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COUNTRY REPORTSWITZERLAND


long. “If it does not rain in the three to four weeks before Christmas, we will face water level problems through all the winter months until the spring [when melting ice will flow into the river system]. “This is an extreme set of weather


conditions we are facing,” said Löffler. He believes the situation confronting the terminal is a one-off event, rather than the result of long-term climate change. “There has been lots of rain in southern Switzerland and Italy but that rainfall runs off to the Mediterranean,” he said.


Rhine water levels As a result of the challenging conditions on the Rhine, Löffler said that shippers have had to make alternative arrangements to deliver cargoes. Bulk and smaller-size cargoes are frequently moved by truck to ports of export. “However, especially with project cargoes, there is no alternative. It has to go by barge.” Therefore, warehousing and storage has


been in high demand for Birsterminal’s customers. “We have 90,000 sq m by the riverside which gives us the opportunity to offer a large area for warehousing, especially for bulk cargoes,” explained Löffler. Despite the immediate operational


challenges facing the terminal, Löffler is confident looking ahead into 2019. Fortunately, in mid-December, Rhine water levels had started to rise again following a week-long period of heavy weather. However, the experience has served to motivate the terminal to diversify its service offering. “We are trying to develop and become


less dependent on the river during low water levels.” He explained that Birsterminal is trying to enhance the delivery of cargoes by rail “in order to offer quick transit times to inland destinations”. Birsterminal has also boosted its heavy


lift crane capacity. In 2017, it refurbished its existing on-site crane, which is capable of handling 35 tonnes. It also acquired a new 70-tonne lifting capacity crane with multi- hook operations. “[The latter] is designed to handle larger and heavier pieces, such as railway wagons,” said Löffler. The equipment has already been utilised


for a railway wagon export project for a leading Swiss manufacturer. Unfinished wagons manufactured in Switzerland are trucked to the terminal, where they are handled and mounted for export by barge to Antwerp, for onward delivery to the USA. “This project started in June 2017 and will


run until the end of 2020. We have performed four shipments so far. The new crane is ideal


132 January/February 2019


for these goods, with the two lifting points. It makes lifting easier and safer.” Meanwhile, Bassersdorf-headquartered


export packer and freight forwarder T-Link has seen a steady demand for its services. The weakening Swiss franc has contributed to an increased demand for Swiss-made products and the forwarding and packing services it provides, explained Thomas Wirz, board member at the company. Differentiating services in a competitive


market is paramount, Wirz explained. “There is not too much business at present. There is a lot of competition, especially on the packing side. There is too much capacity in Switzerland and everybody is competing on price.” Wirz added that T-Link has opened a new


packing site at Birsterminal. “We rented space at the terminal in order to offer our packing services in the harbour. It makes sense when moving heavy goods by the Rhine.” Basel-headquartered freight forwarder


General Transport said that 2018 proved to be a stable year for its overall activities. However, Bernhard Zaugg, ceo, said competition from larger forwarders is an increasingly prominent challenge. “The large multinational competitors are


coming down the market more often. Then, the business becomes a rate issue. The margins are shrinking,” he explained. “Sometimes you earn money when you


just say no,” added Fritz Mumenthaler, senior vice president, industrial project management and consulting at General Transport.


The increasing length of payment terms


is another factor squeezing those active in the heavy lift and project logistics sector internationally. Switzerland-based companies have not been immune to this worrying trend. Mumenthaler was one of many that


highlighted the exodus of heavy manufacturing from Switzerland. “However, a good 50 percent of our business is cross-trade. There we can really bring an advantage to our Swiss clients that are manufacturing abroad – we can coordinate and support them.”


Activities abroad Coordination of logistics activities abroad is a common feature of project freight forwarders headquartered in Switzerland. “In Iran, we proved our capabilities,” said Mumenthaler. “Until the last second we performed shipments to there. Just before the sanctions were enforced, we had stopped. “Multinational corporations fear the


Iranian sanctions. Even the Swiss banks cannot help you with transfers and settlements, if you fall under sanction,” he explained. The logistics opportunities on offer in


Africa are also attracting Swiss project freight forwarders. Fracht has recently established three new


offices on the continent, located in the Ivory Coast, Senegal and Ghana. Reisdorf said the company is also busy in


A good 50 percent of our business is cross-trade. There we can really bring an advantage to our Swiss clients that are manufacturing abroad – we can coordinate and support them. – Fritz Mumenthaler, General Transport


the Democratic Republic of the Congo through its subsidiary Polytra. It has been active in support of the country’s mining industry, coordinating the delivery of equipment to support mining operations, as well as mined commodities themselves. General Transport’s Mumenthaler said:


“You have to be in Africa now. Multinationals are investing there heavily. Production sites are everywhere.” The company is busy in North Africa, Nigeria, South Africa and its neighbouring countries.


www.heavyliftpfi.com


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