Thinking outside the box

It was 25 years ago, in 1993, that Joris J. Bakker began what would become a successful career in shipping, joining the company Seatrade Reefer Chartering in Antwerp having studied ‘Maritime Management’ in Rotterdam. During seven years with Seatrade, Joris held various positions including Vessel Operator, Line Manager and Trade Manager, before leaving in 2000 to become one of the founding partners of the GoReefers Group of companies. Then, one year later, he would go on to establish West Africa Logistics, a company specialising in liner services to West Africa, which would go on to be renamed as Breadbox Shipping Lines (BSL), where he remains Managing Director to this day.

A dynamic shipping company, BSL considers itself to be a ‘West Africa specialist when it comes to providing creative and alternative shipping options to its clients. These options include a variety of liner, parcel and chartering services dedicated to West Africa’s trade lanes. “BSL is a company unlike other operators to West Africa, making its own unique contribution to the continued growth of trade in this important geographic region,” Joris explains. “What makes us different is our ability to offer such a diverse mix of services, from a specialised reefer vessel offering dedicated to the potato and onion exports that come from the Netherlands, to MPP services from Europe and South Africa that ship sensitive project cargoes for the mining, and oil & gas industries.”

Headquartered in the Netherlands, BSL has a dedicated network of agents and representatives in Europe as well as along the West African coast. In addition to its reefer and MPP services, the latter of which is performed by state-of-the-art, modern heavy-life/multi-purpose vessels with lifting capacity up to 500 metric tonnes, BSL also offers a timber and logs service, with regular sailings from Ivory Coast and Ghana to Senegal, Mauritania and other destinations, and a dedicated ‘Chartering Desk’ to handle all of the company’s chartering-in activities. Meanwhile, the company’s Inter-Africa service also means that it operates up to six MPP coastal vessels and barges, ranging from 2000 DWT to 8000 DWT. These vessels, which are all suitably geared, low drafted and partly equipped with tween decks, help to support local Inter-Africa coastal and river trade.

Throughout its history, the company has successfully forged and maintained close relationships with its clients, including many of the larger players active on the continent. For Joris, however, there is no special secret to achieving this. “We are very focused on our activities and this requires us to establish close, long-term relationships with our clients, and adapt ourselves to their requirements where needed. We are what I suppose you could describe as a typical ‘niche player’ in the market, in that we are very hands-on, loyal and we go out of our way to provide a quality service. We have always felt that this approach pays off over time, and it has proven to be the case.”

In November 2017, BSL took another step along the path towards further growth with the launch of a new bi-monthly parcel service into South Africa, a move that Joris reveals was actually on the cards for some time. “We have been keen for a number of years to become active in South Africa, however the opportunity never seemed to present itself. This changed in November, when we were presented with the chance to establish a presence in the country, and we quickly moved to appoint a commercial representative there. This appointment means that we are now well positioned to offer a similar MPP service to West Africa as that which we perform from Europe. Establishing a presence here goes a big step towards completing our service package that is needed to become a real African specialist in our field.”

Another exciting area of growth opening up to the company stems from the rising number of large civil projects being put into construction across the region. These projects range from new airports and the extension of deep sea ports, to energy installations and large bridges being built across transportation networks. “Through our Dubai-based subsidiary, B&I Marine Projects, we are able to offer our services as marine equipment providers to some of these major undertakings, and to date we have had success in doing so to some of the key bridge building construction companies active in Senegal and The Gambia,” Joris reveals.

Africa’s potential as an emerging source of growth and prosperity has been well documented in recent years, and it is that potential that has Joris confident for what the future holds for BSL. “As long as we stay focused on our goals and ambitions, we are confident that conditions will be such that we can continue to push forward the success we have experienced to date into 2019, and ultimately beyond into the next decade,” he concludes.

Breadbox Shipping Lines
Providing creative liner, parcel and chartering services
Specialists in serving the West Africa region
Have opened up new services into South Africa