A family affair

​Metsä Fibre logistics partner Royal Wagenborg is a major shipping company in global forest industry product transportation. CEO Egbert Vuursteen shares some insight into the importance of sustainability for the company, the way it does business, and the future of logistics.

TEXT: IAN FENTON, PHOTOS BY WAGENBORG

“To all intents and purposes, Royal Wagenborg remains a typical family-run business that accordingly cares about the long term. We view sustainability as something that runs in our blood. After all, wind was the only source of energy required when my ancestor Egbert Wagenborg began shipping peat moss from the Netherlands to the Baltic region and returning with timber at the end of the 19th century.

Fast-forward to the present day and you will find a wind turbine towering over our Eem-shaven terminal, and see others on the journey around Europe as we serve the renewable energy industry. It's not hard to see a certain continuity of policy."

The Baltic

"The Baltic Sea is our most important trading area. Our core business has always been there, and we don't envisage any change in this regard. This is why it's so important for us to take a long-term view of customers like Metsä Fibre. And naturally you can't talk about the Baltic Sea today without considering environmental conservation.

The Baltic is a natural treasure that is threatened by sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. It has been designated as one of the world's first emission control areas, and emission limits will be strictly enforced. Exhaust gas scrubbers and the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a more environmentally friendly fuel are typical solutions that can help shipping lines to meet the new standards. We continue to monitor these developments closely, so that we won't be caught unawares and can ensure that our partners also remain abreast of the evolving situation."

A Modern fleet

"We're often asked these days why we haven't installed scrubbers yet, and the simple response is that our fleet is so modern that this may not be required. The average age of our 180 vessels in operation is less than seven years, meaning that we have one of the youngest and most modern fleets in Europe. This has certain very favorable consequences in terms of fuel efficiency, cost structure, and sustainability. The diversity of the fleet also enables us to serve our clients flexibly. Exemplified by the R-type pictured here, our latest additions hold the world record in the Economic Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), with the lowest fuel consumption/unit power in the ice-strengthened class.

We are now monitoring conditions in the run-up to early 2015, when the next wave of emission regulations will take effect in the Baltic region. Any new investments required at this time will benefit from superior performance and lower costs than are currently available."

our people

"Sustainability is about more than just the environment and the economy, though, and the social impact of our operations is also important. We employ about 3,000 people, mostly in shipping where health and safety aspects are vital. We also work in disparate regions from offices on various continents, so maintaining consistent standards and values across the organization is a permanent item on our agenda.

Our standard training programmes ensure that every employee understands the importance of customer expectations, particularly in terms of quality, and we also provide additional programs that establish the importance of every employee's role in the entire shipping chain. Above all, we seek to foster an open culture that is tolerant of errors, provided that these are reported so that the entire organization can learn from them and avoid repeating them."

transparency

"Our most important strategic tool for tackling the challenges of the current economic climate and the demands of doing business in a sustainable way is transparency. This might sound a little cliched, with modern businesses tending to overuse this expression, but transparency has tremendous practical importance in our line of work.

It is vital to maintain a firm understanding of our options as a fleet owner, in the form of a continually updated view of the technologies that are available to us and of their implications for our business. We therefore meet regularly with marine technology suppliers like Wartsila in Finland in order to stay abreast of the most important developments.

We also have quarterly meetings with Metsä Fibre and other important customers to share these developments and to raise awareness of the likely impact of upcoming changes on our operations and on our ability to serve customer interests optimally. This transparency in both directions allows us to remain very dynamic, and enables continued success in a very challenging operating environment."

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