The cost precedes the benefit. This well-known Dutch adage is something with which the folks over at Share Logistics agree. As a forwarding agent, you are always a cost item for clients. But, partnering with those customers and using smart solutions, knowledge, and speed keeps the end costs within limits.
Martijn van der Velden, a sea freight specialist, and Willi Hoogeboom, an air freight specialist, both at Share Logistics, explain how the company helps get all kinds of horticulture-related items from A to B.
Three billion plants in the air
Willi gets right to it: “Annually, we fly about three billion seedlings in and out of the Netherlands." Share Logistics does this for local and overseas customers, growers as well as grower associations. Their clients include Addenda, Floricultura, Syngenta, and Dümmen Orange.
Know-how and creativity
What is involved? “Simply put, plenty of communication. There are also increasingly few very knowledgeable people these days. So you have to explain more about the transport, especially the documentation. You have to explain the process from A to Z and keep checking everything." Thus, at Share, they do everything they can to keep that know-how up to date, says Willi.
“Shipping companies want to place as much responsibility as possible with the customer," adds Martijn. "And everything must be delivered digitally. The shipping company only ships, the clients have to fill in everything. So forwarders have a vital role, which is why Share invests a lot in its people, to retain their knowledge."
"We have to focus on a higher segment. We're not always the cheapest, but we do want to be the best and the fastest. The logistic flows have to keep running, and that requires know-how and creativity. That's how we want to distinguish ourselves."
What is flown in? When thinking of airfreight, flowers might come to mind. However, according to Willi, that is not their company's core business. "For us, it's mainly about seedlings, cuttings, seeds, fish, meat, fruit, and vegetables. We do flowers too, but that's not our focus, per se."
These products can be transported heated or cooled. "We also pack for customers; for example, we add dry ice to seeds that need to be shipped frozen. Plus, we pack the pallets and take care of phytosanitary inspections at our inspection station. The local Quality Control Bureau and Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) regularly visit," he says.
This station is at Schiphol airport and has even been designated a Border Inspection Point (BIP), where the NVWA does checks, ensuring that shipments meet all requirements. So, cargo does not have to go to an external inspection location, which saves on transport costs.
Willi points out another strong point - the distribution, collecting, and collating of incoming shipments. "For instance, we have 800 different delivery addresses in the Benelux for one of our big clients." That requires considerable organization, but Share in Amsterdam now has the team for that. In 2019 they started there with three people for the distribution, but now there are almost 50. That team allows Share to communicate with customers through all possible channels, from phone to mail and WhatsApp to Twitter.
After all, those clients need to know what to expect: when will the shipment arrive? Can we expect a load of organic berries, so we know if we need to prepare the machines for that? "We try to empathize with the shippers and receivers. We're genuine partners with our customers as we're in it together."
As mentioned, Martijn sees to the sea freight side of things. That involves products like fresh fruit and vegetables in the export and cross-trade business. "Even more importantly, we deal with fresh fruit imports from Central and South America: limes, ginger, watermelons, garlic, you name it. Anything fresh that needs to be handled quickly."
That quick handling is crucial in imports. "In this process, you must arrange everything well in advance, declare the cargo, do the documents on time and arrange transport from the quay. Because every day's delay means depreciation for fresh produce," he says.
Quick processing is critical, especially now that shippers worldwide face congestion. "There are things like ships leaving the loading port later and shipping companies having to change the ships' routes. Clients need to know those things too. Communication is thus truly key."
Martijn van der Velden
Share's sea freight division has direct import and export clients. "To properly monitor the arrangements at the loading ports, we're members of quite a few agent networks, including WCA, X2, and CCC - that's how you bundle purchasing forces," Martijn explains.
This way of working suites Share well as it is actually a collection of niches. "A top view of Share Logistics shows a base in Rotterdam where all kinds of specialties or niches are plugged in: air freight, reefer, and projects. However, we also have a department that provides stage equipment for major artists like Coldplay, Pink, and the Rolling Stones."
"We keep these departments separate, so stay true to our craft. We're a flat but very broad organization," says Martijn. The group now employs 250 people, with a turnover of €240 million last year, of which food made up a third. "We want to bring that percentage up to 50."
Share is a true Rotterdam business, born from a management buy-out with eight shareholders. "What's great is that the decision-makers are all accessible. So decisions are made very quickly, and if there are opportunities somewhere, action is taken immediately, so you don't miss the boat."
Spain is an expansion possibility, and the company has been busy with warehouses for a while now. "There are three or four of them, each now being added to the Share Group. That means we can offer value-added services in Spain outside of ocean freight," continues Martijn.
The new normal?
Switching quickly is a requirement for air freight as well, thanks to capacity issues and delays, adds Willi. "Many companies are shortchanged as a result. There are capacity shortages from Kenya and South Africa, but also Asia and South America. There's simply no return cargo. Seventy percent of products are shipped in passenger planes, but the tourist flow has still not picked up after the pandemic. There are far fewer flights going back and forth. Experts estimate this situation could last at least another three or four years."
Yet, Share Logistics is optimistic about the future. That optimism is evident when Martijn talks about the results achieved in sea freight. "Last year, in terms of container volume, we shipped about 75,000 TEU worldwide. We also procured another 60,000 TUE of sea freight via contracts. Those volumes mean serious buying power with the shipping companies," he concludes.
For more information:
Martijn van der Velden
Tel: +31 (0) 105 033 820
Mob: +31 (0) 648 515 927
Tel: +31 (0) 207 630 096
Mob: +31 (0) 638 298 198