Feederlines BV was founded in 1995 as part of the German Hartmann Group in order to be able to own and operate vessels in the Dutch market. Since its inception the business has been aimed at the fast growing short sea sector, owning and operating dry cargo vessels from 2500 to 9000 DWT and container feeder vessels from 290 TEU to 750 TEU. A relatively new business, Feederlines is characterised by a strong communication network and knowledgeable, well trained employees, which enable it to respond quickly and accurately to the needs of charterers and operators.
“Captain Alfred Hartmann of Hartmann Shipping Group established the business 15 years ago after looking into the possibility of building and operating vessels in the local market,” explains Jan van der Laan, current CEO of Feederlines. “While he discovered that it was possible to obtain some incentives from the Dutch Government for this business he was informed that to do this successfully he would need to start his own business, thus Feederlines was formed.
“In those 15 years the business has grown to a fleet of 53 multi-purpose vessels, which we both partly and fully own,” he continues. “Around six years ago we entered discussions with Mr. Hartmann looking at building up the number of fully owned vessels in our fleet, as at that moment we only fully owned one ship. This went well, and will be one of the key drivers in terms of moving the business forward. At present we remain focused on the short sea market, but we are well aware that with the changing market conditions there are further possibilities to continue to expand into new sectors.”
Of course, much of the company’s growth and expansion to date has been strengthened by the backing of a strong mother company in Hartmann, and Jan explains that this remains one of the most important differentiators for Feederlines: “Being part of the Hartmann Group has really enabled us to trade in all areas of the world and to actively seek out new markets. For example, Hartmann has commercial managers based all over the world and this has really been invaluable to us in terms of developing cooperation and creating new trade lines.”
Of course, growth and expansion needs a clear strategy to move forward successfully, and Jan, who only became CEO this June, has his own plans to continue Feederlines’ success. “One of the most important changes I have witnessed is that handling a fleet of say 20 or 25 vessels as in the early days of the company, has a very different approach to handling our modern fleet, which is upwards of 50 ships.
“Consequently we have vessels trading all over the world, and this demands a completely different strategy and method of operating the business,” he continues. “You have to be prepared for any eventuality and we have to work very hard to ensure that each of our employees has the ability to fulfil his or her duties to the optimum level. Managing a fleet of vessels requires various disciplines, including good crew, support staff, technical people and financing departments, all working together to achieve the goal of having well maintained vessels in trade across the globe, and this is our key goal.”
To this end Feederlines operates its own training school in order to ensure these high standards are achieved through the business. “We started the training school some three years ago in order to ensure that everyone on board our vessels is as highly trained as they can be,” says Jan. “We see it as a good opportunity for all of our crews to train and relax together to build a real team that can operate efficiently. It has worked so well that in November we are starting an entirely new crew familiarisation course that will give all of our new crews the proper information and background so that they can perform even better at sea.”
With such highly trained crew it is inevitable that Jan is keen to continue to update and increase the Feederlines fleet, but he is acutely aware of the difficulties in the market at present and is willing to proceed with caution. “The shipping market has not been profitable over the last couple of years, meaning that private placement is out of the question unless you look for tax benefits from the government, but we are really not keen on this approach. We do have some new-builds on contract at the moment and we are certainly going to complete these in order to add to our fleet in the near future.
“However, growth must not just be measured in the number of vessels a company has. At present we have 53, and in the future I can see us having between 50 and 60 operational ships. What we will certainly see develop is the type of vessels that we manage. Some of our older vessels are currently over ten years old and are likely to be sold in the next one or two years, and I hope that this will open the way for us to purchase larger vessels to be used for new types of operations. Ultimately I hope that Feederlines will remain among the best shipping companies thanks to its well maintained technical fleet and highly trained and experienced personnel,” he concludes.
Focused on the fast growing short sea sector
Highly skilled and experienced workforce
Fleet expansion planned for the future