. The company handles an annual volume of around 4 million tonnes, including breakbulk, bulk freight and project cargo.

Marissa Coupé for her expertise in carrying breakbulk and project cargo by barge. Her MC Barging company was acquired in 2016 by Barging Solutions, itself a divi-

According to Coupé shippers are increasingly thinking about barge transport. “Over short distances, barge is still too expensive for inward and onward transport. There are three main criteria for barge transport, namely distance, volume and the ability to travel directly from quay to quay between shipper and consignee. If you can meet all three of these criteria – or at least two of them – then you have a chance as a barge operator,” she explains.

Breakbulk When it comes to breakbulk, Barging Solutions carries a great amount of steel. On behalf of Manuport it carries coils that arrive in Antwerp by seagoing ship, with the majority going to Rheims. The annual volume is around 100,000 tonnes. “At the moment we are also carrying a lot of sheet piling for among Marissa Coupé was hired by Barging Solutions for her expertise. (Photo Koen Heinen)



ts in a barge, we carry it” Mainly silos Transporting project cargo demands a great deal of expertise. “In Belgium there are very few specialists that can transport really large items. We mainly carry silos. At the moment we are working on a big worldwide project for the brewer Heineken. The silos are built here in Belgium and we carry them to the seaports for export, or to destinations in the Netherlands. A big

Lifting capacity of 400 T

haulage company provides the inward and onward transport by road, while we take care of the transport by inland waterway,” Coupé explains.

High and wide In the case of project cargo, the actual weight of the items plays less of a role. “It’s not so much the weight, but more the height and width that matter. In March we had problems

other things the construction of quays, for example along the Albert canal. Pallets are also breakbulk. That’s a niche that is starting to pick up. We work together with a partner who is familiar with the sector and knows what is needed to carry pallets,” says Coupé. The work for Euroports is much more varied, including both breakbulk and bulk, as well as support with container activities in some cases.

Mantsinen 300 Hybrilift




because of the heavy rain that made water levels higher, along with the high winds. When this happens we take on sand or gravel in order to make the barge lower in the water, but that takes a lot of careful calculations,” says Coupé. The height of the bridges also plays a role. “Quite a few bridges have been raised recently, which helps us a lot. The shipper’s know-how is also important, and we have to consult closely with

the space division of Airbus. We also carry sections of offshore wind turbines, and recently we were asked to transport 75-meter blades from Antwerp to Ghent. We’re starting to gain entry to this market, but at the moment these items mainly go by road,” she recounts.

Shuttles About once a week on average Barging Solutions is called

“It’s not so much the weight, but more the height and width that matter” them. After all, they are the ones who have to carry out the final transport,” Coupé emphasises. Asked what is the largest project that she has ever carried, she has to think for a moment. “It may sound a bit blasé, but the fact is that outsize loads are normal for us. The most unusual project was probably a rocket for

upon to carry projects and cargo within the port, from quay to quay, a type of operation known as shuttle work. “This could be containers or steel coils, etc. Frequently it’s on behalf of a shipping company or shipper.”

Modal shift Although barges can carry anything that is large and heavy, they still sometimes have to compete with truck transport. “The problem is the inward transport. Once it’s on the truck and it’s not too big or heavy then the shipper usually prefers to continue the transport directly by road to the final destination, because extra handling costs extra money.” “In any case we have to coordinate very closely with the road haulier who does the inward transport. The permits must all be in order, and the barge has to be in the right place at the right time. We generally work with the same bargees who know this type of work well and are able to take the responsibility: the right people in the right place. Actually we’re familiar with many markets. If it fits in a barge, we carry it. For the bargee it doesn’t make much difference, as long as they get paid,” Coupé concludes.

