A storage and transhipment success story in the inner port of Zeebrugge

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The inner port of Bruges is not so far from the centre of the city of Bruges. If you leave the Ezelpoort behind you and continue along the Koningin Elisabethlaan, you will reach the Groothandelsdok. There, at the British Quay, we have an appointment with Frank Bruyneel of Depre Storage & Handling.

The port of Bruges lives!

"This is a part of the port that people do not always know about", he says. He points to the aerial photograph of the port at the door of his office. "This is where we are, on the King Baudouin Canal. And our ships sail this stretch to open water: 13 km to the sea."
Depre Storage & Handling in Bruges specialises in the storage, transhipment and handling of rice, grain, oilseeds and their by-products.

Depre Storage
& Handling

"Depre Storage & Handling is the youngest member of our company group," says Frank, "but everyone actually has a soft spot for this division." So does he, he admits. "Working in the port is different from working in a purely industrial environment. There is a kind of chemistry here between the people, between our dockworkers. And there is a tremendous dynamic. That makes this environment really special to work in."

"This is a part of the port that people do not always know about."

Frank Bruyneel

DSH is part of the family-owned Group Depre. They handle animal feed and food for birds, rodents and pets, as well as the raw materials for that feed. The storage, transhipment and handling of rice, grains, oilseeds and their by-products are also part of their activities and that specifically is the focus of DSH in the port of Bruges.
"40% of the raw materials go to the customers via inland vessels", says Frank Bruyneel of Depre Storage & Handling.

Tenfold increase in 6 years

In 2014, Depre Trading was a customer of the company Minne Port Services. They had their broken rice stored and transshipped there. The moment they were asked if they were interested in taking over Minne Port Services, they didn't hesitate long. On 1 April 2015, a new story began under the name Depre Storage & Handling. At that time, 40,000 tonnes of raw materials were transhipped per year.

In 2020, they handled 410,000 tonnes, which is ten times more than in the year DSH started. An enormous growth that was only achieved by investing. "MBZ, the port authority, is a good partner in this," nods Frank. "We were originally on a terrain with sheds that were limited in capacity. In 2018 we had to find solutions for expansion. When it turned out that it was possible to use the adjoining site, the port authority helped us to move forward. They invested 2 million euros in extending and renewing the quay and in dredging the Groothandelsdok to a depth of 8 metres. As a result, seagoing vessels of up to 7,000 tonnes and 140 metres in length can dock here."
The company is located on the Koning Boudewijn canal.
The vessels sail a 13 km stretch to the sea.

"A full lorry leaving here every ten minutes."

Frank Bruyneel

14 multipurpose sheds are now in use at DSH, with one added only this year. Last year, they handled 35 coasters (smaller seagoing vessels) and 120 barges, good for one ship every two days.

40% of those raw materials are brought to their destination by water. Through the inland shipping network, they are well connected to the hinterland. Truckloads and containers can be moved quickly via the A11, E403 and E40. Frank adds: "It's actually a full lorry leaving here every ten minutes for a feed manufacturer, or for someone who is going to process the goods."
"The Zeebrugge port authority, is a good partner in terms of realising our ambitions."

Future

Depre Storage & Handling is experiencing spectacular growth. But they are not complacent, they remain ambitious. Besides the new warehouse on the site, there are plans for a new office building and new weighbridges.

Moreover, the company wants to take further steps towards efficiency with an advanced automation system for the registration of lorries. Innovative solutions will increase our volumes in the future. "We know that companies need storage facilities or high-quality storage and transhipment. We want to respond fully to that need, but that also means that we have to continue to grow."

"It is a challenge to find the right personnel who can handle the heavy rolling stock," says Plant Manager Luc Buysse. "Together with the port authority, we are looking for solutions in the form of training, something that is organised together for various companies here and from which we all benefit."
Today DSH has a storage capacity of 75,000 tonnes. In September 2021 they have put another new hall into use.

Brexit &
more expensive container freight

"We have an important trade in broken rice with the UK," says Frank, when I ask him about the Brexit and whether it is affecting them. "Today, the traffic has gone, but not the trade. That is now done in a different way. We now import directly into the UK. We got through the Brexit pretty well."

"The answer to many challenges often lies in flexibility. We built our infrastructure on that philosophy."

Frank Bruyneel

A bigger challenge today is the increased price of containerised freight. "The prices of goods coming from the Far East by container have actually exploded. That makes the trade a lot more difficult. We have been looking for other ways to get the goods here. We have loaded a second bulk ship with broken rice in the Far East, instead of systematically bringing the goods by container. The answer to many challenges often lies in flexibility. We built our infrastructure on that philosophy. And I think - certainly for the future - that logistical strength lies precisely in this resilience. Always being able to offer your customer a solution. That makes it exciting, but it also gives the team enormous drive for the future."
"We know that companies have a need for storage facilities, or qualitative storage and transhipment. We want to fully meet that need, but that also means we have to keep growing."
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