Maersk is making what seems to be a clever, though now very obvious, step to take for a far seeing freight ferry company and that is to buy the Turkish freight operator UN Ro-Ro from its owners, Turkish private equity firms.
A profitable company with 12 modern freighters does not come cheap at the princely sum of 950 mn euros ($1.17 billion). But it seems an excellent move for a core European transport and logistics operator linking the hub of Europe to the developing eastern fringe of the continent.
The Turkish company operates 12 modern, largely German built roro freighters and fits well with the quality freight tonnage worked by Maersk on their routes in Northern and Western Europe. The acquisition immediately brings to the Maersk umbrella developed routes in the East, linking Turkey to Trieste, Bari, Toulon and to Damietta in Egypt.
UN Ro-Ro successfully and profitably developed these long-distance Mediterranean routes as they allow truck companies to bypass the Balkans where trunk roads are relatively primitive and slow. UN Ro-Ro’s shipping to Egypt has increased greatly this year as most of trucks, for example for Syria, shifted to ro-ro through Egypt.
I’ve only recently begun to notice how many imports to the UK of consumer goods, often involving household names, originate in Turkey; my Hotpoint washing machine for example! Interesting to think many of these goods are already, and probably increasingly, travelling on two ro-ro freight routes either side of the European mainland. There is also a developing transhipment process, between ro-ro and rail, at Trieste and other Adriatic ports.
I can’t help but feel that this dynamism in the shipping and transport business, which at one time would be natural to UK based operators, is increasingly by-passing once canny British shipping entrepreneurs.