The barge takes on sand or gravel to make it deeper in the water. (Photo Barging Solutions)


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"The core of our task is know Two years ago Gosselin acquired a 50% stake in Heavy Group from Marc Rombouts. "We started as a removals company and diversified into logistics. Heavy fits in perfectly with our group's DNA: we take care of not only our customers' private possessions but also heavy and outsize loads for companies. Both are equally valuable," says Dirk Vanhoutteghem, manager and co-owner of Gosselin Group. PHILIPPE VAN DOOREN


eavy Group, set up in 1983 by Marc Rombouts, is a specialist in outsize transport, handling heavy loads and carrying out industrial removals. The company is now fully integrated into the Deurnebased Gosselin Group. When

division, which also includes the lashing & security specialist Pasec and the logistics activities at the former Stork site in the port of Antwerp. Heavy is a well-known brand in its own right, but for us it is an integral part of the Gosselin Group. That enables us to position ourselves in

Joris Leonaers and Dirk Vanhoutteghem (Photo Philippe Van Dooren)

equipment. The container terminal will double in area later this year, and will also

"Heavy is a well-known brand in its own right, but for us it is an integral part of the Gosselin Group. That enables us to position ourselves in the market as a full logistics operator." Gosselin moved some of its offices one year ago to a brand new building most of the Heavy Group, personnel left their familiar base in the Oude Leeuwenrui road in Antwerp to join the others in Deurne. "Heavy is now fully integrated into Industrial Project Solutions


the market as a full logistics operator," says Vanhoutteghem. "In operational terms the Heavy activities are now spread over two sites. The first is in Deurne, at the Gosselin Terminal alongside the Albert canal. That's where we keep the majority of our

get a ro/ro quay. That offers great opportunities for us. The second is the Stork site in the 4th Haven dock, a 100,000 m² concession with water access that Gosselin acquired last year. This site has construction hangars with more than 20 m of headroom and 60-tonne

overhead travelling cranes. At the moment our customers use these for assembling e.g. piping for the oil and gas industry, wind turbines etc. We provide the entire logistics coordination on the site, warehousing of the components, lifting and handling heavy items, and packing the loads for further transport by water," explains Joris Leonaers, managing director of Industrial Projects at Heavy. "Gosselin Group is an asset-based company. Unlike most other forwarders we invest in physical assets, for example the Stork site. We are currently drawing up a master plan for this site, but at the moment I'm not allowed to say anything about this," Vanhoutteghem adds. "But the fact is that with this investment Gosse-


-how and coordination" lin can position itself as an Antwerp port company in its own right. Moreover we can offer the best of both worlds: a presence in the middle of the port and a site at the entrance to the Albert canal. Together these two locations form an important logistics axis." "This location on the Albert canal and the pontoon that will be added soon represent a huge advantage for us," Leonaers chimes in. "It's getting more and more difficult to transport outsize loads by road. The increasing number of roundabouts on the main roads, for example,

doesn't make things any easier for us. But now that the bridges over the Albert canal have been raised, barge transport is an excellent alternative for carrying outsize and heavy loads. The raising of the bridges can only promote exceptional transport on the Albert canal." Vanhoutteghem adds: "Our task is to facilitate the logistics, whether for conventional goods or for outsize loads. With one site in the port and one on the Albert canal we offer the opportunity for our customers to concentrate on assembling or finishing their project,

without them having to worry about transporting the components and carrying away the finished products. This enables us to add value to the consignment and to facilitate the operations, thanks to our logistics know-how. It's a win-win situation, both for them and for us." "We have plenty of appetite to develop these activities, and we're prepared to invest both in material assets and in people," he emphasises. "More than that: there are still synergies possible between our traditional removals activities and moving e.g. machine lines." "Or to put it in even more practical terms, here in Antwerp we are in contact with the oil & gas industry and with the chemical industry. We meet the same players e.g. in Central Asia where Gosselin also has people. Our Mobility division – i.e. mo­ving services – is present in 34 countries with 56 offices. Several of these offices can also be called upon for industrial projects," says Leonaers. "Not all of them, mind you: there has to be a business case. But if the customer asks for it we can set up a project, either ourselves or in collaboration with trustworthy partners," Vanhoutteghem adds.

"We are a niche player. That makes it easier for us to collaborate with other companies, because we don't really compete with them. In the industrial projects we are there to take the worry away for the customer: the oil & gas industry, construction companies, engineering bureaus, etc. As far as our customers are concerned it doesn't make any difference whether we do it fully in-house or with selected partners," he continues. "The same applies to the Heavy activities. We may invest in jacks, skids or an electric pick & carry heavy-lift crane, but not in trucks or SPMTs (Self Propelled Modular Transport): for things such as these we call upon third parties. Each project is different. We figure it out for the customer. By not investing in wheels we can simply hire the best solution from the best provider. What we actually do is provide support and obtain permits. The core of our task is know-how and coordination. We organise the transport and take the worry away from the customer," says Leonaers. "Figuring things out for the customer is actually the philosophy of the remover. So our background comes into play in our strategy," concludes Vanhoutteghem.

