With the container shipping’s shortsea sector becoming increasingly concentrated, carving out a market niche has proven key to survival.
The success of Europe’s regional specialist Samskip adds weight to the theory. A multimodal offering, encompassing sea, road and rail, provides customers with an end-to-end logistics solution with that increasingly desired and crucial last mile delivery.
But as deepsea carriers look to replicate this model and enhance their presence in the logistics space through vertical integration, linking ocean services with the hinterland and beyond, one might expect the Netherlands-based company to be concerned by this increasing level of competition.
However, Samskip chief executive Kari-Pekka Laaksonen is convinced that it is insulated against exposure in an increasingly squeezed market, and there is still room for the little guy.
Speaking to Lloyd’s List he says that by addressing the importance of the last mile and end-to-end solution, the core of Samskip’s business can only be positive. It shows that these companies are starting to realise its value.
“So, you might feel that it increases the competition and the pressure on us, but I think it is always a good thing and ensures all of us are creating more and more efficient solutions for customers,” he says.
“There is still a place for specialists within the European logistics business.”
Samskip has been at the centre of a consolidation wave in the European shortsea shipping market.
Active members of the European shortsea market have dwindled in size in recent years. While deepsea carriers have played a significant part, including CMA CGM’s acquisition of Containerships, Samskip has arguably been the most active on the acquisition front. The group has recently completed takeovers of Nor Lines and Euro Container Lines, in addition to Samskip Logistics.
Mr Laaksonen, who joined Samskip in September from Containerships, having successfully overseen the CMA CGM takeover, has been charged with combining the group’s latest ventures into one integrated business.
The addition of Nor Lines to the portfolio has enhanced the group’s longstanding presence in Norway, where the group’s fledgling container operations began more than two decades ago, while acquiring Euro Container Lines helped connect Samskip with the Continent’s giant ports in Rotterdam and Hamburg. The takeover of Samskip Logistics has enabled the group to advance its offering in the reefer shipping segment.
Each acquisition has added a much-needed regional focus to the group’s overall proposition to customers.
For now, it is about getting down to basics. The group plans to hunker down and build on where it currently holds a prominent market position.
In addition to a strong Norwegian foothold, Samskip is also an important player across Scandinavia, and notably Sweden from where its extensive road and rail network links to the European mainland. Iceland too is also of significance to the operator. Not only is it where the company has its roots, but also it is the base for its business in the North Atlantic to serve the fish industry.
The UK is also integral for Samskip, with the British Isles representing the largest volumes and concentration of business outside Scandinavia.
“Samskip has a significance in the niche corridors we operate. If you have the tools, whether you're big or small it doesn't really matter it goes to show, there is space for the companies like us,” says Mr Laaksonen.