Heavylift / Breakbulk
A plus for projects
The Russian market is on the move. Asstra Associated Traffic, which specialises in logistics in Central and Eastern Europe, expects growth momentum in the project segment. Christian Doepgen spoke to CEO Frank Müller and project manager Andrey Abramov.
How full is your order book, gentlemen, and how is the project logistics pipeline coming along?
We’ve observed a definite growth trend. A fourth project has just been added to three major ongoing projects. We’re currently looking at even better prospects for 2018.
What kind of projects are involved?
The energy sector is at the forefront, but in addition to the classic oil and gas field there are also transports for refineries, for example, and we’re also seeing an increase in demand in the solar plant sector, and in the chemical and metal segments.
Is this trend restricted to Russia?
No, we’re also seeing movement in many of the Central Asian republics. The current projects in Russia are in Tula, in Kingissepp, not far from St Petersburg and in Tobolsk, east of the Urals, amongst other places.
Where is growth coming from?
The Russian rouble as well as oil prices have both stabilised; the economic situation has calmed down, overall. So investors are interested again.
Asstra is not a newcomer in the project business. What has it changed, operationally, compared to earlier orders?
Projects are being executed in much tighter timeframes. For example, we completed a complex project in eight months – starting at the end of the frost and then finishing before the beginning of the muddy season. The other improvement we have noted is that we do not hesitate now to transport large modules in a single go.
Do you have any examples?
We adopted the above-mentioned approach in the case of the largest machine we’ve ever transported, weighing 250 t and with a height of 6.8 m and a width of 9 m. We planned the transport from the beginning to its end, and went to great lengths to completely clear the entire route. Our intermodal mix includes rail freight, which especially in Russia can give significant cost advantages of up to 30%.
How do you handle your orders?
We handle them through our core projects logistics team, which we have strengthened by increasing the number of employees from four to eight. The developments in the project market as a whole are very promising for Asstra: the fact that the business is increasingly tender-based is very much in our favour, as is the greater mobility of professional manpower nowadays. Experienced people are available.
What is the situation concerning orders in Asstra’s projects business?
These are always follow-up activities to our standard transport services, which require a project cargo leg. Our strength is that we have the capacity to meet both requirements from a single source. We consciously opted for this, even if the step from dispatch to project management is huge.
How did the firm as a whole develop in the crisis years?
In 2014 we adopted a strategy paper in which we put customer focus and internationalisation at the heart of our business. Since then we’ve been able to steadily increase our transport volumes and we’ll transport approximately 120,000 full loads this year. Short loading and unloading times is the key to success. In addition to industrial contracting, our portfolio includes FMCG, household goods, project logistics and speciality niche products, such as logistics for pharmaceutical products or fashion.
Is turnover keeping pace with volumes?
Last year we posted sales of around EUR 185 million, which brought us back up to 2013’s level – with unchanged margins. For 2017 we expect 30% growth over 2016, and a turnover of EUR 245 million. We’ve reached a turning point. Asstra is not a big player, but also no longer a small one.
How is the firm organised overall?
In addition to Eastern and Central Europe we cover all of the EU, so that blue-chip firms can come to us for all of Europe. We have 150 such firms on our books at present, of which 60 do more than EUR 1 million of business with us every year. Around 850 employees handle the orders coming in from around 3,000 permanent customers through 35 of our companies with 25 branches in 16 countries.
What is your vision?
Our strategic goal is that annual sales break the EUR 1 billion barrier in 2022 / 2023, and that we’re one of the top ten logistics firms in Europe by 2030.