One of Heavy's specialities is industrial removals, such as moving this 40-tonne press in Genk. (Photo Heavy/Gosselin)




New terminal gives wider for ArcelorMittal Ghent Steel producer ArcelorMittal generates millions of tonnes of breakbulk freight annually. However, road transport contributed greatly to operational bottlenecks for other transport modes last year. Now with its new all-weather terminal Ghent, ArcelorMittal aims to shift a greater volume to water. JEAN-LOUIS VANDEVOORDE


rcelorMittal is a major breakbulk shipper. “We send more than 10 million tonnes annually, but this includes a great deal of rail and road transport between our sites in Ghent and Liège, within our Liège site and to and from our sites in Genk and Geel. The actual consignments sent to customers amount to around 6.5 million tonnes,” says David De Rocker, external transport manager for the company’s “Belgium cluster.”

Train, truck and ship

The Belgian sites work mainly for the European market, with car

The all-weather terminal will help to take some of the logistics pressure off ArcelorMittal Ghent. (Photo AWT Gent)


manufacturers being the biggest customers. The steel group uses seagoing ships as well as road, rail and barge transport for its outgoing customer logistics, with each mode accounting for significant amounts. Road transport took by far the largest share last year, with 3 million tonnes. Rail for its part accounted for nearly 1 million tonnes, with Germany as the main destination. Barge meanwhile carried 750,000 tonnes, with a radius of action reaching via the Danube to Romania, Serbia and Slovakia. Coasters loaded some one and a half million tonnes in Ghent and Liège. Sea-river barges with a capacity of around 1,700 tonnes collect loads in Liège for the Brit-

ish or Spanish market. Ghent is served by larger coasters of 2,000 to 7,000 tonnes that cover the entire European shortsea range from Saint Petersburg to Turkey. The Flemish port also acts as a shortsea consolidation point for groupage of steel products from other production sites. The deepsea volumes on the other hand are rather limited, at a quarter of a million tonnes in containers or breakbulk, generally carried via Antwerp where this transport is managed by ArcelorMittal Logistics.

Droughts and shortages

Large amounts are carried by truck partly because not all customers have rail or waterway connections, or because they are located close to the steel company or only take small amounts. However, these are not the only reasons. “Our ambition remains to send as much as possible by rail or water transport,” emphasises David De Rocker. But structural and economic factors sometimes make this option more difficult.

access to water transport “In the case of barge transport, the low water levels last year imposed significant additional costs and put pressure on customer service. That put a dent in the reputation of barge as a reliable mode. We hope that the situation will not repeat itself, because if it does then we might have to review the role of barge transport in strategic terms.” “On the rail side we are faced with a shortage of wagons, which raises the question of whether we ourselves should invest more in this type of equipment. Timely delivery is still a concern, especially for individual wagons, although the Green Express Network operated by Lineas demonstrates that greater reliability is not an unrealistic ambition. This has already led to a modal shift for smaller volumes.”

Preferred customer

Road transport too faces problems. Regulations are becoming stricter and there is an increasing shortage of drivers, which leads to increased costs and is already having an impact on service. “We make great efforts to get road

thousand tonnes and itself is faced by a shortage of internal warehouse capacity. “This obliges us to destock volumes to external warehouses on a fairly constant basis.” The all-weather terminal being built by Participatiemaatschappij Vlaanderen to supplement the steel company’s own loading quay

“Our ambition remains to send as much as possible by rail or water transport” hauliers to grant us the status of preferred customer, by ensuring a steady stream of work for them. You have to make the trucks want to come to you.” “Our customers also have to play along. Inflexible delivery windows that don’t allow for the reality of transport are certainly not the right answer. It’s frequently better to have more peak capacity for handling the trucks. That’s something we’re working on at the moment.”

All-weather terminal Another difficulty is that ArcelorMittal Ghent has raised its capacity by several hundred

should bring some respite as of the middle of next year. “With a maximum capacity of 60,000 tonnes this terminal will provide a significant amount of storage. It will enable us to send greater volumes by water once more and give us more reliability in our barge and sea transport operations, since we will be able to carry out loading 24/7 independently of the weather. That way we will be able to take up to 25,000 trucks off the road each year.” Looking towards the future David De Rocker believes that a greater role can be played by intermediate hubs – reachable by barge and/or rail – between producer and customer. “But we still haven’t reached that particular tipping point. It will come when for example the rail operators no longer follow the rising prices charged by road transport.”

