Established in 1966 by Sea Containers of UK and Finnish entrepreneur Veli Nordstrom, Containerships Ltd has evolved to become one of the leading short-sea door-to-door operators in Europe. Specialising in container shipping, the company provides solutions to clients in Europe and the Mediterranean, as Kari-Pekka Laaksonen, CEO of Containerships Ltd, explains: “We are a logistics operating company and mainly focusing on short-sea shipping and making door-to-door deliveries. We operate geographically in two different regions, one being the Baltic’s and North Sea/English Channels, with operations in north Europe from Finland, Russia, the Baltic’s to the UK and western Europe and vice versa. The second region we service is in the Mediterranean, where we mainly operate in Turkey through to North African countries, such as Egypt, Libya, Tunis and Algeria.”
In 2007 the company acquired Lithuania-based Kursiu Linjia, adding Lithuania, Latvia and Poland to its service network. This was followed by the expansion of the network to the port of Ghent in 2008 in order to improve access to the Belgian and French markets. In the same year Containerships established its own office in Minsk, thus developing the market in Belarus through to Klaipeda port. These milestones led to the company winning Transport Company of the Year in Ireland in 2008. Following developments in the lower Baltic Sea, it further expanded its network by acquiring Contaz Lines of Turkey in 2009. This led to the introduction of containerships to the Mediterranean area and the extension of services to Mersin, in Turkey, and Alexandria, in Egypt, in 2010. The company also further developed its core transportation services within Europe by adding Sodertalje, Stockholm, as a port of call and established a presence in the Ruhr area of Germany.
In Northern Europe Containerships has eight vessels under operation, with six operating in the South; on top of this the company has its own fleet of more than 14,000 containers including 20 feet, 40 feet and the more popular 45 feet Magnum palettes that offer the same capacity as trucks. Specialists in their field, staff at Containerships offer a choice of all standard and special container sorts and complete coverage via sea, rail, road and river container transportation and calculate the best routes for customers while remaining environmentally friendly. Customs clearance of import and export cargo in Russia is included in its Container Shipping services, which includes re-import procedures for arrival/departure by truck or sea. Rates for customs clearance are competitive, with remote customs clearance with EDI also offered.
A major strength for Containerships is its business in Russia, which has been established since 1994, and there are aims to develop landside operations in the area in the future. “On top of our operations on the port side we also work on inland warehousing and distribution and recently expanded our warehouses in Russia. We have started working on projects involving cargo from suppliers and manufacturers for delivery nationwide across the area. This is a big part of the future logistics in Russia, whether it is with warehousing or mainland transportation, this is definitely what we see as a growing development,” says Kari-Pekka.
Another recent development for Containerships is the opening of its Kiev operations, which will utilise existing lines and allow easy access to other areas within the Ukraine. “The Kiev office was opened in early 2013 because we see Ukraine as a growing market for consumer products and also for the future. It will utilise our lines between the Nordics, Russia, the UK and Klaipeda, with a focus on the rail trail connection between our Klaipeda port and the Ukraine,” highlights Kari-Pekka.
Offering tailored transportation to its customers, Containerships gives an international yet local service by operating through its 19 offices that staff its own personnel, equipment and assets; these include 14 container vessels, including 1A ice-class vessels that have the sufficient strength, equipment and engine power to operate in Northern Baltic conditions. “We have our own containers that we operate and manage so a big issue for us is frequency and accuracy, which we ensure is of top quality by monitoring it on a weekly level,” says Kari-Pekka. With a door-to-door service, the company maintains its own truck fleet in Finland, the UK, Russia and Lithuania and can fulfil demands to reach every area of each country it operates in a cost effective and environmentally friendly way.
Despite the economic market continuing to cause difficulties for the shipping industry, Containerships has remained cautiously optimistic and innovative in its plans for expansion, as Kari-Pekka highlights: “The future of the economical situation in the EU is not too bright at the moment, but we are trying to view the issue from different angles and aim to expand more in Russia; we are currently operating in St Petersburg and Moscow but there are still a lot of other places in Russia with potential for us. Even though the economical surrounding of the environment is not 100 per cent supportive of our positive expectations for the 2013, we believe we have a very good year coming up.”
Containerships keeps a watchful eye out for legislation that could affect its operations. For example, over the coming years there will be preparations put in place for the Sulphur Directive, a proposal based on the International Maritime Organization’s decision to set stringent sulphur emission restrictions for sea areas in Northern Europe. The proposal states that the sulphur content of fuel used in the North Sea, Baltic Sea and English Channel should be lowered to 0.1 per cent by 2015; a formidable task for Containerships, which is analysing available options before a solution is found in the next six to nine months.
Though there are challenges ahead the future looks positive for Containerships, with its plans to expand in Russia, the UK and Finland. It is also growing the land-based part of the business to continue its door-to-door policy while opening new trade lines in new ports. “We have a target to open one or two new locations on land to further develop the company while continuing our focus on Russia and Ukraine as areas for potential growth. There are always challenges in the market in regards to the cost structure and cost levels of operations but we aim to stay resilient and adapt, moving our operations to a different form if needed, so we can meet market expectations,” Kari-Pekka concludes.
Growing Russian presence
Kiev office opened 2013
International, yet local service