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Anchored in Emden, linked to Bremen

Anker Schiffahrt’s roots lie in automotive handling. But in addition to seaport handling and terminal operations, the wholly owned Leschaco subsidiary offers a far more comprehensive range of services, including the handling of forest products from Finland and South America.

Photos: Volkswagen Werk Emden, Anker Schiffahrt

When the company was founded in 1956 at the Bremen site, the world was a different place. VW Beetles were hoisted by crane on board conventional ships, and Jan Remmers hadn’t even been born. After 35 years at Anker Schiffahrt, the 57-year-old, who was appointed deputy managing director in 2016, can still talk about the time before he joined the company in 1985 as if he had actually been there. He knows Scharbau (Leschaco), the wholly owned Bremen-based subsidiary of international logistics service provider Lexzau, inside out.

“The first important milestone in our company’s history was certainly the takeover of car loading for VW in Bremen in December 1960,” says Remmers. Four years later, when the car manufacturer moved to Emden, the headquarters of Anker Schiffahrt was also opened there. In 1987, the company Autoport Emden was founded with partners Volkswagen Transport, EVAG Emder Verkehrs und Automotive, and Gerd Buss. “Since then volumes have risen continuously,” says Remmers. “In 1965, 98,480 VW Beetles were being handled for export. In 2019 over 900,000 vehicles were imported or exported via Autoport.” The automotive products sector, for which authorised signatory Sönke Kempe is also responsible along with Remmers, is therefore still a key part of the company’s business.

Extension of vehicle storage space

For this year, however, Remmers is expecting a decline in automobile turnover due to the pandemic: “VW stopped production in mid-March. We continued to work for another ten days, but then had to announce short-time working on April 1.” In the meantime, however, there is reason for optimism. “From September, turnover is expected to pick up again strongly,” says Remmers. Forecasts for 2021 are currently difficult, as there are too many unknown factors, but due to the continuous increase in handling volumes to date, the company is currently in the process of doubling the capacity of the existing parking lot for loading and unloading new vehicles from the VW Group to accommodate 40 trucks.

Facts

Anker Schiffahrt Group: 100% sub­sidiary of Lexzau, Scharbau (Leschaco)
Founded: 1956
Head office: Emden
Business areas: automotive handling, forestry products, port-specific services and shipping agency
USP: only seaport terminal within the Leschaco Group
Machinery: forklift trucks, industrial trucks, terminal tractors with trailers, special traverses and mobile ramps
Employees: 110

In 1965, 98,480 VW Beetles were handled. In 2019, over 900,000 vehicles were imported or exported via Autoport Emden.

Still environmentally neutral

With the arrival of a pulp ship in 1983, the key market of forest products was added. Tilo Hoff and Jan Remmer’s authorised signatory have responsibility for this market.
“To date we’ve handled around fifteen million tonnes, mainly cellulose and paper,” says Remmers. Forest products hand­ling is still completely conventional and is carried out either with ship cranes or mobile cranes.

What links Anker Schiffahrt with Nordland Papier, a subsidiary of the Finnish UPM-Kymmene Group, is tradition and very close integration with the customer’s supply chain. There is a special feature here. “The logistics concept has always involved the pulp imported from Finland and South America being transshipped in an environmentally neutral way directly from ocean-going vessels to inland waterway vessels and transported to Nordland Papier’s Dörpen­ mill,” says Remmers. However, the flow of goods and the demands on logistics have changed. “In the meantime, new markets have been added, so that goods in Europe are distributed using trimodal transport, i.e. inland waterways, rail and road.”

Terminal and transshipment operations are mainly carried out at the Emskai berth and terminal. “Up to 30,000 tonnes are regularly unloaded here per call, then temporarily stored in our halls and delivered to customers,” says Remmers. The company currently operates 30,000 square meters of special warehouses equipped with sprinkler systems for fire protection. Additional space in the Emden outer harbour can be rented if required.

All this has once again impressed the Finnish group UPM-Kymme Oyi, which is a leading company in the bio and forestry products industry. In January this year, the contract for handling forest products was re-awarded to Anker Schiffahrt.

Port-specific services

In addition to the handling of VW automobiles and forest products, the company’s portfolio also includes a large number of other maritime seaport services. “A long-standing customer of ours is Meyer Werft,” says Remmers. “We’ve been working with our partner Omya for around twenty years on the final outfitting of the smaller cruise ships built in Papenburg. This includes all the logistics during berthing periods in the Emden inland port.” Other key business areas are offshore logistics, project cargo and ship brokerage.

These two main pillars, in conjunction with the many other services the company provides, have also helped Anker Schiffahrt during the pandemic. “So far we have come through the crisis well,” says Remmers, “not least because our staff have been very supportive.” Another advantage is that, in the future, the owner-managed group is to be transferred from Jörg Conrad to his son and current CDO Constantin. Succession is therefore guaranteed.

Anker Schiffahrt has not yet been confronted with the widespread concern about attracting new talent. “So far we have always been able to find the right staff. Boredom isn’t really a problem for us. Industrial staff are deployed as required, for example as crane operators or forklift or HGV drivers.”

What does concern the managing director is the waterway adjustment of the Außenems nature reserve, which has been pending since 2002: “This is particularly important for the port of Emden and for our two markets, because the ships have an increasing draught, which means they can transport more cargo and would no longer be so strongly tide-bound.” A political concern for Anker Schiffahrt at federal and state level is the timely implementation of the planned large ship berth for the larger and deeper automotive carriers and forestry vessels, which would ultimately enable more cargo for Emden. (cb)

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