David De Rocker, external transport manager at ArcelorMittal Belgium (Photo Jean-Louis Vandevoorde)


As an infrastructure contractor, the APK Group connects people, companies and authorities. We make cities and regions smarter, allowing them to join in our growing technological evolution.

“APK works on all layers of the city” CEO Maarten Broens explains to us how the APK Group, as an infrastructure contractor, connects a series of target groups and moreover, how the business group is able to take away a lot of client concerns by offering a total package, among other things. “We work on all layers of the city. We do this underground by constructing water, gas and power installations, up to and including the development of an information flow with Telecom & IoT. In addition, we create optimal mobility via our Road Construction division, among other things. We have grouped the totality of our activities under 6 divisions with

about 25 companies scattered over the entire Belgian territory, as well as the bordering areas of the Netherlands and Germany. We offer a total package, as our goal is to provide optimal peace of mind for our clients. That’s why we also tackle high-rise construction, gardening, recycling, and so much more. This synergy application became possible within the APK Group because over the last years, we opted for a strategic takeover policy that allowed this company to develop into an employer with no less than 1,400 employees on the payroll.” Port of Antwerp “Meanwhile, the port area of Antwerp has become a familiar ground to the APK Group as well. There,

we completed the renovations of several docks and ensured grid construction with specifically adapted lighting, among other things. Also in the area of security and access control, the business group has earned its stripes in the port area. The possibilities we offer in the field of smart technology were demonstrated once again last fall by our Smart Solutions division during the international Antwerp technology festival Supernova. At this event, visitors were able to use digital topology for live monitoring of the use and performance of our generators, distribution boxes and fuel tanks. For us, the economic diversity of the port area is obviously a dream challenge.

Here as well, we can take full advantage of our strengths with the synergy applications. It goes without saying that a client - both from the private and public sector - that can have a project completed in its entirety saves itself a ton of worries. That is because there is only one point of contact. In addition, this system ensures a smoother follow-up of the operations, as all planning is prepared from a one-stop-shop. Last but not least, the cost factor obviously comes into play as well. Synergy allows to keep the cost down. Shortly put: a method that ultimately benefits all parties involved.” For additional information, please visit www.apkgroup.eu





Word-of-mouth is still the best form of advertising, in the training sector as elsewhere. Sending people on a long training course requires a big sacrifice on the part of employer and employee alike. Former trainees therefore play an important role in convincing employers and candidates to make the necessary effort. Tine, Nathalie and Bianca are three young breakbulk professionals who on the advice of colleagues attended a Breakbulk Masterclass organised by Portilog. They in turn are now helping to promote the course. BART TIMPERMAN

Nathalie Maes, Bianca Tombeur en Tine Claes (Photos Bart Timperman)

Tine Claes Introducing myself

I work as Operations Manager for Industrial Projects at Geodis. We do everything that doesn’t go in a container, so including breakbulk, handling it from A to Z. I followed the course last year.

Why this course?

I’ve been working in the Project department for seven years now. My boss was in the first intake, and he wanted everyone else to follow. I had to wait for a while because other colleagues went first.

What did you learn?

The people who follow the course don’t all come from the operational side. This means that the subjects are covered in a very broad way. Due to the diversity of backgrounds you learn a bit of everything and get an overall picture. And there was also plenty of space for questions and discussions. That way you learn to look at it in many different ways. Something that might be obvious to someone else on the course could be totally new for me, and vice versa.

What did you get out of the course?

You naturally tend to remember what is relevant to your own job. The other information is always welcome, and helps you to put everything in its place. In fact it often proves to be useful at unexpected moments. Or sometimes you can help somebody else with what you have learned. The course also helps you to appreciate how varied and fascinating the breakbulk sector is. After all, this type of freight involves much more than handling a container. The company encourages people to be actually present when something is loaded or unloaded. We learn a lot from this, and the customers appreciate the extra service.


is a big hit Nathalie Maes Introducing myself

I work for AET (Antwerp Euroterminal) at quay 1333, the Grimaldi quay, where I do the sales. This means I have to put a price on everything that comes in, whether a truck, railway wagon, barge or coaster. It includes quite a bit of breakbulk, because AET does a lot more than just vehicles. I attended the course in 2017-2018.

