Firm sets China course

THE downturn faced by world shipping in the 1980s served as an impetus to the Royal Nedlloyd Group.

From a purely shipping firm, the group has grown into a logistics company, providing shipping, transport and warehousing.

''By integrating our shipping services to include warehousing and transport, we were able to offer a more sophisticated service under one roof,'' said Mr Hemmo Muntingh, managing director of Nedlloyd Lines Hongkong.

Nedlloyd has also begun to make steady inroads in to the mainland container market.

Its associate firm, Damco Maritime, has offices in Shanghai. It is also expanding into Beijing and Shenzhen.

''China offers a lot of opportunities, and we are already building up a steady volume of container traffic,'' Mr Muntingh said.

Globally, the Rotterdam-based company operates liner services to more than 200 ports spread across 123 countries, with the help of an extensive network throughout the world.

In the Far East region alone, Nedlloyd employs about 1,000 staff, with 320 of them in its Hongkong office.

Worldwide, the firm employed 21,500 permanent personnel, said Mr Muningh, who is also regional manager of Nedlloyd's East Asia region.

By broad-basing its service focus, the firm was able to tackle the threat posed to its traditional shipping fleet by other container liners.

The integrated service had attracted more clients and thus revived Nedlloyd's flagging revenues, said Mr Muntingh.

''The firm offered a range of high quality services with emphasis on the care of cargo and responsibility for the most effective co-ordination and management of the entire transportation process.'' As part of Nedlloyd Group's integration into a logistics company, it has formed a series of subsidiaries to provide related services to its clients.

The Nedlloyd Group's reach and organisation mean that it is in a position to serve some of the more remote corners of the globe.

The firm's liners link up Asia, Africa and Latin and Central America.

''We have a fairly high share of the market in the north-south trade as opposed to the more traditional east-west trade,'' said Mr Muntingh.

In East Asia, it is now in the number two position and looks poised to grab more market share.

Nedlloyd has a total of 56 container ships in use, which include charters. In total, it has more than 60 units, including multi-purpose vessels.

''At present, we have 170,000 containers in use, transporting 670,000 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) annually,'' Mr Muntingh said.

The economic downturn in other parts of the world had affected the group's overall revenues last year, said Mr Muntingh.

It had registered a loss of US$32 million, as opposed to a profit of $83 million in 1991.

But the loss was partly due to the modernisation and acquisition of new ships and containers over the same period.

''We acquired five new ships, which are the first in the series of new 3,200-TEU container vessels being built according to our own innovative design.

''Two more, based on the same concept but with a bigger capacity of 3,950 TEU each, are being built.

''These will be delivered in 1994 and 1995 respectively,'' he said.

The group traces its history back to the 1800s, and was formed as the result of a long process of amalgamation of mainly the Java-China-Japan Line, the Netherlands Shipping Union Group and Koninklijke Nedlloyd to eventually become the Royal Nedlloyd Group.