Interview with our CCO, Mr. Jeppe Frank, in Project Cargo Weekly newsletter - week 26, 2017.
Jeppe tell us a bit about your background in shipping, why you got into shipping in the first place and when you joined Martin Bencher.
In 1995 I started as a shipping clerk in Aarhus, at Chr. Jensen also called “Russia Jensen”. At that time Chr. Jensen was the agent for all the Shipping companies from Russia and the Baltic states. It was before The Baltics entered EU, so it was the good old story about – “East meets West” – in all aspects. Rough environment, but it was indeed interesting for a young man – and shipping was a good career in those days (still is).
Later in 1999 I joined a smaller Danish Company, with focus on the wind industry. It was in those days, that the wind energy sector exploded, and markets like USA, Europe and Australia were booming. Throughout the 00’s, we transported thousands of turbines to all thinkable global destinations, and besides the main markets, we did places like the South Pole, New Zealand, Japan, placing turbines on the side of volcanoes in Costa Rica, Hawaii, The Falkland Islands, and many more places you can imagine.
We grew with the market, and as Asia was developing rapidly within renewables, we decided to establish a station in Singapore.
In 2011, the family and I started up the office in Singapore. For the first three months I was the only one in the office, but by mid 2013 we were 7 people, doing projects and mainly wind power in Asia.
In 2013 we went back to Denmark, and started our own company EPS, representing Hansa Heavy Lift in the nordic countries. It was fun to be on the ship-owners side, after many years as forwarder.
One of our good clients and trusted partners was Martin Bencher. In EPS we also did consultancy jobs for Martin Bencher, mainly within the wind industry. After some years our corporation was grown, and finally in the beginning of 2016, we merged EPS into Martin Bencher Group and I joined MB to support Peter Jensen (CEO) in the group management.
What does moving a complete wind turbine entail? Can you explain a bit about the various parts? I have heard words such as blade, nacelle etc, and it sounds more like something out of a sci-fi movie than something “green”. Tell our readers about it in plain language.
First, the renewable sector has, over the last 20 years, been developing extremely fast. In the very early days, you could pack a full and complete turbine in a 40’ container. This was including the 3 blades, the nacelle, hub and even the tower in 2-3 sections.
Nowadays, each blade to the offshore turbines are up to 89 meters long and 4-5 meters in diameter, weighing up to 40 metric tons. The nacelles are large power units weighing up to 400 metric tons. And the towers with each section weighing up to 150-180 metric tons. The development has indeed been massive. If you then count also the complete foundations weighing up to 1500 metric tons – then it adds up to 2500 metric tons in total per turbine.
So, yes, call it spaceships or futuristic power units – the development is not over yet. And we, at Martin Bencher, believe in the green energy, and will continue to support and power the renewable industry with our know-how and dedication.
Is moving wind turbines more difficult than moving other project cargo?
To handle such large projects (heavy and oversized) puts demands on our project teams. We need to invent new methods, think out of the box, and together with the OEM’s (Original Equipment Manufacturers like Vestas, Siemens etc.) be a part of coming up with and developing new ways of transport. For Martin Bencher this is exactly what we have done for years, being innovative and planning one step ahead.
The renewable industry as well as the oil and gas industry has been known to have many quality and health/safety demands on their suppliers, can you elaborate a bit on that? Tell us a bit about the development from a few years back to now concerning these type of requirements.
During the last 5 years, the quality, health & safety and environment has indeed become one of the most important factors in the industry. To be a part of the larger projects in both renewables and oil & gas sector the customers and the industry demand compliance.
In the period 2015-17, Martin Bencher updated the certification scope, to comply with ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015 and OHSAS 18001:2008.
Martin Bencher’s quality system has evolved into an Integrated Management System (IMS). IMS means that we have gathered more systems into one; Quality, Health & Safety and Environment in one system.
Martin Bencher is a well known group in project freight forwarding, what made the company start focusing on renewable energy?
It is no secret that the oil & gas industry faced a serious down fall in the market during the last years. It will certainly come up again. But in the meantime, MB as a global company, must be a few steps ahead in it’s strategy, and look for new strong market developments. MB has touched base with the renewables before, both solar and wind. So, it was a natural step to continue down that path.
How do you choose the carrier and do you also get involved with inland transport? Are wind turbine shippers only focusing on price these days or do they also reward you as a vendor if you have other skills?
MB prefers to do wind projects from A to Z. One of our strong points is to do the project management. From there we can control all aspects of the project (solution and suppliers), both on the sea and inland deliveries. This has been a part of our DNA from the very first day.
The wind industry is not only focusing on price. It also rewards know-how, project management, health and safety and many other features. Luckily this is where MB makes a difference in the market.
How do you view the future of the project freight forwarder? Evil tongues say that so called “middle men” are under pressure from a variety of factors – you are in the middle – tell us your opinion.
Firstly, we do not see ourselves as “middle men”, but as serious business partners to our clients and suppliers. We make sure that projects are executed professionally, in a secure and profitable manner, sometimes even better than planned. We see even higher demands for the global supply chain, project management, specialized know-how on various components, countries etc.
It is correct, that since 2009, part of the shipping industry has been under pressure and that naturally leads to a more direct approach to the cargo owners. Nevertheless, this is not always the best way to conduct business. One could ponder whether this has created a gap in the market. One thing is for sure – a good and professional project forwarder, such as MB amongst others, will always be part of the international trade within shipping and logistics.
Tell us a bit about the current worldwide expansion of Martin Bencher and a bit about some of the renewable projects that you have handled recently.
Our Global presence has increased during the last few years. There is a high demand from our international clients, to be local – on a global scale.
MB North Asian. with 4 offices in China and 1 office in Taiwan, are doing well, and is certainly complimentary to our global development. South East Asia, controlled from Singapore, is developing with offices in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Sidney, Australia.
India & Middle East, especially Dubai, is our strong logistics setup for our global supply chain customers.
Naturally Europe and Scandinavia are going strong – and the US market is looking promising again this year, with even more focus on US local rail setup, to meet the clients in their own marketplace.
To get the perfect overview of our presence I would like you to visit our webpage http://www.martin-bencher.com/Contact
Looking at renewable projects, we are doing a lot of global supply chain daily. At the same time we are working on various factory build ups, to support the demand of regional market supplies in corporation with our clients.
In terms of major projects within the renewables sector we have worked on larger onshore projects in Central America, and surely Asia is under fast development. Within the offshore wind sector MB played an central role in Bligh Bank ll (a large offshore project off the coast of Belgium) doing the full supply chain, shipping, project management and harbour marshaling.
We have a few new large offshore projects running which cannot be disclosed, but will be shared soon.