Why this course?

I originally came from a very different world, namely publishing. I was a blank page when it came to anything to do with transport. I heard customers using all sorts of technical jargon but it was all Greek to me. If you have a commercial job then you must be able to speak with the customers. A colleague recommended the course to me. I certainly haven’t regretted it.

What did you learn?

The course was fascinating because it covered so much. You get an overall picture of the entire sector. The speakers certainly know what they are talking about, absolute experts in their particular field. I’ll always remember the visit to Zuidnatie. By actually going onto the quay with another company you learn a whole lot of practical stuff. I thought the Masterclass seemed rather long at first, but it turned out to be really worth while.

What did you get out of the course?

Now I can follow the customers when they’re talking jargon. I also appreciate the contacts that I made with the other trainees. It’s good to meet other people in the same sector. Some of the contacts are still useful to me today.



Bianca Tombeur Introducing myself

I’m Operations Manager with Manora Logistics. We mainly do things that don’t fit in a container. I help with the management of total projects. That involves looking for the way to get something from point A to point B in the quickest and most efficient way, depending on what the customer wants. I followed the Breakbulk Masterclass in 2012.

Why the Masterclass?

I started in the container business but my focus gradually shifted to other types of freight. When the Masterclass was first announced I saw it as a great opportunity to deepen my knowledge.

What did you learn from it?

I was mainly attracted by the breadth of the course. Rightly so, as it turned out, as you learn about things that you might never have thought of. Claims, for instance: I never had to deal with that before, but you find out all about it. That doesn’t make you a legal expert, but suddenly you understand it so much better. Another part of the course dealt with chartering, something that is very specific. You have to be very careful here, because a single incorrect letter can cost you a whole lot of money. I found that part of the course super interesting.

What did you get out of the course?

After the course I frequently make use of the textbooks. I still keep them in the office, and I often go back to them if I’m not sure about something. The other people in the office also find them useful. Thanks to the course I also work much more efficiently now. You don’t do things by half any more. Where previously you might have sent ten emails concerning a particular job, now you can often deal with it in one.



Breakbulk Masterclass: first-hand knowledge With its Breakbulk Masterclass, Portilog enables trainees to learn from more than 20 specialists about all aspects of the breakbulk sector. This is a unique opportunity, both for experienced professionals and for novices in the sector. Portilog is the training centre organised by and for the port and logistics sector in Antwerp, offering practiceoriented courses with the focus on shipping, forwarding, logistics and customs. “The Breakbulk Masterclass was set up at the request of companies in the port,” explains course coordinator Anne Laureyns. “Thanks to the input from more than 20 specialists we can offer a strongly theoretical approach combined with lots of practical content. The input from all these experts in widely varying aspects of the breakbulk sector makes this course absolutely unique.” The course comprises 70 hours of instruction divided into sessions of half a day each, between November 2019 and May 2020. The subjects covered are extremely varied. Examples include the organisation of dock labour, loading ships, delivering and collecting goods, shipping and handling steel, booking consignments and standard contracts. Then there is everything concerning the legal liability, insurance and risk management. The course also deals with shipping breakbulk on container carriers, and stuffing breakbulk in containers and on flats. Portilog ensures close collaboration with the private sector, so that the course can always be updated in line with recent developments in the breakbulk market.


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“As a woman you have to work harder to prove yourself” Women in the breakbulk sector The breakbulk sector is overwhelmingly a male world. Despite this Lisa Vanarwegen of TMA Logistics and Charlotte Maes of Wijngaard Natie Terminals more than hold their own. “To work in this sector you need to be bold and not be afraid to bang your fist on the table now and then.” MELANIE DEVRIEZE


lows met Charlotte Maes and Lisa Vanarwegen in one of the Wijngaard Natie Terminals meeting rooms. Both women are

new in their job. Charlotte Maes has been working in the sales department of Wijngaard Natie Terminals since November, while it was only in January that Lisa

was appointed general manager of TMA Logistics, a forwarding company in the port of Antwerp with terminals in Amsterdam and logistics hubs in Africa and Sweden.

