Strong roots

With roots dating as far back as 1916, the Port of Rotterdam headquartered VT Group was founded with the purpose of shipping and storing oil products. As the petrochemical industry grew steadily over the years, the company saw opportunities to strategically expand its operations with a focus on shipping, which resulted in VT today leading the way as a maritime logistics service provider for clean and black minerals (fuels), lubricants and chemicals.

Part of the company’s success is its sophisticated fleet of 23 vessels. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the majority of the vessels is equipped with specialised bunker booms, cargo heating systems, sampling and blending equipment and state-of-the-art gauging technology for cargo measurement. Further complementing this impressive and well-maintained fleet is the Vorstenbosch, which, at 13,317 metric tons, is the world’s largest tank barge. ‘’We try to stay ahead by acting as launching customer for ground breaking innovations.’’ For example, VT was the first company to introduce a certified mass flow Coriolis system on board of its vessels together with a magnetic mooring system. These systems ensure transparency in bunkering on the one hand and quick and safe mooring on the other.

Viewed as a trusted partner for those requiring specialist sea and port services, the independent tank barge operator is proud to deliver high quality services such as transporting and bunkering of mineral products, biofuels, chemicals and lubricants, chartering activities, fleet management and maritime consulting. In addition to the standard service package of transporting and bunkering black and clean mineral products for customers within the ARA region (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp), the company also offers bunkering services to customers in, Germany, Sweden, Panama and Australia.

International expansion
Not a company to rest on its laurels, the company opened its first international office in Panama in 2009 following a long-term customer’s request for seagoing barges on both sides of the Panama Canal. Having expressed ambition to share knowledge and experience with the international shipping industry, the company is now looking further afield in the Central American region as it continues to grow as a globally respected shipping firm.

“VT Group will be 100 years old next year and operates as a well-reputed transporter of fuels, chemicals and lubricants; we also deliver ship-to-ship transfers and bunkering services to our customers. Maersk is one of our biggest customers for bunkering in Rotterdam.

“We have also set up a transportation business in Sweden, which is currently in the first phase, and also have one seagoing vessel sailing for bunkering operations in Perth area, West Australia. Alongside these strategic expansions, we are also looking to develop a presence in Brazil,” explains Hugo Sassen, Business Development at VT Group. “Our customers have worldwide operations and we are available to deliver our specialised services there where they need it.’

“Although there is an economic recession of 4.5 per cent GDB expected in Brazil in 2016, there are strong opportunities for us when it comes to the Brazilian bunkering industry. For example, there is the development of a port in the North of Rio de Janeiro, it will be a big port where bunkering activities are expected to take place. Not only do we see business opportunities in Brazil, but in Panama as well, as the Panama Canal is anticipated to complete its expansion works during 2016; this should naturally result in increasing bunker deliveries. Alongside bunkering in Panama we are also developing the transportation of containers on barges on the canal and anticipate an increase in this area as well.’’

Having begun operating in Panama with two inland water barges that perform bunker deliveries to vessels awaiting transits through the Canal as well as to vessels that perform cargo operations at the various container ports, VT has prepared for the increase in demand for bunkering activities in the area through the preparation of a container barge logistics system. To make this pioneering logistics system a success, the company has been seeking out partnerships with complimentary shipping companies, with the goal of operating its barges under long term charter and/or via container slot agreements with shipping lines.

Out of its 23-strong fleet, the company has had three vessels operating in Panama, the 3200 megatonne barge Vaals, the 4200 megatonne barge Venray and the 6900 tonne chemical tanker Vacamonte. The Vacamonte has recently been relocated for operations in Australia. Benefits of using barges over other transportation options include increased reliability, as there will be no roadblocks or repairs, traffic accidents or pilferage to think about. Moreover, one container barge can take almost 500 TEU, an amount that equals at least 250 trucks. This massive amount of cargo will then travel to its destination in a more environmentally friendly manner and at an accurate transit time due to the advantages of using the canal capacity and booking system.

Sustainability as pillar
Proud to operate with a focus on sustainability, the company began a collaboration with BP on the EU Cleanest Ship Project in 2007, as Hugo notes: “This project began when we first chartered our lubricants vessel, Victoria, which is owned by BP but managed by us. We installed black carbon filters and used low sulphur fuel, which was also delivered by BP. The results of this were very positive when it came to emissions, so we decreased the nitrogen emissions with 90 per cent, particle matter with 98 per cent and sulphur with almost 100 per cent. It was a highly successful project and we intend to maintain this focus on sustainability.

“For example together with the Green Award Foundation, which is an institution that has a mission to decrease emissions from ships. Eight of our 23 vessels under our management are sailing under the Green Award Foundation requirements, which makes it possible for us to comply with the CCR 2 launch/norms for emissions. This also makes it possible to have beneficial prices with the port authorities in Europe.”

The company also won the Green Shipping Award in Panama in 2013 following an impeccable track record of zero incidents and zero spills. “Our vessels are built according to highest standards here in the Netherlands and for this we were awarded the Green Shipping Award by the Panamanian Maritime Authority. We are proud of this award as it expresses our ambition to be a front runner in the field of social responsibility, not only in the Netherlands but everywhere we operate,” highlights Hugo.

Having earned a strong customer base of blue chip companies including Shell, BP, Akzo Nobel and Maersk, VT will remain focused on delivering services of an exceptional quality by improving and expanding its sophisticated fleet. “We are a market leader when it comes to owned vessels in Rotterdam as most are on charter in the region. We do maintenance of our fleet, as well as technical management and manning, we really do arrange it all. We think it is important to combine craftsmanship with social responsibility and therefore we have developed a strong customer base over the years. It is magnificent to be able to grow internationally and and at the same time to deliver added value to society. We strive to do this for many years to come,” concludes Hugo.

VT Group

Independent tank barge operator

Owns a fleet that transports and charters petrochemical fluids

One of its vessels is the biggest inland tanker in the world