New chemical logistics hub in Zhangjiagang (China) has started operations
First nearly CO2-free door-to-door supply chains launched across Europe
Over CHF 90 million invested in sustainable logistics both in Europe and globally
Declining volumes due to lower chemical production lead to a drop in sales to CHF 960 million
Outlook for 2024 remains uncertain due to global economic challenges
Significant investments in logistics infrastructure planned for 2024
Bertschi’s presence expanding to Japan
The volume declines that began a year earlier continued in 2023. The chemical industry, the Bertschi Group's main customer sector, continues to suffer from high gas/electricity prices and generally weak sales in Europe. This has led to significant declines in European transport volumes. In the overseas transport business, the sharp rise in shipping prices during the COVID-19 phase has normalised. With supply chains regaining smooth operations in 2023, some overcapacities have become apparent. These factors are putting pressure on margins, accentuated by a stronger Swiss franc. As a result, sales fell significantly by 15% to CHF 960 million. "Following a record year in 2022, we faced a more challenging economic environment last year. Nevertheless, we are satisfied that we were able to achieve a positive business result despite these economic headwinds," says Hans-Jörg Bertschi, Executive Chairman of Bertschi Group.
First green supply chains realised across Europe - target of CO2 neutrality by 2050
With innovative customer pilot projects, several nearly CO2-neutral door-to-door supply chains across Europe could be realised in 2023 by linking intermodal rail transport with trucks powered by biofuels. Bertschi already handles 90% of all European land transports via intermodal rail transport, thereby reducing CO2 emissions by 230,000 tonnes annually. The focus of these projects was on optimising the first and last mile of the supply chain, which are handled by road. Hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) is used as a fuel to power both the terminal vehicles and the trucks. This allows CO2 emissions to be reduced by up to 90% compared to conventional road transport.
Following these successful implementations, the concept is to be extended to other supply chains. These are important steps for Bertschi Group to achieve CO2-neutral production by 2050.
Opening of chemical logistics center in China as largest single investment
After several years of planning, approval and construction, Bertschi officially opened its new chemical logistics center in Zhangjiagang (China) in mid-2023 with a ceremony attended by customers, political representatives, and employees. The storage and filling center has a capacity of 25,000 tonnes of liquid products stored in tankcontainers and 25,000 tonnes of packaged goods as well as automatic filling systems. It is strategically located in the Yangtze River Delta, in close proximity to Shanghai. "The new hub enables us to support our customers locally with their expansion plans in China and further develop the import market for liquid speciality chemicals. It also ideally complements Bertschi's global logistics network and enables worldwide door-to-door supply chain solutions," says Jan Arnet, CEO of Bertschi Group.
In addition to this largest single investment in the company's history, Bertschi also pushed ahead with various logistics infrastructure projects in Europe and continued to invest in the expansion of its container fleet. The fleet grew by 7% to 44,000 units in 2023.
Major progress was also made in the company's digital transformation. This has enabled Bertschi to consolidate its leading market position in terms of visibility and connectivity in chemical logistics transport chains. In European transport, for example, customers are informed of deviations from planned data in real time via the automated transmission of scheduled arrival dates and therefore have full transparency regarding the delivery status of their products. Another milestone is about to be reached with the planned replacement of the previous systems for global transport planning and processing with a fully integrated, innovative in-house development in 2024.
Significant investments and new JV in Japan in 2024
The global economic situation is likely to remain challenging in 2024, influenced by geopolitical uncertainties. Bertschi's global business in particular is therefore proving to be increasingly volatile and challenging in the new year. In contrast, the decline in transport volumes caused by the recession in European industry is expected to have bottomed out in the second half of 2023. Demand in Bertschi’s European business is likely to stabilise at relatively low levels in 2024. "The renewed increase in global supply chain disruptions at the start of 2024, the major geopolitical uncertainties, and the volatility in the markets make it difficult for us and our customers to provide an outlook. One positive effect should be that customers are increasingly setting up containerised safety stocks with us so that they can access their products flexibly and promptly," comments Jan Arnet.
Bertschi also wants to take in 2024 another step towards its goal of CO2 neutrality by 2050. Following initial trials in Scandinavia and Germany last year, the first electrically powered heavy 40-tonne trucks will now also be used at the Birrfeld (CH) intermodal rail terminal and electric charging stations will be installed. The aim is to develop and implement further NetZero concepts. Bertschi is also investing heavily in the expansion of the European rail and intermodal infrastructure for road, rail and water. A large trimodal transhipment terminal with container storage infrastructure - including dangerous goods - is currently under construction in Antwerp, and will begin operations in the second half of 2024. Handling and storage capacities at the Bertschi trimodal terminal in Rotterdam will be significantly expanded with the installation of a second gantry crane. Due to the ongoing geographical diversification of global supply chains, Bertschi expects demand for these new capacities to increase over the next few years.
In addition to investing in the expansion of the container fleet, the main focus in global business is on the successful implementation of door-to-door logistics concepts. With the new hub in Zhangjiagang (CN) and the existing chemical hubs in Singapore and Europe, Bertschi offers its customers a first-class network to optimise the costs and customer benefits of global supply chains and increase their efficiency. Bertschi's close-knit infrastructure in Europe creates exciting opportunities to integrate the storage and distribution of products on the continent into global flows. The partnership with the Uyeno Group, Tokyo (Japan), which was launched in 2023, will contribute to the expansion of the global network. The joint venture with the major Japanese family-owned chemical logistics and trading company will commence operations in 2024 and enable further growth in the Japanese market for tankcontainer services.
Winner of the Prix SVC Nordschweiz
By winning the Prix SVC Nordschweiz, the Bertschi Group received a special honour. The prestigious prize, which is only awarded every two years, is intended to put successful companies in the public eye and honour their achievements. Bertschi was able to secure the top spot in a high-calibre field of nominated companies from all economic sectors and was awarded the prize for its pioneering work and commitment in the areas of sustainability, safety, and innovation. Hans-Jörg Bertschi expressed his thanks upon receiving the award on behalf of the Group, and addressed his words specifically to the employees: "We are honoured to receive the Prix SVC Nordschweiz 2023. This achievement would not have been possible without the exceptional dedication and hard work of Bertschi's employees. They are the driving force behind our success, and we share this award with each and every one of them."
January 26, 2024