Male world

“As a woman you have to work harder to prove yourself, but I don’t think this is unique to our sector. It applies to all women who want to rise to the top.” (Lisa Vanarwegen)

Both women first had to get used to the shipping world. “It’s a very male-oriented, conservative sector,” says Lisa Vanarwegen. “You frequently sit around the negotiating table with men only. As a woman you have to work harder to prove yourself, but I don’t think that’s unique to our sector. It applies to all women who want to rise to the top.” Lisa Vanarwegen started her career with Boskalis where she carried out projects on board ship. “The captains and crew don’t expect to have a woman on board. In fact they don’t usually like it. But it was a good

Lisa Vanarwegen and Charlotte Maes (Photos Bart Timperman)


WERKEN IN DE HAVEN, DA’S WERKEN IN DE WERELD. Ben je op zoek naar een praktijkgerichte opleiding in scheepvaart, expeditie, logistiek of douane, die je onmiddellijk op je werkplek kunt gebruiken? Dan zijn de opleidingen van Portilog helemaal iets voor jou. Onze opleidingen volgen de trends, zijn zeer actueel en leggen bruggen tussen vandaag en morgen. Ontdek onze opleidingen op portilog.be


lesson at a fairly young age.” In her later jobs too at Saga Welco and Euroports she worked almost exclusively among men. At TMA Logistics she has been able to draw on her operational

departments of the company. “That was very interesting, but at the end of the day a container is just a container,” says Charlotte. “Breakbulk is much more than that. Here you have to deal with the product each day afresh: how long is it, how wide, how much does it weigh? It’s a completely different world.” As for prejudices against women, so far neither of the two has really had problems there. “As long as you show that you know what you’re talking about and demonstrate your ability, you don’t encounter problems,” says Lisa Vanarwegen. “There does tend to be sexual banter among all these men, but you just ignore it, or sometimes you laugh it off. I just try to be myself. I don’t have a particular style, but it is important to stand up for yourself.” Charlotte Maes agrees with this. “You have to be bold and not be afraid to bang your fist on the table now and then.”

Strong network Both Charlotte and Lisa find that their age is sometimes more

“Everybody knows everybody else. People talk a lot about one another, but at the end of the day it’s one big family.” (Charlotte Maes)

experience. “Breakbulk involves so much more: putting teams together, raising productivity and so on. You also need the gift of the gab, whether it’s chatting with the dock workers or reporting figures to management.” After her internship Charlotte Maes worked for two and a half years at MSC. Thanks to a commercial traineeship she gained experience in nearly all


of a barrier than being women. “At networking events there is a great preponderance of men,” says Charlotte. “As a woman you are in the minority. Also the average age is quite a lot higher.” Lisa Vanarwegen still remembers her first networking event in the De Engel café in Antwerp. “It was black with men in dark suits. I thought: what on earth have I gotten myself into?”

But this has never deterred either of them. Networking is also one of the more rewarding aspects of working in the port. “Everybody knows everybody else,” says Charlotte Maes. “People talk a lot about one another, but at the end of the day it’s one big family.” Lisa Vanarwegen doubts that she could have built up such a strong network if she had worked in the financial sector in Brussels. “If you have a problem, or if you need to find a solution, you just have to pick up the phone and somebody will help you. You build up a network in next to no time, by going to events, doing things for other people or just by chatting to people.” What she does not do is “wining & dining” which however is very common in the sector. “Everything gets discussed over a glass or two. That’s not for me. In fact I think that’s true of many people of my generation.”

Tough world While the port world may be one big family it nevertheless remains a tough environment. “In the port of Antwerp there are eight big port operators, but we’re competing each other into the ground,” says Lisa Vanarwegen. “The margins are wafer-thin. Customer that you’ve worked with for years suddenly change their tune when you speak about 0.003 cents per tonne. Then it’s no longer about trust or the many years of collaboration, but purely about the prices. That’s a great pity, because we all work with dockers who get paid the same. So why go 30% below the price? In a few years perhaps there will only be four or five players left.” Charlotte Maes too sees the same thing in the day-to-day reality. “Even good customers hardly bother to mention that they can get a better price somewhere else. As I see it that forms part of negotiation. But they just go elsewhere without a word. I think that’s a great pity.”


