Hapag-Lloyd takeover of NileDutch brings Dutch container shipping close to extinction

Hapag-Lloyd plans to take over Dutch container shipping company NileDutch Investments BV. NileDutch is mainly known for its liner services to Africa. It means the end of another Dutch container shipping company after the big takeover of P&O Nedlloyd by Maersk in 2005, with Vroon now the only large Dutch shipping company still operating container vessels.

The NileDutch Africa Line, which has been in existence for more than thirty years, used to be one of the 25 largest container shipping companies in the world and, until 2014, operated chartered services between West African ports and Europe, South Africa, South America and Asia.

However, the shipping companies in the Benelux no longer play a significant role in container shipping. In 2019, NileDutch listed 31st in the Top 100 of Alphaliner with eighty per cent charter tonnage. However, the company has completely disappeared from the list in 2021.

85 locations worldwide and ten scheduled services

NileDutch is present in 85 locations worldwide and has sixteen offices and 350 employees. In addition to the Netherlands, these include offices in China, Singapore, Angola and Cameroon. The company operates ten scheduled services with which it sails tens of thousands of containers around the world.

Despite the fact that NileDutch is headquartered in Rotterdam, the centre of gravity of its activities in the Benelux is in Antwerp. The Belgian office at Godefridiuskaai is in fact the regional headquarters for Europe and from here the operation of the WEWA Service. This service connects Antwerp, Le Havre, Leixoes and Lisbon with Abidjan, Pointe Noire, Luanda, Lobito and Namibia.

Growth market

With 121 regular services calling at 600 ports worldwide and a workforce of 13,200 people, Hapag-Lloyd is much larger than NileDutch. However, the originally German company sees an important growth market in Africa, which is the reason for the take-over.

‘The acquisition of NileDutch strengthens our position in West Africa and will be an excellent addition to our existing activities on the continent,’ says Rolf Habben Jansen, CEO of Hapag-Lloyd. ‘Our combined customer base will benefit from a denser network from and to Africa as well as from a much higher frequency of sailings. We welcome the new colleagues from NileDutch and hope that together we can further develop our business in Africa in the years to come.’

Wim van Aalst, President of NileDutch, adds: ‘Hapag-Lloyd and NileDutch are a very good fit and I am happy that we join forces. Combining our business and expertise in West Africa with Hapag-Lloyd’s worldwide network will enable us to make the next step and further develop the Africa business.’

Completion of the transaction is subject to the approval of the responsible antitrust authorities.

Earlier cooperation with Hapag-Lloyd

NileDutch mainly sails with foreign charter vessels and the company has already been cooperating with Hapag-Lloyd for some time. In 2014 and 2015, four own vessels were built for NileDutch: type SDARI 3500 Pmax, all four of which started sailing for Hapag-Lloyd in 2016. Two were sold to Hapag-Lloyd and two in charter. In 2019, the last two were sold as well, but returned to NileDutch in charter under their original names. So now all four are owned by Hapag-Lloyd.

Also read: Naming ceremony for second NileDutch newbuild

The four vessels involved are the NileDutch Breda, chartered in 2016 as San Vicente Express by Hapag-Lloyd, then sold and returned in charter to NileDutch in 2019 under its original name. The NileDutch Antwerpen followed the same path and was chartered as Africa Express. The NileDutch Dordrecht and NileDutch Rotterdam were sold in 2016 as San Antonio Express and Antofagaste Express respectively.

Only Vroon remains

After WOII practically all Dutch major general cargo lines had gone up in Nedlloyd that towards the end specialised as one of the world’s biggest global container lines. After the takeover of Nedlloyd and now NileDutch, only Vroon, as one of the last bigger Dutch shipping companies, remains that still has container vessels. Vroon’s eight container ships often sail in charter for other, bigger container carriers.

Picture: The NileDutch Antwerpen in the Port of Antwerp in 2015 (by Alf van Beem).

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.