Samskip offers shortsea fish export options

Samskip offers shortsea fish export options Norwegian exporters are biting on ​Samskip’s new service menu for fish exporters. Photo: Samskip

Flexibility in shortsea containerised, reefer and multipurpose service offerings are persuading fish exporters to choose shortsea over other options, according to Samskip Norway’s managing director Are Grathen.

Worth an estimated NOK7.9bn (€800m), revenues from Norway’s pelagic fisheries increased by over 10% in the 2018 season as prices for fish oil and fish meal climbed, demonstrating its continuing importance to the nation’s economy.

However, despite being an activity strictly undertaken within quotas, the September to December season was by no means predictable, with 250,000 tonnes of mackerel being caught later in the season than anticipated over a concentrated 12 week period in locations south of the expected fishing grounds.

Skippers are used to following the fish, but recent years have seen more southerly fish loading ports in Norway gravitate towards containerisation, while points further north stick with conventional and sideloading reefer vessels.

Are Grathen said that this past season has tested the flexibility of the supply chain and its ability to adapt to landing port, storage and carriage requirements, demanding agility from the transport companies delivering Europe’s main fish importing markets.

Multimodal group Samskip has been making significant investments in Norway over the last two years, both through acquisition and organic growth. With several weekly container services to and from Rotterdam, Bremerhaven and Hamburg, the group already transports around 95,000 TEU a year between Norway and Northern Europe.

Increasingly, Norwegian fish exports have become a focus for growth, through holdings in the frigoCare cold store and terminal hub in Ålesund, and through taking direct control over the marketing of two reefer ships formerly pooled with Silver Sea.

Its most aggressive move saw the acquisition of Nor Lines in late 2017, adding the multi-purpose operator’s North Norway-North Continent services. The acquisition strengthened Samskip’s position significantly in the fish export market, adding a diversified logistics operation in 14 locations, further terminal activities, warehousing and haulage services, plus two multi-purpose vessels, and four sideport reefer vessels.

Restructured

One year on, the new subsidiary’s shortsea services have been fully restructured to co-ordinate with the group offering and to better serve the need for flexibility demanded by this specialised export market. The restructure has also seen a broadening of the Samskip service offering, extending the northerly reach beyond the Norwegian border to Murmansk, and bringing Faroe Islands calls into its  North Atlantic’services umbrella.

“The unpredictability of this last fishing season offers a prime example of the flexibility that this dynamic market needs,” Are Grathen explained.

“Of course the Nor Lines acquisition brought scale, but the service restructure has not only been about cost cutting; it has been about making our logistics services more attractive in key market segments.”

He highlights the flexibility of having containerised, multi-purpose and sideloading reefer vessels at its disposal to serve liftings southbound, but adds that substantial cold store facilities and international freight forwarding mean Samskip “covers more of the transport value chain than our competitors”.

Nor Lines continues to run its weekly ro-ro/heavylift/reefer liner service connecting Western and Northern Norway to the Netherlands weekly, connecting into Rotterdam and Velsen/Amsterdam. However, fish exporters - and especially fisheries traders along the port range north of Trondheim - now also benefit from revisions to separate Nor Lines multipurpose reefer services that are designed to offer both greater loading flexibility and more delivery options.

Here, the Nor Lines three-vessel reefer/palletised/deck service Norway-North Continent has been replaced by two services, sustained by four ships.  The new Baltic service connects ports as far north as Tromsø to Denmark, Poland and Klaipeda with three vessels; meanwhile, the fourth ship has been deployed in the Arctic service, linking the Dutch fish distribution port of Velsen direct with ports as far north as Hammerfest and Murmansk.

Part of the restructure sees southbound calls along the Norwegian coast southbound less fixed but potentially more frequent and responsive to loading requirements. The addition of the 2800 dwt geared reefer vessel Samskip ICE provides more frequency, for example, while loading capability has also been upgraded through the replacement of an older vessel with Samskip Frost (also 2900 dwt).

Are Grathen emphasised that Samskip is committed to serving Dutch fish cold store markets as demand dictates, especially into Eemshaven, but the addition of Velsen to the Nor Lines portfolio is highly significant for Norwegian fish exporters. The 80,000 tonne capacity Kloosterboer Velsen cold cargo storage and distribution centre and offers effective shortsea links to the UK and its highly prized ‘fish and chips’ market, and provides effective shortsea competition for trucks to Portugal.

New scale, new frequency

“We have strengthened the side-port operation to improve capacity in the Baltic ports, but we’re also creating synergies between traditional side-port reefer shipping and container services, with the potential to containerise more of the market,” he said, commenting that the ability to offer choice, whether through full container solutions from Norway, sideport vessel/ container combinations, or trucks when speed is required, is bringing new competitiveness.

Furthermore, in addition to the volumes processed in North Europe, around 30% of southbound container, conventional or palletised fish from Norway is subsequently transhipped onto deepsea container vessels to Asia.

“Our position as a multinational logistics provider of reefer cargo creates a specific advantage in such cases: we offer end-to-end solutions throughout the value chain – from a fishing village in Norway to the Japanese buyer taking delivery of the container. We are also seeing growth in fish volumes shipped to Asia or the Baltics for processing before being redelivered in Europe.”

Setting aside the airfreight market for fresh fish, the service changes also make shortsea more competitive against trucking, he adds. Trucking takes a strong share of fish exports based on flexibility, delivery speeds, and the willingness of some foreign drivers to accept the cold hard miles others may not.

“We are already seeing that our service changes are having an impact when it comes to the choices shippers make; recently, we’ve been obtaining cargoes that we otherwise would not have been able to,” Are Grathen said.

“As more and more of them come to see that the short sea option is increasingly the flexible choice, I am convinced this is only the start.”

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