Challenge International Belgium and Transfer International combine expertise in new brand and go for growth


ransfer International Project Cargo: that’s the new brand under which Challenge International Belgium and Transfer International have combined a number of specific activities and areas of expertise, to implement the international strategy of their parent company Sealogis in a sustainable way. The Belgian arm of the French company Challenge International has existed since 1995. In addition to developing logistics and freight forwarding activities with the focus on ocean & air, multimodalism, customs formalities, back office and sales administration, the company is now aiming at “verticals” from its Antwerp office. This is a deliberate strategy, explains Edwig Laenen, managing director North Europe at Challenge International: “We have a European presence from North to South and consider ourselves as a medium-sized generalist, able to handle almost everything, with wide expertise in chemicals, foodstuffs, textiles, printing & publishing, project cargo and project management.”

SPeCIalISatIon and dIFFerentIatIon Challenge International has 17 offices in Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. Since 2000 it is a member of the Sealogis group, with SNCF Logistics as a shareholder. Together with the French company Transfer International it represents the freight forwarding activity for Sealogis, acting through Feron, XP LOG and SEATRUCK to offer among other things logistics services, shipping and trucking. In the short term Challenge International and Transfer International will merge to form Sealogis Freight Forwarding. The intention is that both brands will continue to exist and be promoted in the first instance, given their differing but strong vertical expertise. Thus the 35 Challenge International Belgium members of personnel will focus on chemicals, general cargo export (printing, out of gauge) &

import (agro, pharmaceuticals, steel, printing) along with 3 & 4PL logistics (chemicals, food additives and pharmaceuticals). “In consultation with Hubert Yvrard of Transfer International, however, we have decided to combine our forces in the field of project cargo, and so from now on we will market these activities under the brand name of Transfer International Project Cargo, with offices and dedicated teams in Antwerp and Marseilles,” says Laenen.

CreatIng SolutIonS worldwIde The synergy is very logical: the Transfer International expertise lies in heavy lifts and project cargo forwarding for railway equipment, sustainable energy and turnkey projects in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and South America. This perfectly complements the expertise of Challenge International Belgium in breakbulk shipment and project management in the areas of water purification, oil and gas, for example in Angola, Ghana, Russia, Georgia and North Africa. With this move the new brand will give form to the ambition not only to conceptualise projects but also to carry them out while always looking farther ahead. “We’re aiming for a higher market share in the different regions and sectors in which we are active, drawing on our expertise in cargo, heavy lift and oversized equipment. At the same time we are proud of our impeccable on-site service, assisting the customer from study to handover, anywhere in the world,” the dynamic manager concludes.




Antwerp has breakbulk part Port of Cotonou (Photo Port of Antwerp)

Collaboration with the ports of Açu (Brazil), Cotonou (Benin) and Duqm (Oman)

The sphere of action of the port of Antwerp has long extended far beyond the port itself. In the past few years cross-border collaboration has been set up in Açu (Brazil), Cotonou (Benin) and Duqm (Oman). In each of these three ports, breakbulk and project cargo plays a prominent role in the expansion plans being drawn up by Antwerp and its overseas partners. MICHIEL LEEN


ort of Antwerp International was appointed as the operator of the port of Cotonou in Benin at the end of 2017 for a period of three years (with options for extension to a total of nine years). At the moment some 3.5 million tonnes of freight is carried annually between Antwerp and Cotonou, but this number is set to rise. Under the leadership of a small team of experts from Antwerp, the aim is to enable the port to


catch up in terms of facilities and logistics and so develop it into a spearhead for its region. What can the Antwerp partners actually expect to do? Breakbulk is certainly a priority. “Better freight handling capacity, especially for breakbulk and bulk, comes at the top of the list,” says Mario Leuvens of Antwerp International. “There is already a direct connection between Cotonou and Antwerp, thanks to the Grimaldi ro/ro service.” The port of Cotonou alone accounts for half of Benin’s GDP.

Cotonou already has a master plan for rapid development of its infrastructure, much of which dates from the 1960s, and of its logistics operations. The port forms a logistics gateway to Niger and Burkina Faso, but at the moment it is not profiting fully from its advantages. The World Food Programme (with the focus on sugar and rice) currently sends half of its cargo via Lomé, because of the waiting times for ships and the dismal loss percentages (including loss of cargo) in Cotonou. By making the handling more professional Port of Antwerp hopes to double the amount of freight sent via Cotonou. The Antwerp

ners around the world contact person in Cotonou is commercial manager Nele Voorspoels.

