The Integrated Chemical Logistics Solutions Provider

To set up a chemical supply chain you may want to talk to individual transport and storage companies or work with an integrated chemical logistics solutions provider. The latter may try to offer a one-stop shop solution that may cover parcel tankers, tank terminals, and secondary distribution.

Let’s go back in time to get some perspective on the sector and then look at some recent and exciting developments.

Vopak – Not the intended synergy

Van Ommeren (VO) and Pakhoed (PAK) performed a wide range of activities in their long history. The two companies shared a background in sea, river, and coastal trade and both acted as shipbrokers, stevedores, and shipping agents. They both had experience in the trade and developed into global players in wet storage. There were differences too. Van Ommeren, originally a family business, was driven by an entrepreneurial mindset, resulting in mainly organic growth. The Pakhoed conglomerate was ruled on more “academic” principles. It made acquisitions on the basis of strategic analyzes, specifically targeted to secure a firm foothold in a new market. As was the case with the acquisition of Univar, for example, which made it a global market leader in chemical distribution.

In the 1990s, Pakhoed and Van Ommeren explored the possibility of a merger, which led to Vopak’s inception in 1999. The combination of chemical distribution and tank storage did not create the intended synergy, causing a rough start for Vopak. Only after the company made a clear choice in favor of tank storage there followed a period of growth. Vopak’s international network of Terminals became an integral part of the global trade in oil, gas, and chemicals.

Read more about Vopak’s 400-year-old history here.

Stolt – The established integrated chemical logistics solutions provider

Stolt-Nielsen Limited (SNL) is today a leading global provider of integrated transportation, storage, and distribution solutions for chemicals and other bulk-liquid products, delivered through its three largest operating units, namely Stolt Tankers, Stolthaven Terminals, and Stolt Tank Containers.

Stolt Tankers is the world’s largest operator of sophisticated chemical tankers, providing safe, reliable, and high-quality transportation services for bulk-liquid chemicals, edible oils, acids, and clean petroleum products.  They have more than 70 chemical deep-sea chemical tankers and 80 coastal and inland tankers.

Stolthaven Terminal’s global network of terminals provides safe, high-quality storage and distribution services for chemicals, clean petroleum products, and gas in key markets worldwide. They operate around 4.7 million cubic meters of storage capacity globally and also have access to more than 200 rail tankers.

Stolt Tank Containers is the world’s leading provider of logistics and transportation services for door-to-door shipments of bulk-liquid chemicals and food-grade products. They manage 35,396 tank containers in their fleet and arrange 127,000 shipments annually.

In an environment where bulk liquid supply-chain efficiency is paramount, Stolt is increasingly working with its customers to capitalize on synergies between terminals, tankers, and tank containers, creating integrated transportation and storage solutions.

MOL – The new integrated kid on the block

MOL is looking at developing an integrated business model and has been pushing forward with several investments and developments in the tanker, tank terminal, and tank container segments.  Below is an overview of major developments between September 2018 and February 2019.

Tank terminal development in Antwerp

12 September 2018 – SEA-Tank Terminal Antwerp NV (“SEA-Tank”) and MOL Chemical Tankers Pte. Ltd. (“MOLCT”) joined forces in a joint venture named SEA-MOL NV in the port of Antwerp, Belgium. SEA-MOL NV is held 51% by SEA-Tank and 49% by MOLCT and has as a primary goal of the construction and operation of a multi modal chemical tank storage terminal in the Port of Antwerp. SEA-MOL NV plans on constructing a dedicated liquid chemical storage terminal that serves as an efficient logistical hub suited for the storage, handling and added value activities for the (petro)chemical industry. The terminal will offer services such as blending, drum filling, filtration, ISO-tank storage enabling customers to concentrate their activities on one site and to avoid intermediate trucking between sites yielding cost savings and reducing congestion.

Expansion of tanker fleet

9 January 2019 – MOL Chemical Tankers Pte. Ltd. in Singapore (MOLCT) has agreed with Nordic Tankers LuxCo S.C.A. in Luxembourg (Triton), that MOLCT acquires 100% shares of Nordic Tankers A/S in Denmark (NT) from Triton. MOLCT currently operates 56 deep-sea stainless-steel chemical tankers ranging between 19,000MT and 37,000MT in deadweight worldwide, while NT operates 19 deep-sea stainless-steel chemical tankers mainly in the Trans-Atlantic and Latin America trades. Though trading areas mostly diverse between the companies, their business strategies are in line, i.e. (a) with high COA portfolio and (b) multi-segregation tankers.

Developing chemical distribution with tank container acquisition 

18 February 2019 – MOL Chemical Tankers Pte. Ltd. has acquired a 20% stake in Den Hartogh Holding B.V. (Den Hartogh; Headquarters: Rotterdam) from Den Hartogh Beheer B.V. After the acquisition, MOL Chemical Tankers and Den Hartogh will sign a partnership deal aimed at jointly expanding the “leading global logistics company” approach to the transport of liquefied chemical products, comprising tank containers, parcel chemical tankers and a tank terminal.


I joined Van Ommeren in 1998 and was there during the merger and creation of Vopak in 1999. Being involved in tank terminal projects, chemical warehousing, tank container shipments (as VOTG) and agency services were exciting times for me. At that time Vopak tried using its own assets to offer integrated solutions. This approach did not always result in economic logistics solutions. Linking own assets requires cooperation between different business units in terms of operations and pricing.  In the end, clients need an efficient solution that is also competitively priced.

Having an extensive service portfolio such as that of Stolt will help to offer solutions to customers and look for synergies. However, this will not always be possible.  A broad service portfolio may help create a more balanced company with a lower risk profile. Tank containers could be in demand for smaller shipments during a market downturn, while parcel tankers may be in demand during a market uptrend when traders want to ship larger volumes, for example.

It will be interesting to see how MOL develops into a new integrated chemical logistics solutions provider.

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