Young Fleet for Heavy Loads: Shipowner Roelf Briese relies successfully on ongoing fleet rejuvenation
Leer, Germany, not to far from the river Ems entry into the North Sea, with its Institute of Maritime Studies, is the origin of a maritime trade association in the field of logistic, shipping companies, shipping, shipbuilding, carrying business and handling.
Thus the city of Leer has grown, after the city of Hamburg, into the largest concentration of shipping companies according to the managed numbers of ships, with around 16 shipping companies operating more than 400 seagoing vessels from here.
By its seaport, the city was characterized by trade for centuries. Traditionally only a few shipping companies were based in Leer, but this has changed in the mid-1980s when graduates from the Institute of Maritime Studies entered the business of shipping.
Further company foundation followed, and by the end of 2010, 16 shipping companies have been generated. Most owners and many of their leading employees are homegrown graduates from the Institute of Maritime Studies.
Additional drivers of change, which also have significantly influenced the area’s maritime growth, have been the economic expansion of the global goods traffic as well as the close collaboration with banks and financial service provider in the investment sector.
Meanwhile, more than 400 vessels, with Leer as their homeport, are listed in the German Maritime Register. Also ashore a few hundred experienced staffs are employed, for example in shipping finance.
A local shipowner with deep local roots is Briese Schiffahrt, and it is here in Leer, direct on the waterfront with a wide view of the water, where chief Dipl.-Ing. (naval architect) captain Roelf Briese has his “wheelhouse” on shore. It is from his wheelhouse that the 67-year-old navigates his worldwide maritime adventure, fittingly through calm but sometimes through heavy seas.
But after every storm comes again sunshine, and Roelf Briese would not be Roelf Briese if he didn’t stick to his course, even in stormy weather.
His course is: Our Objective > Charterer’s Happiness.
The Key to Briese Schiffahrt stability
In the past some 30 years — where many companies have risen and fallen, been born and died — Briese Schiffahrt has doubled its staff, generated an enormous increase in sales volume and at the same time enjoyed a substantial return of investment.
In the picturesque fishing village Ditzum, with its little red brick houses on the westside of the river Ems, Roelf Briese was born in 1944. Very early he had only one target: to go to sea!
Already at age 23, Briese earned his captains license and was sailing onboard of commercial seagoing vessels.
On one of those trips, during a heavy storm that lasted several days, he took the decision to ‘hit the books’ again to study naval architecture. Later on, The Institute of Maritime Study in Leer appointed Briese as an academic for technical shipmanagement, navigation and mathematics for about 30 years.
In 1983 he established his own shipping company, the Briese Schiffahrts GmbH & Co. KG in Leer, which today is a significant German maritime presence. More than 320 highly skilled employees of different nationalities take care of a smooth workflow ashore, while more than 2,800 employees fulfill the transport assignments onboard his fleet of ships which operates worldwide.
“Very early we came to the result that we could not keep up with the international global carriers of the container shipping,” said Briese. “That’s why we concentrated ourself on special ships with our own freighting company BBC Chartering & Logistic and Briese Chartering – that makes us less dependent. Thanks to the CEO of BBC Chartering & Logistics and his crew it was possible to build up a worldwide network. Our company concentrates on multipurpose heavy lift vessels – with this we can carry all kinds of goods, from potatoes to generators up to container terminals. With more than 120 vessels in service we belong to the largest supplier worldwide. Our portfolio is aligned in such a way, that we go away from a pure carrier towards a single source company. That contains also, among others, that we offer not only stevedoring and ships design and own crewing, but also ships repair and little things which can be done on one’s own.”
Very important for this agile shipowner from Leer are flexibility and versatility, and a high quality standard for high safety standards, modern equipment and a very low average age of his vessels. In addition to this, Briese Schiffahrts GmbH & Co. KG is using its own worldwide network of partners for ideal transport solutions for its customers and, accordingly, being a single source contact person. With its own 100% daughter company - BBC Chartering & Logistic – around 140 ships are represented by 24 agencies worldwide.
The early 90s saw a phase of sustained fleet growth, accompanied by a drive to extend the companies portfolio of marine transport solutions and related logistics services.
Meanwhile 200 newbuildings and more than 100 second hand ships have been initiated. With sales of more than 140 seagoing ships, Briese owns a permanent fleet of around 120 vessels with an average age of about 4.7 years. The load capacity is between 2,500 and 37,300 tons.
“We always bought, built but also sold many ships in the past,” said Briese. “The result is a modern, economical, ecologically and challenging state-of-the-art fleet, which are active in the heavy load business. Here, the intellectual requirements are simply higher. Ships strength and stability must be exactly calculated. The input, also what goes along with the logistic measures, is unlike higher than compared to the container shipping.”
“Our preferential target is to have ships in our fleet which have a low fuel consumption and accordingly low exhaust emissions, with at the same time economically justifiable cruising speed. In this context, all our ships are tested again and again during the project phase as a model in towing tanks of the Hamburg Ship Model Basin, HSVA, till we find the optimal hull form with the most efficient drive power. Of course, also the diesel engine manufacturers must do their homework, which means: we are only interested in diesel engines who can guarantee us a long durability combined with a high reliability and the lowest fuel consumption.”
Less Fluctuation but Nevertheless
Captain Briese is not unlike many other executives in the maritime field, drivig companies large and small, in that the number one challenge for continued success is ensuring a viable pipeline of maritime talent.
“Ashore, we fortunately see a very low fluctuation, but in the ship operation engineering sector, it looks worse than in the nautical sector,” said Captain Briese. “Particularly in the technical sector we see lack of appropriate qualification. Based on this in 2005 a resolution, together with the ship owner association ”Ems-Achse,” was passed to finance three endowed professorships and a university teaching position at the Institute of Maritime Studies in Leer for the duration of ten years.”
“To supprt this we collected three million Euros. The result: in the last semester we had 400 nautical students and students of the ships and shipping company management, thus we believe that we can count on more young academics.”
The 67-year-old company owner sees his own further art of living down-to-earth:
“I wish myself, when I hand over the company management to my sons, Wilke, hands one of these days, that I still start my day-to-day work with the same good mind and love and the Briese shipping company stays furthermo
re on healthy legs like today. To do so, I allow myself from time to time a timeout and sail with my own designed and build yacht on the Northsea.”