Duqm: aiming at the oil and gas industry

Port of Antwerp is also developing international partnerships in the Arab region, with breakbulk playing a prominent role. Duqm (Oman) currently handles an annual 200,000 tonnes of project cargo and 160,000 tonnes of freight destined for the oil and gas sector. In the latter category a volume of no less than 325,000 tonnes is planned for 2019 in view of a new refinery being built in

the region. This operation is also expected to generate additional freight in the longer term. “A new refinery is only the beginning of a whole chain for the petrochemical sector,” says Lievens. In Duqm the contact person is commercial manager Erwin Mortelmans.

Açu: private port with rich hinterland

In the Brazilian port of Açu the emphasis is on project cargo for the energy industry. The port is the gateway to the richest industrial region of Brazil – Minas Gerais – and to the oil and gas fields on the Brazilian coast. Here Port of Antwerp International is helping to develop a multi-purpose terminal. Açu is the only privately-owned port in the region, giving it a competitive edge over neighbouring ports. Port of Antwerp acquired a stake of 1.17% in the port in July 2017 and has initially invested 8.5 million euros. The main

shareholders in the port are the American firm EIG and the Brazilian logistics group Prumo. Porto de Açu is located 240 km from Rio de Janeiro and has been operational since 2014. It covers an area of 130 km² spread over two port zones. In the northern part of the port there is an ore and oil pier reaching 3 km out to sea, while in the southern part there is an inner port with 13 km of quay protected by two harbour entrance jetties of more than 1 km. Açu at the moment is mainly known for dry bulk, but general cargo already accounts for one third of the total freight volume. “Moreover the largest energy project in Latin America is located in Brazil,” says Lievens. “Development of a huge gas-to-energy project has just begun.” Between 2016 and 2018 the volumes carried between Antwerp and Açu expanded by 115%, with the proportion of breakbulk and project cargo growing steadily. Tessa Major acts locally for Port of Antwerp International.

Port of Benin (Photo Victor De Cock)



Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO Port of Antwerp

Antwerp full and down for breakbulk


reakbulk has been stowed full and down in the genetic hold of the port of Antwerp ever since the 12th century. Wave after wave of freight has gone from ship to shore and vice-versa. Steel, forest products and timber from far and yonder. But also foreigngrown onions like the ones that

bulk technologies and impressive innovations. True professionals from all over the world are gathering on 7, 8 and 9 May in the home port of breakbulk. That I guarantee. I am therefore delighted to see that even the more traditional breakbulk companies are eagerly embracing digitisation and

“Soon it will be possible to track and trace my onions from terminal to table-top. That’s the promise of Antwerp XL.” I as a hobby cook like to sauté in the pan with good butter in a nice brunoise. Containers may be “hot,” but with this first edition of the Antwerp XL breakbulk fair the port also demonstrates a warm affection for much breakbulk. A grand gala for shippers, forwarders, agents, shipping companies and terminal operators. One that promises top-level meetings with savvy players, trailblazing break-


innovation. We at Port of Antwerp have also sampled this progressive brew, and I can vouch that it leaves you wanting more. Thus Bulkchain, the breakbulk community project by NxtPort is working on digital streamlining of the breakbulk supply chain. Soon it will be possible to track and trace my onions from terminal to table-top. That’s the promise of Antwerp XL. Port of Antwerp in the meantime is chipping away at break-

bulk like a sculptor in search of added value. Antwerp is living up to its reputation as the N° 1 steel port in Europe with an iron-strong growth percentage of 1.5%. Even in these times of Sino-American trade guerrilla and Anglo-Saxon protectionism. Just one more reason for us to put steel and project cargo high on our commercial list. And yet we do not lose sight of other breakbulk markets. Shippers and forwarders find that the easiest way to the consumer lies through Antwerp. The Antwerp can-do mentality, the centuries-old expertise of our stevedores and our 15 specialist multipurpose terminals ensure smooth throughput, preferably by rail, shortsea or barge. Many square kilometres of covered storage capacity and high-skilled value-added activities in turn place the customer first and foremost. This rich, ravishing recipe makes Antwerp the multimodal breakbulk port par excellence that leaves users hungry for more. An XL menu full of possibilities, on a bed of connectivity and with a touch of collaboration. Bon appétit!




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