Sorting it out

Wallem Group is a globally recognised name in maritime management offering a wide range of technical, commercial and administrative solutions alongside vessel brokering services to companies throughout the world. Norwegian businessman Haakon Wallem initially founded it as a shipbroker in 1903, but great success saw it expand into the management and agency business. By 1925 it opened a branch office in Hong Kong that has since gone on to become the global headquarters of a network comprising nearly 50 offices across 19 different countries. Today it works with many companies across the maritime sector.

Shipping & Marine last featured Wallem Group in June 2011, highlighting the extent of its services and success as a service provider. This article highlighted what was at that point a fresh and rapidly expanding business unit for the Group – cruise agency. Group media manager Elizabeth Vella, based at the Group’s Hong Kong headquarters, explains that some of the world’s most recognisable cruise brands have seen fit to utilise Wallem Group’s services: “It certainly continued to grow over the past 12 months as more international cruise companies are sending their vessels to Asia to capture the local market.

“The number of cruises is increasing all the time and that is now a big part of our ship agency business. Last year we celebrated 100 calls over a 12-month period in Singapore from clients that include most of the Carnival Corporation brands including Holland-America Line, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, Princess Cruises, P&O Cruises and Seabourn Cruise Lines. We also work with Royal Caribbean Cruises and Orion. This covers about 80 per cent of the international lines operating locally – that’s a lot of vessels, a lot of calls, and reflects the volume of business our cruise agency is now receiving. We are proud to be involved with this business.”

Cruise agency is just one of a multitude of services provided. Wallem Group can be described as an outsourced organiser, bearing the burden of bureaucratic and administrative tasks so the customer can focus on the quality of its cruises, cargo transportation, port operations or other services. Working with Wallem Group means clients can reduce in-house overheads whilst receiving specialist solutions that improve efficiency. Wallem Group’s ever expanding pool of knowledge and resources has led it to become involved in many different roles.

“A large part of our business is ship bunkering,” illustrates Elizabeth. “We offer bunkering to cruise ships of course but also to many other vessels that are entering the busy Singapore port. What we offer really depends on the region. Wallem Group will look after tramp calls or pure car carriers (PCCs) as they pick up and drop off cars in Japan, for example. We provide port agency across the world but also liner agency in China and Japan. P&I representation is provided in Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia. Wallem Group is even a general sales agent for Cargolux Airlines in Thailand. What we can offer is based very much on local needs and the expertise available within our ranks.”

An excellent example of this is the recent diversification of Wallem Group’s Norwegian office into management for offshore support vessels. The offshore sector is one of Norway’s biggest maritime industries, with Bergen in particular becoming a hub for companies and vessels providing support to platforms and ships working offshore. With Wallem Group’s Norwegian home in this North Sea coast city, it has already forged contracts with a number of companies and continues looking to expand its capabilities.

One of the most unique things that Wallem Group brings to the market is a systems solution adviser called Wallem Innovative Solutions (WIS). WIS will work with a client to develop IT systems that make running every day business manageable and efficient. Often this will see the company’s existing IT systems replaced by a fresh design that provides greater efficiency, improved consistency and more reliability in processing the large amount of information a company receives every day.

“As an example, WIS recently completed a very basic job for Wallem Group’s internal shipbroking division,” says Elizabeth. “Brokers run purely on information and so of course they would then receive hundreds of email a day with various data inside. WIS put in place a filtering system that intelligently sorts through every email and brings to the fore the messages that are most important in helping the brokers do their jobs better. It helps them focus on information most pertinent at the time.

“The other side of WIS is something called business process offshoring (BPO). It is an idea that you can take a very simple process and create a workflow out of it, constructing an easily followed step-by-step procedure that can then be offshored. We have done this internally with a lot of our finances: they are run the same way every time but are of such a high volume that our Hong Kong staff weren’t able to focus on other things. WIS created a step-by-step plan that meant we could move our financial processes to a branch office in Clark, Philippines. The team here keeps to KPIs so that we know it will always be delivered on time and with high quality.” As a company respected for its high quality third party services, Wallem Group has gained ground during the last 12 months. Many ship owners and maritime operators are looking to reduce in-house costs and, as illustrated, Wallem Group is able to offer them this opportunity in a huge variety of ways. Its own business has therefore grown, enabling it to improve existing services and deliver its skills to new ones. “It’s a really good time for a company like ours,” agrees Elizabeth.

Thus Wallem Group is in a good position for the coming months and years. “We have really got our sights set on better leveraging what we currently have on offer,” states Elizabeth with an eye on the future. “Wallem Group are experts with great experience in outsourcing for the transport industry so, in years to come, we want to become the partner of choice for companies across the maritime sector and beyond.”

Growing cruise agency
Truly global presence
Expert third party services