Expert Insight: Samskip Gears Up for Breakbulk Growth

Jens Siedentopf, Head of Breakbulk Projects, Samskip

Samskip’s breakbulk activities are under new management but the man at the helm is a seasoned professional with proven experience of bringing logistics rigour to special load transport services.  

Working out of its office in Bremen, Samskip has carved out a distinct presence in project cargo and out of gauge loads, despite the group’s instant association with multimodal transport. In fact, Samskip has punched above its weight in North Europe’s premier project cargo hub, with a focus on fixing tonnage to support logistics in the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Caspian, the Mediterranean, Marmara, the Black Sea and Russian river trades.

January 2021 brought a change of gear, with the appointment of Jens Siedentopf as Samskip Head of Breakbulk and Projects. A high profile breakbulk professional, his availability to fulfil group ambitions to grow the specialised business could not have been better timed.

Also Bremen-based and with a CV including some of the sector’s biggest names, Siedentopf was enticed to join Samskip after a personal approach by Ásbjörn Gíslason, Samskip Deputy Group CEO.

The breakbulk project

Gíslason comments: “Appointing Jens to lead our Breakbulk Projects has been the next logical step in our realigned strategy and brings additional impetus to a significant growth target where Samskip has an established reputation. We are demonstrating our intent to give the European breakbulk sector more focus than ever before: whether it’s heavy-lift, steel, project cargo, wood, RoRo cargo or automotive, we have the expertise and the right equipment fit specific cargoes.”

In addition to experience heading a sizeable project management department and in leading global marine chartering, Siedentopf is a former Samskip client. His new employer brokered Russian sea-river vessels and provided of bills of lading as part of his project management of a sizeable rig construction project in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea.

“As a customer, I found Samskip to be a dependable partner with depth of knowledge across the logistics organisation which met its deadlines in unique circumstances and in remote destinations,” says Siedentopf. “Having taken up my new role, my impressions have not changed. The pandemic means it’s not an easy time to join any organisation, so I’ve been especially pleased to see that internal communication here is continuous and designed to overcome challenges.”

What Siedentopf also sees is an ambitious team allowed the autonomy to make decisions quickly, backed by a financially strong organisation, widespread customs clearance expertise and hassle-free IT and documentation. The ingredients create a recipe ready to retain the loyalty of existing customers and to sustain substantial growth in global breakbulk business, he says.

Global opportunities

In a business delivering loads for transformational infrastructure and industrial development, there is no shortage of targets. Siedentopf identifies his own career highpoints as including the logistics for a Japanese-backed gas liquifying plant in Qatar that saw 4m tonnes of cargo shipped in four years.

As well as a long term assignment based in Japan, Siedentopf has been posted to South America, the United States and South Korea, and the self-confessed travel fan is looking forward to going places post-pandemic more than most. For the moment, however, there is plenty to do at home, where previous experience is already proving invaluable in coordinating overseas Samskip offices with activities in Bremen in pursuit of spot and consecutive voyage by business. 

“It takes a dedicated and professional project cargo team backed by a strong organisation to develop the partnerships that support regular heavylift and out of gauge business,” he says. “It’s possible that even people inside Samskip aren’t aware of the full potential but, wherever our employees focusing on multimodal engage with a customer, they can be assured they are also part of an organisation able to offer a one stop shop for breakbulk.”

Existing Samskip assets are an early focus, says Siedentopf. Weekly multipurpose ‘Nor Lines’ services for high and heavy, breakbulk and RoRo cargoes between Norwegian and north continental European ports with additional inducement calls offer specific opportunities, he says. 

Heavylift capability and sustainable solutions

“I feel the fact that Samskip offers liner services will demonstrate our reliability and that heavylift customers do not have to look very far for more cost effective and eco-friendly solutions. No doubt clients will welcome the way the LNG-fueled vessels on this route - Kvitnos and Kvitbjørn - eliminate NOx, minimize SOx and achieve 70% lower CO2 than a truck move. However, I suspect they will find it more compelling that -uniquely in the trade - they command 80mt of crane capacity.”

With less frequent but regular connections from the North Continent or Mediterranean/Black Sea to Caspian Sea and Russian river ports, from the North Continent to Baltic States/Russia and to the Russian ports of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk, Siedentopf believes that Samskip’s existing multipurpose services present other outstanding opportunities to grow breakbulk traffic.

Longer term, the global Samskip organisation will increasingly come into play, he says. “As well as asset management, this is a business that is about planning and supervising the transport chain for oversized, unusual and heavylift items. That needs global support, experienced local partners and strong agency services, but also insight and agility in the chartering market, and the organisational strength to act quickly and decisively on behalf of clients.

“We are very much looking forward to hearing from potential customers wanting to know more about our services and to working with them towards mutually beneficial results.”

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