For Svitzer Europe, a strong defence looks to be the best offense in the race to win on multiple fronts.

“Europe has become a consistently profitable region, which places increasing strategic importance on defending our position against numerous serious competitors,” says Marc Niederer, Managing Director of Svitzer Europe. The past five months in particular have been very successful. The challenge is to maintain that record by defending and improving existing business in a highly competitive environment in which towage companies across Europe are consolidating and attacking new markets.

We have several initiatives in place to help us do so. The first is to win locally, to be the supplier of choice in ports throughout the region. We are well positioned to achieve this goal, as our company has decades of local presence and experience in the region. Going forward, our aim is to develop an even stronger local presence in every port and build relations with every stakeholder. Winning locally is all about people, and every Svitzer employee in the region is an ambassador in this effort to create lasting connections.

A second key to becoming the operator of choice is to capitalise operationally on our vast geographical coverage. Our competitors typically operate in only oneor two ports. They can add resources to build business and increase profits, but when business declines they have no alternative use for their tugs. Svitzer, on the other hand, serves multiple ports and can shift resources to where they’re needed. We need to further improve this agility; without it multiple ports and numerous resources become a liability.

A third initiative concerns technical performance and centres on availability. In order to maintain a low cost-base, we try to operate the minimum number tugs needed to provide a high standard of service, so it is essential that they are up and running at all times. Breakdowns can leave us unable to serve our clients. The answer is to avoid unplanned downtime by being diligent about performing preventive maintenance. Maintenance and dry docking costs are a valuable investment if they help avoid a breakdown – the cost, in
terms of lost business, of having a tug out of operation would be much higher. 

All of these efforts together have enabled Svitzer Europe to defend existing business vigorously. We have successfully dealt with a strong competitive entry in London and maintained 95% of our previous market share. Further we have madenew entries into the ports of Rotterdam and Bremerhaven. In Bremerhaven, for example, we have gained ground by focusing on container carrier business rather than car carriers, which require more time to service but pay the same. 

Additionally, The Svitzer Continental Europe Team has turned Amsterdam into a successful joint venture with Iskes. Previously, Amsterdam was an operation where two incumbent operators were competing in a market that was not large enough to allow them to make acceptable returns. Unions, workers council, crew and management worked hard together to save the operation and the jobs. The solution was a fully independent joint venture, with ownership by Iskes and Svitzer, which has allowed Svitzer to keep
all the Dutch jobs and the port to quickly show an economic profit. Customers have also benefited: where there were previously two operators managing separate fleets, the joint venture provides a single combined fleet that can better serve customers’ needs.

It is clear that the Svitzer Europe Team – including crew, local offices and the regional team – is fully committed to defend our leading position in Europe and have strategies in place to do so. 

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