Heavylift / Breakbulk
The same standard worldwide
The sites a company selects for business can ensure it enjoys substantial advantages in today’s arena for the awarding of projects. A relocation nevertheless has to simultaneously include an ascertainable standard of quality for customers. Peter van Nieuwkasteele explains how the Steder Group from the Netherlands approaches the issue in an interview with the ITJ’s Christian Doepgen.
Looking at the Steder Group, Peter, it’s apparent that your network of locations covers the Emea area rather well.
That’s right. Our main offices are in Rotterdam and Antwerp; and our centres in Constantza, Djibouti and Dubai are all in the Emea area. This doesn’t mean that our activities are restricted to the area, of course – we operate globally.
I assume that your presence in the small state of Djibouti enables you to serve all of East Africa.
Land-locked Ethiopia is our main service area there. We use the Djibouti–Ethiopia corridor for the country’s imports. Nine out of ten orders are shipped to neighbouring countries, mainly to Ethiopia. We’re in the midst of an economic high there. Many infrastructure projects are being implemented, sometimes with international financial support from institutions such as the IMF. Our pipeline is thus well-filled with orders. We’re currently operating at around 80–90% of capacity.
Since when has Steder worked there?
The Steder Group started in the early 1990s as an appointed freight forwarder and has close ties to Ethiopia. We’re the agent in the Netherlands for Ethiopian Shipping Lines and operated a liner service from Turkey and the Black Sea to Djibouti for eight years. Due to the transformation the country is going through, Steder decided to open its own entity in Djibouti in 2011.
We invested in specialised transport equipment and started out with seven truck / trailer combinations. The first large undertaking was the Ashegoda wind farm project, when we carried 54 complete WTGs from the port of Djibouti to the northern part of Ethiopia.
By 2015 we had evolved into a professional heavylift and exceptional transport firm, operating 23 truck / trailer combinations, with 15 more to be added soon. We can transport cargo weighing up to 300 t.
What are the special challenges you face in the Horn of Africa?
The road conditions and maintaining our equipment are the biggest challenges. We have built our own workshop to keep machines running. We face inclinations greater than 12% in Ethiopia. Moving 200 t requires operations as well as maintenance specialists. Tyres are the biggest operational cost factor. Our convoys are also accompanied by service trucks.
Is there a task you carried out there this year that you’re particularly proud of?
In July we transported six transformers, handling four 98 t modules and two 117 t units. The latter were 5.2 m high. After we processed them in the port we hauled them over about 1,000 km to Gebre Guracha and Chancho (both Ethiopia). We managed to complete the project on time – despite the onset of the rainy season, which adversely affected the gravel roads.
Let’s change continents. Why did you opt for Constantza?
We make use of the Romanian port city as a hub for the entire region; for further oil and gas reserves are continuously being tapped in the Black Sea as well as in the Caspian Sea these days.
Has the raw materials crisis had an effect on these activities?
We’ve not noticed much of a decline in demand in the oil and gas industry so far. Ongoing projects are being completed, in any case, and drilling and excavation work is continuing. Of course there is a greater degree of pressure on margins, but that is part of our everyday situation.
Do you own any assets in Constantza?
In the light of the supply situation there, no. Our nine colleagues, who have been active in Constantza since 2012, look after operational processes and manage our projects there.
What type of clientele does the Steder Group serve there?
Our activities focus on international corporations in Constantza. There are also many Dutch players in that market, which naturally represents something of an advantage for us in our endeavours there.
What are the main challenges?
For some jobs, for example for orders in the Caspian Sea region, we depend on Russia’s inland waterways. We recently hauled a dismantled gas turbine across the Sea of Azov via Rostov to Turkmenbashi (Turkmenistan). The consignments’ components, which encompassed more than 1,200 cbm of freight that we had already consolidated in Constantza, had come from Norway, Italy and Estonia.
We also look after overseas projects too. We recently delivered dredging equipment from Romania to the Caribbean, completing the project in three weeks.
What role does Dubai play?
We’ve been active there for quite a while already – twelve years in fact, having initially followed a customer’s project there. Today we’re based in the Dubai Cargo Village. We focus on air cargo, and are currently establishing our sea freight unit there too.
The locations issue is strategically very important for Steder. Have you got any plans in the top drawer for expansion beyond your existing five offices?
We do indeed want to extend our network. The current state of the planning process is such, however, that we can’t release this information at this moment in time.
What is your corporate philosophy?
At our Dutch head office we have our own chartering division, which enables us to supply clients with the full range of services, including forwarding and project logistics – a substantial advantage for our customers. It isn’t necessary to additionally get a 3PL on board. We bank on comprehensive offers, in-house solutions and our own assets.
This range of options calls for a number of employees. How many has Steder got?
95 people work at headquarters in Rotterdam, and then there are another 65 in Antwerp and our international locations. This also includes the staff looking after our customs-bonded warehouse in Rotterdam, crane operators, and the like.
What do you believe differentiates Steder from other market players?
We offer a level of service that corresponds to our headquarters’ standards – no matter where the contract is executed. This may be complex, but it’s our recipe for success.