A slightly later departure time of 07:00 beckoned for us on the morning of our visit to the specialist Norwegian logistics company Wallenius Wilhelmsen (WW). WW specialise in Roll-On-Roll-Off (Logistics) and we were due to be hosted by a former Cranfield alumni, Nithima Pisiputhun.
The head office was strategically located just 10km from the port of Laem Chabang (which we were due to visit in the afternoon) and after an hour and a half’s drive we were greeted with an opportunity to rehydrate and re-caffeinate; with the latter of particular significance to Denyse who had begun showing withdrawal symptoms on the journey in.
Subsequently, our host began by giving us a detailed guide to WW’s offering, which is broken into two aspects of logistics: ocean and land-based. WW operate in a relatively small but fascinating niche of the sea-freight market, specialising solely in shipping large products that are rolled on to the ship, lashed to the floor and rolled off again post-arrival. Products moved in this type of freighting include vehicles, industrial equipment, boats, and aviation, mining and power generating equipment. It also has a high degree of flexibility due to its lesser reliance on large infrastructure such as cranes and shipping.
Above: Our host Nithima giving us a presentation on Wallenius Wilhelmsen’s operations
Nithima explained that WW operate 130 vessels on 32 trade routes around the world. In the last year, they made 1,200 sailings, shipped 6.7m cars and moved vast amounts of heavy equipment to 29 countries across the globe. Their specialist vessels were able to carry up to 10,000 cars with just 15 crew members manning the ships.
In addition to freighting itself, WW used its industry expertise to offer a variety of value-added services to its customers which include repairing, spraying and storing vehicles as well as being the sole operators of 13 roll-on-roll-off terminals across the world.
Compared with traditional container shipping, RoRo has maintained significantly higher margins and although overall the market has diminished since its peak in 2012, WW had managed to continue to grow through newly-implemented and recently-acquired service offerings – particularly for the critical US vehicle market.
Although selling primarily B2B, WW also offer a direct to consumer service for individuals that wish to transport their vehicles around the world. In fact, WW had even gone as far to develop an AI robot capable of servicing online requests for quotations. Upon hearing this, Conor jumped at the chance to be able to calculate the cost of shipping his extremely highly valued (emotionally at least) Ford Focus to his temporary home in Brisbane, Australia.
After seeing the AI in action, and receiving an extremely affordable quote of $1,000 dollars – just 20 times the value of Conor’s car – we headed off to see the recently developed holding area for Chevrolet imports located on site.
Above: Conor after receiving an ultra competitive quote
We completed our visit with a traditional Benny photoshoot and reflected on what had been a fascinating insight into a world of logistics and transport that is so often overshadowed by its more common counterpart. Our introduction to WW’s highly sophisticated operations had made us hungry for our next visit. A trip to Namyong Terminal which specialised solely in RoRo vessels and would expand on what been an incredibly interesting visit to Wallenius Wilhelmsen.
Above: Chevrolet’s being stored in WW’s new temporary holding location