First we sailed the Baltic Sea and then the Mediterranean. Eventually, we crossed the Atlantic and now we can be found worldwide, including the Great Lakes.
Pulp and paper – millions of tonnes
If it was up to Wagenborg, they would sail ships full of pulp and paper from Europe to North America. Hans Kroon is Director of Wagenborg Shipping North America. “It may sound strange,” he smiles, “but by taking the first steps - with a little bit of courage - we have become an international shipping company and we no longer bat an eyelid about a direct line between the Great Lakes and Europe”.
Own office in America
In 1997, Wagenborg started to expand the fleet. Mr Kroon says: “It’s quite simple – the larger the vessel, the wider the trading area. We used to sail the Baltic Sea and the North Sea but gradually expanded our sailing areas. Then came the big crossing to North America. We see it as our challenge to come up with intelligent logistic solutions, so we looked at how we could apply our knowledge to this new trade between Scandinavia and North America.”
Ice-strengthened vessels during winter
In the Baltic, Wagenborg had experience of the limited accessibility of the region during the winter period. “We had already developed ships that were ice-strengthened and could sail for a long time in winter conditions. Hudson Bay is quite similar to that area, as you can only sail there between July and October. By using our experience intelligently, we had an advantage in the market – with our ice-strengthened fleet we could make the crossing really early in the season.”
In this way, Wagenborg acquired a solid reputation and position in North America. In 2003, Wagenborg opened an office in Montréal. “One of the reasons was to bridge the time difference between the continents. However, an even more important reason was to acquire local knowledge.”
“Now our vessels sail regularly between Europe and the Great Lakes with cargoes varying between 8,000 and 10,000 megaton. From Europe we mostly ship steel, breakbulk and project cargoes to the main ports of the Great Lakes, such as Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, Hamilton and Duluth. On the way back to Europe we mostly ship agriculture products, paper and pulp.”
A “People Business”
Koos Zumkehr, Director Chartering comments: “Many people, many vessels, many languages. There have been many changes over the past years but the people and their contacts have remained the constant factor. We are always talking about it being a ‘people business’ and that is what we do well at Wagenborg. People make the difference, they make us a reliable partner and we want it to stay that way.”