The consolidation of Europe's short sea shipping sector accelerated this week after Samskip, the fast-growing Icelandic container shipping line, announced the acquisition of the door-to-door transport unit of Delphis, an Antwerp-based short haul container carrier.
The takeover, for an undisclosed amount, follows a flurry of deals in the past month as the leading players jockey for position in a market enjoying unprecedented volume growth, particularly in Northwest Europe and the Baltic Sea.
Samskip said the acquisition will strengthen its leading position in Europe's short sea and multimodal logistics market, boosting annual traffic to the Baltic states and Russia alone to 100,000 TEUs.
The sale leaves Delphis free to focus on its short sea container business operated with 45 owned and chartered-in box ships. The carrier had group revenues of 350 million euros [$470 million] on volume of 1.1 million TEUs in 2006.
The Samskip acquisition is the fifth deal in the short sea shipping and logistics sector in the past two weeks. Eimskip, a rival Icelandic container, air cargo and land transport/distribution company, paid around $60.5 million for the 45 percent it didn't already own of Innovate Holdings, a British firm specializing in temperature-controlled logistics. Cobelfret, a Belgian cargo line, acquired Ferryways, a carrier on the United Kingdom-Belgium route, and Montagu Holdings, a UK private equity firm, bought Unifeeder, one of Europe's top container feeder lines, for a reported $500 million.
Grimaldi, the Italian shipowner that owns Atlantic Container Line and is the majority owner of Finnlines, the leading Finnish carrier, paid over $50 million for a 14-percent stake in Anek Lines of Greece.
The two Icelandic carriers have become major players in the market with a series of acquisitions in the past three years. Samskip bought Geest North Sea Lines of the Netherlands and the UK's Seawheel and now operates 24 box ships supporting a Europe-wide door-to-door logistics network.
Eimskip is beefing up its global refrigerated logistics business, acquiring Versacold, a Canadian company with 72 facilities in Argentina, Canada, the United States and New Zealand in late May for US$475 million. Earlier, it paid $536 million for another Canadian warehouse firm, Atlas Cold Storage.