A week after it was revealed that German retail giant Lidl, part of the Schwarz Group, had registered a trademark to set up a new shipping company to transport its goods, the company has reportedly reached agreements to charter three ships and a fourth to acquire. Based on the current charter agreements for the ships, observers assume that Lidl will start operations for Tailwind Shipping Lines in the next few months.
The operator of hypermarkets in Europe is one of the fifth largest retailers in the world and according to the information Striving for more consistency and flexibility in managing parts of its supply chain. Reports from German media suggest that Lidl will operate its ships alongside the major shipping companies and will continue to work with the carriers for some of its transport needs. Lidl confirmed that it would move part of its volume, which should be between 400 and 500 TEU per week, on its own ships in the future.
The retailer has reportedly chartered three smaller container vessels for two years and will acquire the fourth vessel directly, according to consultancy Alphaliner. They identify the chartered vessels coming from Hamburg-based Peter Dohle Schiffahrt, which owns and manages container ships. Lidl charters the sister ships viking and jadrana according to Alphaliner. Both ships were built in China and delivered in 2014 and 2016. Each has a carrying capacity of 4,957 20-foot boxes or 2,430 40-foot boxes including reefer plugs for 600 containers. Each of the ships is 836 feet long and has 58,000 dwt.
Peter Dohle is also reportedly arranging the purchase of a third ship for Lidl Talassia, built in China and delivered in 2005. The 68,288 dwt vessel can carry up to 5,527 20ft boxes and has 500 refrigerated plugs. There was no information about the price paid for the ship.
Michael Vinnen, Managing Director at FA Vinnen & Co., confirmed media reports that his company has chartered the 51,000 dwt Mercury ocean to tailwind. On his LinkedIn account he writes: “We are very pleased to be working with Tailwind Shipping Lines and are proud that they have chosen our ship. So don’t forget to shop at Lidl markets to keep our ship fully loaded.” Mercury ocean has a capacity of 3,868 TEU including 500 reefer plugs.
Lidl has declined to give details of its shipping plans, but Alphaliner is speculating the ships will operate between Asia and Europe. The company has more than 11,000 stores that it reports operating in 32 countries, including an entry into the eastern United States in recent years. They speculate that first sailing will begin this summer.
The German newspaper Handelsblatt points out that Lidl is not the first German company to seek greater control over its shipping. According to Handelsblatt, companies such as Esprit, Christ, Mango, Home 24 and Swiss Coop are working with the Xstaff Group to manage the transport. The company reportedly has several individual voyage charters for a ship bearing the name Leila, a 2,700 TEU container ship operated by CULines. However, Lidl is the first to buy a container ship and charter ships on a long-term basis.
At the height of the supply chain disruptions and backlogs, a number of US retail companies reported that they had also chartered ships to transport goods from Asia, but again these were strictly short-term charters, often using bulkers to ship the goods to close the gap in container transport capacity.