The automotive logistics industry is always looking at making the best use of capacity, even on niche routes, and a recent move by BLG Logistics at the port of Bremerhaven harks back to the days before the pure car and truck carrier (PCTC) to do so.

The company has just started loading VW Group vehicles, including Audis, on reefer vessels that call at the port on a weekly basis. The vessels deliver fruit from Latin America but return to that region empty. Now they are returning with vehicles.

In the first shipment, which took place last week, 180 vehicles were loaded by crane onto the vessel Star Quality, managed by the shipping company Great White Fleet. The export markets include Colombia, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

According to a spokesperson for BLG, 50 years ago the transport of finished vehicles was always carried out on board general freight vessels.

“When the number of cars being shipped rose, at the end of the 1960s, ro-ro vessels gained more importance,” he explained. “But big car carriers will not call a port to take over only a few vehicles. Therefore, the transport of vehicles onboard reefer vessels for special destinations went on.”

The movement of vehicles on ro-ro vessels is a specialised business and those tasked with it are concerned with maintaining the quality of the cargo, which makes the idea of loading premium vehicles by crane onto a reefer vessel seem incongruous. Not so, according to BLG.

“The reefer vessels employed are prepared to transport general cargo as well as reefer cargo, so the quality of transport is according to the demand of Audi and other makes of the Volkswagen Group,” explained the spokesperson.

This latest development at Bremerhaven takes over from a similar service that was until recently operating out of the port of Antwerp.

The number of vehicles to be shipped is expected to vary from week to week, according to BLG.