New directions

Established 32 years ago, Rhinecontainer operates a fleet of container barges along the river Rhine, between the seaports of Benelux and the various ports along the river. The company was founded by Kühne & Nagel, EWT and Rhenania, who identified a niche for specialised container barge transportation within the area. Operating 21 container barges, Rhinecontainer provide a fast and reliable service for a strong client base including consignors and shipping lines.

Matthieu van Roermund, one of the managing directors of Rhinecontainer, explains what sets the company apart from its competitors: “One of our main strengths is that we offer full coverage of the river Rhine, including the niche market of Benelux where the Rhine flows into the North Sea. Naturally, we also cover the entire container markets attached to the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam. Another distinguishing feature is our high frequency of service, which is greater than all of the other container transport companies.”

Operating from a central location near Rotterdam, Rhinecontainer is the leading container transportation company in the area, securing contracts with a number of major European manufacturers. Rhinecontainer’s logistic services offer fast transit times using a fleet of modern container barges with varying capacities from 204 to 720 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU). Facilities include up-to-date terminals and container storage sites including provisions for hazardous cargo. The company operates a reliable container tracking system with state-ofthe- art computer technology, backed by a team of professional staff.

In 2003 Wincanton, a leading European supply chain solutions provider, acquired the primary stake in Rhinecontainer from previous owners Rhenania. Rhinecontainer now operates as part of Wincanton’s intermodal group, which provides entire logistic chain solutions by linking up individual modes of transport. The company benefits in a number of ways from its relationship with Wincanton, which operate seven strategically located container terminals along the Rhine. These are in Neuss, Frankfurt, Mannheim, Stuttgart, Mainz, Worms and Karlsruhe. Rhinecontainer also works in close co-operation with other major inland terminals to provide a reliable and efficient service.

Matthieu comments: “Through our past association with Rhenania and more recent acquisition by Wincanton we have developed very strong relationships with a number of major German companies. This is of course very beneficial to us as a company going forward. There are a lot of synergies between the intermodal group and the other groups Wincanton operate which is another advantage. We have also maintained a good co-operative relationship in the lower Rhine area with H&S Container Lines for the past 18 years, which we will continue to strengthen.”

Rhinecontainer considers itself less as a service supplier and more of a business partner to clients, offering a tailor-made service to meet customer requests. “We work mutually with customers to engineer the best possible solution for their needs. Rather than offering a standardised service, we develop a number of possibilities considering clients’ individual requirements. We aim to provide supply chain solutions rather than just transport services,” says Matthieu.

Recently Rhinecontainer launched its new subsidiary Transbox, which allows the company to provide a more complete intermodal service to clients. Aimed at the Benelux marketplace, Transbox offers a number of services, such as container transport between the ports of Rotterdam, Antwerp and Moerdijk in both directions. Also included is the direct road and rail transportation of containers between Rotterdam, Antwerp and the European hinterland. Matthieu describes the development: “Rhinecontainer is one of the well-known founding fathers of barge transportation on the Rhine, and Transbox marks a move beyond our current structure into other modes of transport. By incorporating other methods such as rail and truck we are able to offer full supply chain solutions to our customers.”

Other developments include the expansion of the two Wincanton terminals in Mannheim and Frankfurt. Matthieu highlights the reasons behind this investment: “The intermodal group is investing a substantial amount of money into these two terminals having identified them as being key areas of future growth. The expansion includes new cranes, anchorage, intelligence and systems.”

Prior to the economic recession, which hit at the end of 2008, Rhinecontainer had already begun to tailor its operations and increase the frequency of services. Matthieu explains how this benefited the company when the downturn struck: “The major concern for us during the recession was its impact on the overland European transportation market, which is where we operate. Despite this we maintained our high service frequencies and full market coverage. As a mutual operator we are free to move between the third-party terminals, as well as the seven Wincanton terminals, which meant we were able to optimise our services and utilise our vessels more effectively.

“Compared to our competitors who operate other more vulnerable systems, we fared quite well throughout the recession thanks to our set-up and high operational frequencies. Our customers within the marketplace value our consistency and also our sustainability. The company has a 32-year history within the marketplace so clients can rely on us still being here in the future.”

With thoughts on the future Matthieu concludes: “In the next five years our service extension will have matured, including the Transbox initiative which is currently very new. In line with this I believe the company will grow autonomously as the market develops. We expect the port of Rotterdam to undergo some major growth, with the launch of the new terminals at Maasvlakte. This is also an area where all the major shipping lines are looking to boost their services, which will mean increased opportunities for Rhinecontainer. Following this there will also be some expansion at the port of Antwerp. Having called at the terminals at Antwerp since Rhinecontainer began, the company has established a strong presence in the market, which we will continue to develop.”

Full coverage of river Rhine

Major European clients

New intermodal subsidiary