Chinese demand for European wines and other luxury products is growing. Which brings new challenges – and opportunities – for a logistics sector that is ideally located to meet and capitalise on them. Maarten Möller, Head of Business Development at the premium Limburg-based logistics provider, H. Essers reveals how Limburg’s logistics sector has the potential to form an important link in China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative.
What makes Limburg the ideal hub for exporting European wine to China?
Limburg’s central location and proximity to Chinese rail links make it a prime candidate for consolidating the transportation of wines from all over Europe to the Chinese market. At present, we organize the pre-haulage of wines from Italy, France, Portugal and Spain on a daily basis. Wines from Limburg are transported to China by rail because of the short lead times and relative low cost in comparison to air freight.
What other major innovation projects are in the pipeline at H. Essers?
Continuous innovation is essential to increasing both our competitiveness and sustainability as a logistics service provider. Which is why we are always on the lookout for new concepts and new end-2-end supply chain solutions. One such project involves the use of drones for both inventory management and security monitoring and, in the future perhaps, even door-2-door distribution. Another is specialised solutions for the secure transportation of pharmaceuticals. Together with ongoing investments in intermodal transport, it is innovative developments such as these that will bring sustainable growth over the long term.
Transporting wine has its own specific challenges. How do you ensure optimum temperature and storage conditions during transit?
Creating a stable environment is essential, especially when you consider the extreme outside temperatures along the route which can range from minus 40 degrees in winter to plus 40 degrees in summer. To counter this, we have developed specially insulated, self-contained and air-conditioned containers which are monitored 24/7 by our own control tower. Secure loading and lashing is also essential to prevent breakages during transhipment.
How is Essers contributing to the “One Belt, One Road” strategy for trade with China?
We are currently the largest European exporter within the One Belt, One Road initiative with 50 containers per week and set to grow to 100 containers per week by the end of 2017. 80% of that cargo is temperature-controlled, transporting products such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, milk powder and of course wine. This creates leverage for further developing our activities to, from and also in China. We can count on the support of specialised regional and local providers in China to create full end-2-end solutions for our customer.
What is the upshot for European producers?
It’s really a win-win situation. These volumes out of Europe help create a better balance on trade lanes with China. For every 3 containers exported from China to Europe at present, 2 are shipped from the EU to China. China’s growing middle class and thus growing demanding for high-quality European products is creating unique opportunities for European winemakers, traders and logistics service providers.
H. Essers’ specialised services are just one example of Limburg’s growing importance as a logistics hub linking Chinese and European trade. In addition to its central location in Western Europe, Limburg also boasts good multimodal connections and a large amount of available land for warehousing and logistics services. As an essential part of the regional economy, the logistics sector also receives a great deal of support from local authorities, stimulating the development of smart distribution and other value-added logistics operations. And the results are already visible with several major European logistics players now established in Limburg.