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Hartel – past, present & future ‘The big parcel service to the Black Sea’

For more than 30 years Hartel has been well-known for regular services to the Mediterranean and Black Sea. How did this all start and what will the future hold? John Brobbel, co-founder of Hartel Shipping & Chartering, shares his vision for the future by starting with the past.

How it all began – the past
Since 1991, Hartel is the broker of the Mediterranean and Black Sea. “We sell space on our vessels, a unique fleet of 6 coaster tweendeckers with removable tweendecks and bulkheads. We ship anything that does not fit in a container”. John Brobbel explains: “By using our tweendeck solutions, we can ship twice as much cargo compared to other vessels. Our ‘Vliet’-type vessels are therefore well-known internationally. At Hartel, we offer regular services, which means that customer demand decides which port we will sail to. This flexibility has been part of our identity since the beginning and surely one of our pillars for success.” Hartel started as a broker company. “Only four years later we bought our first ship, John continues. ”The market needed a European controlled shipping agent in the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea area. It had always been my dream to develop Hartel and to design our own vessel. On the 21st of May 2011, this dream finally became reality. On that day my wife christened our first ship, mv. Geervliet. To this day, this lady still sails the international waters”.

In 1999, Hartel merged with Hudig & Veder to enlarge their possibilities in the market and to further extend their services. “Ever since, we have been able to provide the best possible service to our customer by combining our expertise with that of Hudig & Veder.” John says.

 Who we are today – the present
These past ten years have certainly not been the easiest years. Fortunately, the market has changed for the better now. What are the trends in the current market and what led to this sudden shift? John explains:  “We can at least distinguish three factors: COVID-19, the shortage of containers and the situation with Ever Given. Although it brings challenges, for us this market also makes it possible to invest in our fleet. We must meet various climate targets, install new systems on our vessels and we would like to renew our fleet every 15 years. One of the new systems we will install is the water ballast treatment system. This is a system designed to remove and destroy biological organisms (zooplankton, algae, bacteria) from ballast water and to minimize the negative effects to the water conditions in a specific sea. An important system to help us value our planet.”

 Where we are heading – the future
“If I have to describe Hartel in three words, it will be flexibility, commitment and trustworthiness”, says John Brobbel. Mainly because we offer regular services, commitment is one of the key values that distinguishes us in the market. We have customers that have been working with us since the beginning in 1991. When we say we will be there, then we will be there. No matter what. I still remember one time when we had promised a customer to sail to a certain destination on a specific date. The cargo only covered half of the vessel. Most of the time, the vessel would have been cancelled, but not with us! We performed the agreed voyage. because we value our customers. No matter what, we are here for our customers. Anyone can name interesting key values, but you need to own them. With our steady customer base, it is important to further develop and continuously improve our services. Coming years, we will focus on our partnership with Hudig & Veder. We have merged our offices and will work on optimizing our relationship. I am really looking forward to this. After all these years, I am far from done with this sector and I keep on learning new things. I sincerely hope that this maritime sector will remain a people business and will keep its charm by attracting a new generation that is as passionate about it as we are.”