Noord Natie Terminals

Handling with care

Whilst the production of oil and chemical commodities is itself a challenging process, the handling and storage of these potentially hazardous liquids equally needs to be undertaken in a safe and efficient manner.

Strategically located in the port of Antwerp, Belgium, Noord Natie Terminals (NNT) is a unique combination of two terminals providing storage and related added value services for liquids. A privately owned business, NNT’s operations first began in the 1950s with the storage and handling of animal and vegetable fats and oils, and mineral oils. The company’s product portfolio then shifted to oleochemicals, chemicals, and mineral oils, and since 2000 NNT has also focused on speciality chemical and flammable products.

Since the company was founded it has continued to expand with approximately 225 tanks and a total capacity of 253,000 cubic metres on site today. These range from 30 cubic metre tanks up to 8300 and are available in different materials, as well as variety of types including insulated, steam heated, electrical heated, nitrogen installation and vapour return systems.

NNT’s customers vary from the major players in the oil and chemical industries to smaller trading companies from all different nationalities. Equally the flow of product comes and goes from many different origins and destination across the globe. Highlighting some of the other services NNT offers to this marketplace, Martine Teeuwens, managing director, says: “Next to our storage we offer blending services, drum filling, storage of drummed material in our warehouses, and tank container storage. Direct transhipments at our terminal are also an important activity, where we work together with an industry partner on all forwarding and custom services.”

Given the nature of the products that NNT has on site, meeting safety requirements, as well as delivering customer satisfaction, is vital to the business. Martine elaborates: “We invite our customers to audit us and learn from their way of working, as well as the other way around. NNT is a CDI-T compliant terminal and we work closely together with all inspection bodies such as the government and other official organisations. We are also audited for food and feed safety in line with the latest regulations, as well as the ISO 9001 standard. However the results of the audits with our customers are most important and even with very stringent audits from major oil companies we consistently receive very good results. As most environmental and safety regulations get more strict the biggest challenge is to comply with these while remaining a profitable business.”

As part of its long-term strategy for expansion, NNT has invested in an additional 13 storage tanks, six at a capacity of 1800 cubic metres and seven at 1000 cubic metres, which have been operational since January 2010. “We have added these stainless steel tanks as fully dedicated and equipped storage for a broad range of dangerous and sensitive products,” explains Martine. “Although we took this decision without any contracts in place, these tanks were implemented at the right moment to accommodate both new and existing clients. This marks the first phase of a larger expansion plan, with the second phase postponed due to the global financial crisis.”

Consisting of six stainless steel tanks with a capacity of 1800 cubic metres each, this second phase of the project is currently well underway, with the tanks due to be operational by June 2011. Additionally the company is building a further eight tanks of 4000 cubic metre capacity each as part of a second expansion project.

This focus on an increased expansion of services remains prominent to NNT, as Martine highlights plans for the company’s next development: “NNT recently acquired six hectares (ha) of land adjacent to the existing terminal, with the potential to extend this to 15 ha. We are now starting a study to determine which type of tanks, capacities, and implications on logistics within the existing site amongst other factors, to prepare for the environmental and safety studies that precede the permitting procedure. Not only does this site have the advantage of being located next to our existing terminal but it will also extend one of our four vessel berths by a further kilometre, which is very attractive for both the terminal and our clients.”

Another key development has been the liquids of NNT’s Antwerp For Storage (A4S) daughter company into its main body of services. Previously A4S offered drumming, storage of packed dangerous goods, and tank container storage services under its own name. However, as more customers began to use services from both firms, the organisation was optimised by integrating everything under the name NNT. This also made good commercial sense, as the activities of A4S were already located at the same site as NNT’s tank storage services.

Although NNT is located solely in Antwerp without any international publicity network, the company continues to attract more and more customers. This is achieved through offering good service to its existing customers, which is then shared with other operators in the industry. “The demand is high and we are glad to have the expansion possibilities in place that we do,” describes Martine. “With our expansions over the past two years we are growing faster than before and are ready for the future. Given the new competitors and expansion within existing players in the market our challenge is to keep the customer happy by offering them the most reliable partner for the storage of their products, and the necessary flexibility to continue to grow their business.”

By continuing to invest in the business, both in terms of capacity and services, NNT is strengthening its offering to market. The wealth of experience in storage handling and packaging of these commodities, as well as niche market products makes NNT a reliable and effective partner for clients. With additional storage capacities becoming operational this year and next, Martine concludes with her vision for the business in line with its long-term strategy: “We want have the capacity to grow, quickly if required, or in a more step-by-step approach, depending upon the conditions of the market. Regardless of how quickly we grow, we want to ensure that we continue to provide the high levels of service that we have become known for.”

Noord Natie Terminals
Services: Storage and handling of liquids