For 20 years, one of the world’s biggest ro/ro shipping companies, Grimaldi Lines, has been calling at the Port of Esbjerg with new cars, foodstuff, industrial goods etc. from countries around the Mediterranean, and more northern ports on the EuroMed route. Back to the Mediterranean, the ships are loaded with machinery, windmill components, foodstuff and much more.
One of the reasons behind the route’s success is that Grimaldi Lines uses RoRo multi-purpose ships, which can transport rolling cargo, break bulk, containers and new cars. Business environment is in constant motion, and when the market dips one place, it may shoot up somewhere else. When Europe was in crisis, we saw growth in places like South America and West Africa, which we are connected to through the port of Antwerp, says CEO Henrik Otto Jensen, Niels Winther & Co. Grimaldi Lines is one of the oldest working fixed shipping routes in Esbjerg, only surpassed by DFDS’s route to England.
From local to national coverage
Over the last 20 years, Grimaldi Group has increased its global route network tenfold through expansions and acquisitions. Today it stands as an international giant, whose presence has benefited Danish businesses not just in the Esbjerg area, but also in the rest of Denmark.
EuroMed is the only direct service between Denmark and the Mediterranean. Grimaldi’s philosophy of mainly serving the area around Esbjerg quickly expanded to include service that attracted customers from all over the country. Exporters and importers across Denmark quickly discovered that they could avoid transhipment and feeder transport from ports such as Aarhus and Copenhagen, instead reaching ports in countries like Greece, Cyprus and Turkey directly from Esbjerg, says Henrik Otto Jensen
Joint company for new cars
The shipping route’s national status is highlighted by how the organisation in Denmark is divided between Niels Winther & Co’s offices in both Esbjerg and Copenhagen. Claus Larsen, who along with approximately half of the Grimaldi team is based in Copenhagen, leads the 13 employees dedicated to Grimaldi. The route is operated by a total of five ships, each well over 180 m long and 32 m wide (Panmax), sailing a fixed route between 18 ports in 14 countries.
The partnership between Niels Winther & Co and the Italian Grimaldi family was strengthened even further in 1999, when the company Scandinavian Auto Logistics (SAL) was established with Grimaldi as the majority shareholder and the Danish agent and French GEFCO as co-owners. SAL imports, prepares and distributes an average of 75,000 new cars from a range of different makers to the Danish distributor network. This comprises 30 percent of the total car market and 70 percent of the freight vehicle market. Car imports increased by over 100 percent in 2014, when the short sea shipping company Euro Marine Logistics (EML) started calling at Esbjerg and the SAL Terminal directly.
The port rose to the challenge
Soon, SAL will move to a newly built 60,000-m² terminal at Østhavnen in Esbjerg, bringing its terminal area for new cars to over 100,000 m² at the Port of Esbjerg.
In the beginning, the Grimaldi project seemed too big for the Port of Esbjerg. The tugs were too small and quay space was tight. However, I am full of admiration for how the tugs and pilots have been able to handle the calls over the years. The ships are in port for approx. 10 hours and give work to 16 dockworkers at every call, says Henrik Otto Jensen.
Henrik Otto Jensen describes Grimaldi as a demanding, yet fair business partner, who despite their size have a humble, professional and ambitious approach to shipping.
Niels Winther Group employs 79 employees, 43 of which work in Scandinavian Auto Logistics (SAL). In comparison, the Grimaldi Group has a fleet of over 100 ships and employs more than 15,000 workers.
CEO Henrik Otto Jensen, Niels Winther & Co., tel. 20 43 39 03