Adjusting to counter swings

The near chaos in the supply chain brought about by the pandemic has plunged the shipping industry into a totally new order of things far removed from the sector’s normal economic cycles.

Worldwide port congestion, at a level and extent hitherto unseen, is prompting new types of behaviour at every step along the transport chain. An erratic market, combined with supply and demand antics, has resulted in a shortage of vessels, with a knock-on effects that has meant a heyday for non-operator owners. Charter prices have gone through the roof, with some reaching a historical high of US$200,000 per day.

This dizzying increase has led to a record number of transactions and behaviour that threatens to upset the balance between charter and ownership. To protect itself from these swings, Marfret has always managed to include the right measure of each.

There is a temptation today to give in to the siren call of the highest bidder, either by increasing charter rates to astronomical amounts or selling off ships at indecent prices. Concepts such as “my word is my bond” and a handshake to seal a deal have all been consigned to the dustbin!

Marfret’s MedCar line was a recent victim of these practices, with a shipowner bidding top money to acquire the Skiathos, which we had had on charter for the past two years. In order to protect our capacities on this trade, we immediately responded by chartering the Konrad.

With the issue of balance in mind, Marfret has redoubled its efforts in terms of fleet strategy. Just prior to the steep rise in vessel prices, we acquired the container ship Marius (formerly Nordmaple), operated on our NASP line, bringing the number of our vessels in ownership to eight.

Today, almost all the Group’s lines are operated in ownership. By the end of this year, the MedCar will no longer be the exception, with the Konrad being replaced by the Durande, which is returning to operations on the line exactly 10 years after it left. A new horizon has appeared, with a strong market in view until at least 2023. The time for Marfret as shipowner is ripe, with the promise of new opportunities, new markets and new lines.

Guillaume VIDIL

Fluviofeeder – Acting for the planet

Marfret has been supporting sustainable development for more than 15 years. In 2005, as part of its drive, the company launched its Fluviofeeder service, designed to offer seafreight customers a massified pre- and onward carriage solution along the River Seine for goods departing or arriving on transatlantic routes. The service is an environmentally-friendly alternative to road transport, taking 20,000 heavy goods vehicles off the roads each year for the past 15 years.

The issue of massification is one that a growing number of our clients -shippers, manufacturers, exporters, importers- are looking at more closely as part of their own drives to protect the environment and improve air quality.

Our vision is to capitalize on the growth potential of river transport.

The FFA river-sea shuttle presently operates two weekly services between Le Havre and Rouen using the 100-m long, 300TEU-capacity Arina. The vessel connects the terminals at Le Havre’s Port hub at Rouen. The multimodal strategy is also based on creating added value through synergies with local businesses, freight forwarders and logistics companies.

This strategy has been boosted over the years with the construction of two 45-m long self-propelled barges, the Lys and the Seine, to serve the Marne and Paris basins. The two 1500-tonne capacity vessels operate twice weekly services from Rouen to Nogent-sur-Marne and Gennevilliers.

Thanks to the service, our clients save on storage costs and benefit from an economical and environmentally-friendly off-site logistics solution.

The acquisition of the Somap handling company in 2017 has opened up new opportunities. Thanks to an ongoing partnership with AMS, another stevedoring company operating at the Rouen container terminal, the company is on the road to becoming competitive once again, while providing its clients with an enhanced service offer thanks to the expertise of its team of 35 dockers. This represents a new phase for Somap, based on a pooling of handling equipment with its partner, one which will boost activity at the terminal and reaffirm its long-standing ties with the port of Rouen.

The Seine Valley route is also a huge lever for the circular economy. By linking Précy-sur-Marne with Gennevilliers by river, Fluviofeeder provides a transport link for waste processing companies to ship waste to sorting centres, thus creating a virtuous circle.

Through Fluviofeeder, the Marfret Group is acting and innovating for its customers and the planet by addressing the challenge of decarbonizing the transport industry.

Together again at last!

What a pleasure it has been to be able to meet once again at exhibitions, talk about business, listen to your needs, see new prospective customers at our stands, with smiles all round. After months of working from home, video conferencing and interminable phoning, social life is gradually returning to a semblance of normal. Following the recent SITL exhibition at the Porte de Versailles in Paris, the next chances to meet our teams will be at Fruit Attraction in Madrid from 5th to 7th October and Fruit Logistica in Berlin from 9th to 11th February 2022, under the banner “Meet on-site again!”. Exporters and importers will be able to learn more about Marfret’s  seafreight offer with its extremely competitive transit times for perishables between Latin America and Europe via Algeciras: 19 days for avocados out of Mexico, a mere 10 days for Colombian bananas and avocados loaded at Cartagena and 12 days from Costa Rica (pineapples, melons, root vegetables and bananas).