The right destination

Euro Marine Logistics specialises in transporting vehicles (mainly newly built cars, LCV’s and vans) through its short-sea carrier service. Based in Wemmel, Belgium, it transports over one million units of cargo every year. It is a massive undertaking, and unsurprisingly requires a lot of organisation. In order to keep up with demand, the company moved into new offices in November 2016, launched a new Biscay Trade route, and added two new medium-sized vessels to its fleet of 15 vehicles ships.

Managing Director Marc Pauwels feels that the way it is set up has been the secret behind its success: “Quality and safety are top priorities in its daily activity. There is an in-house department monitoring the condition, maintenance, movement, cargo operations and stowage.” While that unit handles transportation, Marc is steering the business’ overall framework and structure: “My role is to implement and execute a strategy, so that the goals put in place by the owners can be met. In our business segment, there is competition from inland, ferry and RORO (Roll On, Roll Off), and there are also environmental considerations such as low sulphur fuels, ballast water treatments and so forth, that means the model needs to be adapted so that continuity can be maintained.”

The need to keep up with demand means that flexibility is vital, as Marc explains: “The shipping industry is extremely competitive and the key is to optimise the utilisation of your assets, meaning you need to fill your ship more than once in order to generate some margin. From that perspective, securing sufficient volumes is essential.” While this is true, the demand can sometimes appear contradictory, with a requirement for large loads conflicting with a need for shorter trips. In order to balance this out, the company has a range of vessels that range from the smaller 750 CEU (Car Equivalent Unit) to the largest models that are over 3000 CEU. As Marc further details, having a range of options can cover a number of different circumstances: “What we select for each job depends on the physical limitations of the ports, the speed, fuel consumption and so forth.”

One way to adjust to consumer requirements has been opening up new routes. In March 2017, a new service was established between Santander, Zeebruge, Le Havre and Southampton, known as the Biscay Trade route, something Marc believes will be beneficial to customers: “By putting two 1500 CEU ships in a dedicated rotation, Euro Marine Logistics can offer cargo transport at sea every four days with guaranteed space.”

In November 2016, the company relocated to a new office space, a process that has further optimised the way the team works: “The main reason for the move was the need for more space, to accommodate a team that has been growing for the last few years. Furthermore, the more landscape style of working environment has helped to enhance the teamwork among the divisions,” Marc states.

What is interesting is the people that make up the workforce: “There are 42 employees, consisting of 12 nationalities and of them less than ten of those have a marine background. The other people were selected based on specific skills such as energy, intelligence and integrity. Shipping is a super dynamic environment, therefore it is vital that colleagues support each other,” Marc adds.

A couple of aspects where this spirit of collaboration is very important is being aware of environmental and safety concerns. When it comes to working at sea, inevitably the two are intertwined as Marc details: “A moment of carelessness may lead to a serious incident, such as oil pollution or fatal accidents. In this respect, it is vital that everyone is fully aware of the responsibility that comes with this, while also drawing on the expertise of the owners, who are amongst the world leaders in safe operations.” While there is a belief that transportation by sea is relatively cleaner compared to other methods such as air freight, Marc is adamant that the business can always go further in its commitment to sustainability: “While transport by ship is considered a superior means of transporting mass volumes of cargo, compared to other modes, there is the need to reduce noxious emissions from ship exhausts. In this respect, it is important to comply with relevant pollution rules, even though this requires further investment on the vehicles and fuel.”

In recent years, the industry has faced a number of challenges, including pressure on freight rates, as well as some political uncertainty around Russia and Brexit. However, Marc remains confident that the organisation has the key to keep businesses moving, with ideas on how to further develop this in the future also in the pipeline: “Shippers are expecting providers to be innovative, offering solutions to increase efficiency and reduce overall cost for the customer. The focus has to be on designing concepts to meet this need, and this will not only be limited to port-to-port delivery.”

Ultimately, the philosophy behind Euro Marine Logistics is echoed by Marc, and it is a great summary of its drive and positive attitude: “We cannot control the wind, but we can direct the sail to always reach the right destination.”

Euro Marine Logistics
One of Europe’s leading short-sea carriers
Transports more than one million units a year
Operates 15 vessels, ranging from 750 CEU to over 3000 CEU