New endeavours

Established by international transport companies in 1994, Turkey based U.N. Ro-Ro Isletmeleri AS has evolved into one of the fastest growing freight ro-ro operators in both the Mediterranean and the world. Following a 260 million euro investment in its fleet in the last five years, U.N. Ro-Ro’s available capacity is now able to meet a 60 per cent increase in truck transportation to Europe. It is also fully prepared for Turkey’s foreign trade target of $1 trillion by 2023. Looking to provide an alternative mode of transport in difficult or high-risk areas, particularly in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, U.N. Ro-Ro today continues to serve international transport firms with a low-cost, efficient, safe and reliable sea journey.

Mainly targeting foreign trade with Europe, U.N. Ro-Ro’s core and busiest route is Pendik Ro-Ro terminal located in Istanbul’s Anatolian Region, to the port of Trieste, Italy, where seven scheduled 240 trailer capacity Ro-Ro vessels, with a speed of 21 knots, operate a round trip every day of the week. The operator’s other lines include Mersin, Turkey – Trieste and Ambarli, Istanbul to Toulon, France. Following steady growth of one – two per cent per year and a successful 2012 due to increased sailing frequencies, the company signed a contract for a newbuild last year. UN Istanbul, Turkey’s biggest ro-ro ship with a capacity of 280 semi-trailer trucks, will be operating along the Trieste route on weekends to ensure transport demands can be met, while also preparing the operator for future developments, as chief executive officer Sedat Gumusoglu elaborates: “The new ship is to bring additional capacity to our own lines, for which there has been huge demand, particularly for weekend services when transport services are high. Our new vessel will satisfy the demand for capacity and will also aid in our plans to launch new lines in 2013. One such line is for Mersin – Egypt – Saudi Arabia. We will use a current vessel for the new line, while the new ship will fill that capacity in the existing lines.”

With Europe’s share in Turkey’s trade decreasing from 46 per cent to 38 per cent due to the economic crisis, U.N. Ro-Ro has made strategic plans to explore new markets around the Black Sea and in the south. “In 2008-2009 we felt the economic crisis deeply, there was a 20 – 25 per cent decline in the market, but we recovered by 2010. Europe is our core target market, but we are also looking to expand our service into strategically and logistically close countries such as Egypt and potentially Africa,” highlights Sedat.

Due to the conflict in Syria, a country that serves as a gateway to places such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, Dubai and Bahrain, Turkish borders were closed in 2012, which drastically affected the international land transportation sector and resulted in the Turkish government offering incentives to ro-ro operators to launch a new service between Turkey and Egypt. “After a number of ro-ro operators tried and failed to launch the service we decided to expand our service in co-operation with Dubai based firm Salaem Al Makrani shipping Company (SAMC) to solve the problem of cargo not being able to reach its destination. We are anticipating 10,000 – 15,000 units on a round trip basis for this market,” says Sedat. The partners launched their Turkey to Egypt line on June 7th 2013, with the aim of increasing Turkey and Egypt’s international trade volume while also enhancing competitiveness between exporters and international transport firms in the market. “We will see how things develop in the first month during the trial period and will look into the financial gain, but for now we hope the new line will bring positive benefits for the international transportation sector and our company.”

To further enhance its services, the company is investing in new railway lines, which will combine with its ro-ro service and offer a direct link to European countries such as Germany and Austria. “When this company was set up in 1994 it was mainly due to the blocked line transport in the Balkan area, but today utilization of ro-ro services in Europe is less efficient without rail. With this in mind we have signed an agreement to develop new lines that will depart to the direct final destination,” explains Sedat. “There are many benefits to this development. For example, this service will, as standard with any service we launch or operate, be a cheaper option than land routes. Another bonus is that the railway connections will solve issues with permits. Furthermore, our trucker customers that are operating semi-trailer transportation from Trieste into central Europe will benefit from using fewer trucks when operating the same fleet. This means our customers will require less investment, or can operate more round trips with the same investment, thus delivering optimum efficiency.”

Over the coming years U.N. Ro-Ro will be keeping a watchful eye on potential cargo investment opportunities, while developing a foothold in Egypt and potentially Africa. “We are expecting steady growth of around one to two per cent this year but this excludes the Egypt market, we will wait and see what this new area brings us,” Sedat concludes.

U.N. Ro-Ro Isletmeleri AS
One of the fastest-growing freight ro-ro operators in the world
New line to Egypt launching in June
Its newbuild freight ferry was delivered in April 2013