Insight

Taking the chain on the road

It’s hardly the first time Rotterdam-based logistics service providers and the Port of Rotterdam Authority are presenting themselves in Asia. Indeed, they’ve been doing so for dozens of years. However, recently a number of parties decided to join strengths and actively position themselves as a comprehensive logistics solution at trade fairs in China and other parts of Asia. Turning the ‘Gateway to Europe’ into a true all-in-one package.

It’s an established fact that for Asian businesses, Rotterdam is the most attractive port to work with thanks to its favourable situation. Indeed, since the port doesn’t have obstacles like locks, tidal fluctuations and limited water depths, the very largest deep-sea vessels can call on Rotterdam’s state-of-the-art terminals 24/7. This makes Rotterdam the port with the largest number of Asian calls in North-west Europe. And when you consider that for many shipping lines, Rotterdam is the first and/or last port of call, the potential time and cost savings presented by the port are quite evident. To convert these clear advantages into the actual decision to select Rotterdam as a port of call, regional and national players are increasingly presenting themselves as a joint, comprehensive package. Matchmaking throughout the entire logistics chain.

Foot in the door

A good example of this new emphasis on Rotterdam’s chain is the joint presentation by Janssen Air & Ocean (a business unit of Janssen Distribution Services, based in Venlo, Limburg), Greenport Venlo and the Port of Rotterdam Authority at a number of recent Asian trade fairs. “Together, we have a very strong proposition,” says Sales Director Pieter Janssen of the Limburg firm, which was founded in 1877. The word ‘Rotterdam’ often works as a foot in the door. Hardly anyone in Asia has ever heard of Venlo. But when you show everything we can offer from Venlo across Europe, and how efficient and intermodal the connections between Rotterdam and Venlo are, you often see people becoming enthusiastic about the possibilities.”

Ruhr Area

The Netherlands’ tax advantages as a European ‘entry point’ play an important role. “That’s why we tend to take along a tax consultant to our business meetings,” explains Janssen. Greenport Venlo also pulls up a chair. “This shows that the parties are all happy to facilitate logistics along the Rotterdam-Venlo axis. Which bolsters confidence.” One major hurdle that often needs to be cleared during these meetings is confusion about the EU’s common market. “Asians tend to think more in terms of countries. If the cargo needs to be transported to the Ruhr Area, people automatically focus on Hamburg – even though we can handle it far more efficiently.”

E-fulfilment

Rotterdam’s proposition for the Asian market isn’t limited to large-scale contract shipping. It also includes a large number of complementary services like forward stocking, repackaging, repairs, installation and returns settlement. Janssen: “The Netherlands has a relatively small domestic market, which means we have always kept one eye on Europe as a whole. This has allowed us to build up an extensive and finely-meshed international network, while logistics companies in larger countries are generally focused on their own domestic market.” One segment that is coming to the fore is e-fulfilment: i.e. the delivery of products that have been ordered from Chinese online stores like Alibaba. “Working under the name ‘E-Trade Europe’, we ensure that these packages are already correctly labelled for the courier that will actually be delivering them in Europe – while they’re still in China. Services like this help create an efficient total package.”

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