Moves by multimodal group Samskip to get closer to its customers are paying off, said chief operating officer Diederick Blom
Europe’s largest multimodal group by volume says its strategy to draw closer to customers of all sizes is shifting attitudes in favour of combined transport.
Samskip customer types have been divided between four dedicated managers:
“We have been strengthening the front line of activities to get closer to customers, grow volumes in existing markets and break into new ones,” Mr Blom explained. “We have also been reinforcing teams in our core markets, in response to developments on the ground.”
At a time when container shipping’s deepsea giants see greater involvement in inland European transport as one answer to ’limp’ sea freight rates, there are strong reasons to strengthen ties with existing customers, said Mr Blom. But equally critical is continuing to win new market share from road hauliers by responding to their needs. He said Samskip’s strategy for Norway offers evidence of both.
For services to and from Rotterdam, Bremerhaven and Hamburg, Samskip’s Norwegian container traffic had grown to around 95,000 TEU a year by 2017. However, in purchasing the frigoCare cold store business, taking on marketing of two reefer ships previously pooled with Silver Sea and acquiring Nor Lines, business has taken on a new ‘local’ dynamic. In addition to two multi-purpose and four specialised reefer vessels, Nor Lines brought terminals, warehousing and cold storage.
After the Nor Lines acquisition in 2017, Mr Blom said a restructure of Nor Lines operations adjusted services to meet fast-changing shipper needs, adding more capacity, port calls and frequency but, more importantly, adding flexibility. The changes were a response to changing fish loading port patterns and to service project cargo moves in both directions, he said. Nor Lines extended its reach to Murmansk, added multiple inducement calls at smaller Norwegian ports, and brought new Baltic and Dutch ports into the logistics mix.
“We are already seeing an impact,” said Mr Blom. “Increasingly, Norwegian exporters and importers see the flexibility of the shortsea option. I am convinced this is only the start.”
Looming largest in company thinking when it comes to change management has been Brexit: the UK remains Samskip’s largest shortsea route. While the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s EU exit had not been welcome, Mr Blom said Samskip felt from the outset that container shipping’s planning and reliability advantages would put it in a strong position to adjust to different outcomes.
Initially, Samskip brought larger tonnage into its high frequency Rotterdam-Tilbury-Hull-Grangemouth routes. In H2 2018, it followed up by launching three-times weekly Amsterdam-Hull services and a twice-weekly link between Ghent and Hull, also renewing its commitment to ABP’s 30-acre Hull Container Terminal.
“Our view was that serving three continental ports with inland links that reach deep into Europe plus three UK east coast ports, while also offering separate shortsea connections between Ireland and Rotterdam showed that our services were all about flexibility, as well as reliability,” said Mr Blom. He added that, in the run up to March 2019, UK container traffic increased sharply due to a combination of stockpiling and concern over potential trailer congestion at Channel ports.