The complete package
“Bremer Reederei is a ship owner, operator and broking agent,” states Arne Ehlers, managing director of the German maritime services firm. “We 100 per cent own two vessels, part-own two vessels and run on average another 14 ships on commercial management and voyage charters, all of which are multipurpose vessels (MPVs) between 2000 and 6000 tonnes carrying capacity. We have our own liner services, employ the fleet for contracts of affreightment, broker both cargo and vessels, and act as a port agents. Thus we are a complete logistics provider when it comes to sea transportation.”
Founded in 1951, Bremer Reederei began as a small company providing liner services that carried parcels, general cargo and vehicles between Bremen and Sweden. It later branched into the short sea shipping market, operating a terminal in Bremen from which it would charter vessels to run routes across the German North Sea to Scandinavia. In 1996, following a change in management and shareholders, the company refocused its efforts on the then-booming Scandinavian forestry industry, partnering with major players such as the Stora Enso Group to deliver all types of forest products including wood pulp, paper and sawn timber throughout Europe. This move proved a success, with Bremer Reederei growing enough over the next 15 years that in 2005 the company acquired its first vessel and in 2008 possessed its first newbuild.
Today, as previously illustrated, the company owns several more of its own vessels whilst retaining its tradition of chartering additional vessels to expand availability. However huge shifts in economics and the shipping industry toward the end of 2008 led Bremer Reederei to investigate new avenues of business.
“As a reply to the crises that were happening in both finance and the maritime sector, we focused more and more on cargo trading and brokering, building up a strong and professional chartering department in the process,” Arne explains. “We already had a strong, professional service of course but as a contract carrier working on large contracts of affreightment directly with the industry, hiring and building vessels against such contracts. By acquiring our own vessels, however, we were able to reinforce our presence as a charterer offering such services as voyage chartering and competitive brokering. We see a big future in this.”
Chartering is not the only new development for the company. German windmill producers have been supplying onshore windfarms worldwide for nearly 30 years now. As a long-term partner of the industry, Bremer Reederei has gained knowledge of tower sections, wind turbines and other components as well as the safest and most effective ways to ship them.
It was a natural step therefore to move into the offshore wind industry following the commissioning of Alpha Ventus, Germany’s first major offshore wind farm project. Working with turbine parts manufacturers, throughout 2008 and 2009 Bremer Reederei acted as a port agent and logistics co-ordinator to execute loading, stowing, securing and sea transportation efficiently. Its success here led to the company becoming involved in subsequent wind farm installations Borkum Wind (BorWin) 1 and 2, and Heligoland Wind (HelWin) 1 and 2, as a carrier of sea cables between the farms and their corresponding onshore terminals. The HelWin contract, led by a consortium including Siemens and Prysmian, continues to date with Bremer Reederei having only recently made two shipments of power cables from Italy to Emden, north Germany.
With cable carrying being a relatively small market, Bremer Reederei has established itself on its leading edge through contracts with on some very important names. “We were contacted by companies looking for a very specific type of vessel and our ships Bremer Elena, Bremer Johanna and Bremer Anna ideally met the cargo hold size, deck crane equipment and other requirements they laid out,” says Arne. “We have made three shipments for Alcatel for communication cables loaded in Calais, destined for the Scilly, Cape Verde and Fiji Islands, and are currently busy with one shipment of power cables from Sweden to New York for ABB. In addition to this, as these projects often take a long time preparing, we still have projects in the pipeline including shipments to Qatar, Libya and Canada. We are looking to concentrate on this business and attract further cargo.”
So, despite a radical transformation of the global forestry industry, Bremer Reederei has managed to stay afloat by plotting new courses using the repute and respect it has built during six decades of service. “Our strengths are a mixture of typical Hanseatic traditional values combined with a young and modern professionalism,” Arne declares. “I am 41 myself and my colleagues range between mid-20s and mid-30s so we are a young team with a modern approach to business, but we maintain conservative shipping values. That means our clients can trust us and get quick answers about today’s shipping industry.”
Using these strengths as a trunk from which to branch its services, Arne and Bremer Reederei are optimistic about the future: “The shipping crisis that began late 2008 is still ongoing and the market has been very volatile, but over the past 12 months it has taken slow steps toward recovery. Summer is almost over and we are quite sure recovery will continue through autumn and winter, not quickly but with the same small step-by-step that it has done over the last year. That is what we are telling our clients and much of the industry is also of this opinion.”
The company of course expects to continue growing in the offshore wind farm industry, particularly in using its expertise to provide specialised brokerage for the sector, as well as to expand its general chartering and brokerage services. Bremer Reederei also has other ambitions: taking the decades of short sea shipping experience it has gained on the Baltic and North Sea, the logistics provider is now looking at other regions around the world where it could provide similar services – such as between Russia, Japan, northern China and Korea.
Arne concludes on an upbeat note about the next few years: “We want to further develop our strengths in the three columns of our business: vessel ownership, vessel operation and chartering brokerage. Our guideline is to own one-third of our fleet and to charter the remaining two-thirds, so now and in the future there will always be room to acquire new ships as well as chartering tonnage. We will use our experience and expertise to increase service levels and improving overall market share of the Bremer Reederei name.”
Currently exploring new market sectors with great success
Strong name and reputation in the market
Traditional values with a modern attitude