Muriel Marquet (HSL): “Breakbulk is our core business”

Haeger & Schmidt Logistics Belgium represents 2 million tonnes of steel annually, mainly brought by barge from Germany for export. Muriel Marquet, managing director, is a strong believer in the future of breakbulk as the company's core business.

In 1958 the German steel group Thyssen opened a branch office in Antwerp. Now, several decades and name changes later, these activities are still carried out by Haeger & Schmidt Logistics. Haeger & Schmidt was first set up in Antwerp 130 years ago, then re-incorporated in Duisburg in 1920. "This means our German colleagues with whom we collaborate closely are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year," says Muriel Marquet who has worked in the steel world since 1992. 

2 million tonnes

Haeger & Schmidt Logistics Belgium (HSL) represents some 2 million tonnes annually in Antwerp. "The greatest proportion is breakbulk, but some of it goes in containers," Marquet explains. "Breakbulk is our most important activity, mainly coils and sheets, but also pipes. The largest volume comprises exports to America, Mexico, Canada and South Africa. In addition we do steel imports. Steel is our tradition, what we know about. We are 50/50 co-owners of the Coil Terminal together with PSA, and we also collaborate closely with PSA Breakbulk for developing breakbulk activities. We also go to other terminals, depending on where the liner services arrive. We have three quay surveyors who check how the material is unloaded, stored and handled on the various quays. In addition to steel we also do project cargo, frequently in collaboration with our German colleagues and with Felbermayer, our parent company. We aim to further develop this activity in Port of Antwerp along with Felbermayer." 

Breakbulk versus container

Customers sometimes decide to switch from breakbulk to container. "They do so among other things because they want a higher frequency of delivery," the managing director explains. "Some liner services come once per month, but with larger volumes. Some customers would prefer to get one consignment per week and are prepared to pay a supplement for container transport. Once you add in all the extra costs – for stuffing and so on – it can work out quite a bit more expensive. This has to be taken into consideration along with frequency, stock control at both ends and risk of damage. On the other hand some products are difficult to stuff in containers, such as long products that the customer doesn't want to cut."

New heated hall in Duisburg

Haeger & Schmidt Logistics uses barge transport for the steel products. "Our German colleagues generally do the pre-transport for large customers by barge. They pick the consignment up from the customer and bring it to Antwerp. We then find return loads for the various hinterland regions. We also do imports, for which we are going to build a new hall in Duisburg. The plans have already been drawn up. It will be an enclosed, heated space with trimodal access – by road, rail and waterway – specially for steel. In that region there are many steel handlers and service centres that purchase imports and consolidate their goods there for just-in-time delivery. The new 9,000 m² hall will be fully enclosed but will be connected to the two existing all-weather terminals. There will be two rail tracks inside so that trains can drive right in. Barges will be loaded and unloaded in the all-weather terminals. 

In addition to barge transport, Haeger & Schmidt Logistics also operates several trains between Andernach and Antwerp with containers as well as breakbulk. "This rail service complements our existing barge service. While barge transport remains our core business, we see rail as a supplementary mode with a view to climate change. We also offer trucking, for example from Strasburg, both for imports and for exports. It's important to be able to offer a solution at all times," Marquet emphasises.

Belief in breakbulk 

Despite the uncertainties in the market Marquet has an unshakable faith in breakbulk. "I believe in it all the more strongly now that we have Bulkchain [a breakbulk data sharing platform offered by NxtPort and Port+ which has already been joined by H&S along with PSA and ArcelorMittal – ed.]. This will make the processes easier and streamline the flow of information, thus making breakbulk more attractive. It will also enable us to concentrate on added value, solving problems and doing quality control. Breakbulk is our core business. I've been in the steel business since 1992 so I know the product through and through. The products that are developed and produced in Europe are high-tech. The steel industry still has good prospects in Europe, as long as it develops new products with high added value. Breakbulk is still an important segment in Antwerp thanks to the high productivity and efficiency combined with the presence of liner services here. The quality of breakbulk handling is one of Antwerp's great advantages. We have to keep it that way, but we have to keep up with developments regarding other things, because competition threatens from other ports," Marquet concludes. 

Koen Heinen

These are the other articles in the dossier ‘Breakbulk’:
Breakbulk revival in Antwerp: preface to all the stories
Catrien Scheers: “Covid-19 will never undermine my faith in breakbulk”
Zimmer Staal operating at full capacity at terminal operator Euroports
Rollit Cargo anticipates growth in wind turbine market
Victrol carries bridges, machines and parts for offshore wind farms
Corona crisis confirms need for digital breakbulk platform
Biggest lifting job in Port of Antwerp in many years by Mammoet
Rail&Sea: "Big increase in combined breakbulk and container"
CJ-ICM Logistics: “We do the craziest things”
Wallenius Wilhelmsen Solutions invests in resources for breakbulk
Oldest port company Stukwerkers sees the sector changing rapidly
Van der Vlist Belgium expands its European hub at Zeebrugge
Jacques Vandermeiren: “Antwerp and breakbulk, a hole-in-one”