Rail as an alternative

Containers are currently in short supply worldwide, and there is a lack of capacity on ships – a problem, especially during the Christmas peak season. Militzer & Münch Germany meets this challenge by using rail transport. Thus, for two customers, six complete block trains were put together to run between China and Duisburg.

Due to the imbalance in trade between China and Europe, a large number of containers are stranded at European ports and terminals. This often results in a shortage of containers for transports from Asia to Europe – especially during the important fall and Christmas business.

“It’s like in real life: if you plan early enough, it’s easier to make ends meet,” says Michael Spitzlei, Head of Business Segment Rail at M&M air sea cargo GmbH. ” For transportation by rail, individual containers or space are always offered. However, handling shipments by sea to and from Europe is challenging in many respects at the moment, and the booking situation is critical.” Industrial customers often get their space from shipping companies only at the current daily or market rates, instead of the originally agreed contract rates. That is why many shippers are currently switching to rail, like some of Militzer & Münch’s key accounts, for example.

For the customers, one of them a global wholesale chain, Militzer & Münch set six complete block trains on their way from China to Duisburg in August. The German Rail team worked closely together with their colleagues from Militzer & Münch China on these transports. Total transit time from terminal to terminal was 25 days – despite congestion at the borders, it was thus within the usual time frame. The trains were all fully Militzer & Münch trains, exclusively transporting 50 x 40’ high cube containers with goods for the Militzer & Münch customers. Thus, especially in times of crisis, rail proves to be a reliable alternative to sea transport.

At Militzer & Münch France: selective growth continues

Militzer & Münch France has acquired the supply chain management specialist ACTE International based near Grenoble. A good investment: Customers benefit from top service – Militzer & Münch identifies new growth opportunities.

Whether smooth supply chain, customs and foreign trade regulations, or the avoidance of corruption risks: cross-border business continues to be a challenge for companies. With ACTE International, Militzer & Münch now has experts on board in Grenoble, experts who offer customers consultancy, service, and training on all aspects of the supply chain (see info box).

This way, Militzer & Münch is consistently expanding its competence in France: In 2018, the company already founded its own customs agency with offices in all its transport branches, i.e., Lille, Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux and Nantes. And a few months ago, Militzer & Münch France took over ITP and ITPL, two companies of the LPS Group (Logistique et Prestations de Services), which specialize in transporting goods to the Maghreb countries – one of Militzer & Münch’s key markets.

“The specialists of ACTE International complement our portfolio in the fields of global supply chain management, customs, CSR, and compliance,” says Guillaume de Laage de Meux, who is Managing Director of Militzer & Münch France and at the same time Regional Managing Director South West Europe / Maghreb. “We are confident that with the new offer, we will also be able to convince new customers of our potential.”

“Militzer & Münch has been active between Europe and North Africa for many decades. We manage procurement and distribution logistics for our customers, relying on our profound industry know-how – for example in the pharmaceutical, textile, and automotive sectors. And we see that shipment volumes are increasing from year to year, as for our customers in Europe, the Maghreb states are the logistical bridge to Africa.”

Guillaume de Laage de Meux
Managing Director Militzer & Münch France, Regional Managing Director South West Europe / Maghreb and Member of the Board of Directors of M&M Militzer & Münch International Holding AG

ACTE International – a supply chain management specialist

As an expert in cross-trade, ACTE International has been active in all aspects of supply chain management since 1995: as a freight forwarder and full AEO customs agent, as an auditing and consulting company for international import-export trade, and as a recognized vocational training center. Here is an overview of the services:

Supply Chain Management

  • Coordination and optimization of global supply chains
  • Engineering and management of cross-trade transactions
  • Subcontracting export sales administration
  • Operation of complex import/export logistics

Customs management

  • Customs expertise and consulting for European operators (import/export)
  • International customs coaching
  • Customs and tax optimization
  • Operational customs centralization

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

  • Consulting on CSR implementation at local and international level
  • Social, environmental, construction safety, and anti-corruption audits
  • Assessment and mapping of CSR and corruption risks in the international supply chain
  • ETHIC Intelligence certification* of anti-corruption programs and systems


* ETHIC Intelligence is a certification agency which focuses in compliance and anti-bribery audits according to ISO standards. Specialized auditors certify against ISO 37001 and ISO 37301, while also providing general audits for channel partners, suppliers, and against ISO 19600.

New terminal inaugurated in Sofia

Smart, efficient, and future-oriented: on May 19, M&M Militzer & Münch BG Co. Ltd. officially inaugurated its new transshipment terminal in Sofia. The cross-docking facility is equipped with state-of-the-art technology, thus ensuring the efficient handling of general and groupage cargo. At the same time, it forms the basis for Militzer & Münch Bulgaria to continue growing in the road freight sector.

The new facility was built to fully meet the requirements of Militzer & Münch Bulgaria. Its transshipment area covers 1,800 square meters. Incoming and outgoing shipments are handled via 16 loading gates, and scanned with the latest generation industrial tablets. A high level of security is ensured; among other things, the entire facility is video-monitored by 60 cameras.

In addition, the facility offers 880 square meters of state-of-the-art office space, creating ideal working conditions for the entire administrative and road transport team of Militzer & Münch Bulgaria. From the terminal, Militzer & Münch mainly serves Germany, Italy, France, Benelux, Spain, and Northern Europe.

“With the new cross-docking facility, we intend to continue expanding in the road segment,” explains Sacho Todorov, CEO M&M Militzer & Münch BG Co. Ltd. “Thanks to modern technology, our cargo handling operations have become more digital; we are increasing efficiency and raising the quality level even further. We are thus opening up additional opportunities for our new and existing customers.”

Too big for any door

Out-of-gauge: between May and October 2021, Militzer & Münch transported seven autoclaves to Uzbekistan for a manufacturer of construction and household materials. The weight – 83,000 kilograms each – and the dimensions of the autoclaves posed some challenges for the Militzer & Münch Uzbekistan team, but these were not the only hurdles they had to overcome.

An autoclave is a sealable high-pressure chamber that can take various forms. In industry, autoclaves are used for such purposes as curing building materials, vulcanizing tires or for sterilization. Autoclaves can also be found in the kitchen at home, as pressure cookers are also classified as autoclaves.

The dimensions of the seven autoclaves Militzer & Münch transported for the customer from Northern Germany to Chirchiq near Tashkent, however, hardly remind one of cooking pots. “With a length of 45 meters and a diameter of four meters, the autoclaves are so big that the factory where they are going to be used for manufacturing aerated concrete building blocks has to be built around them. No door would be big enough for them to be installed afterwards,” says Yulduz Babajanova, head of the projects department at Militzer & Münch Uzbekistan. “On-time delivery was therefore an essential factor in the time schedule for the construction of the Chirchiq factory.”

Multimodal – and via different routes

Militzer & Münch Uzbekistan delivered the autoclaves to their destination in three shipments. Since there are no standard solutions for transports of this scale, the project team worked with three subcontractors; different routes and various multimodal combinations were used. “Nikolaus Kohler, our Regional Managing Director for Central Asia, advised us on our own choice of subcontractors,” says Yulduz Babajanova. “A shipment with these dimensions entails various challenges. For example, after arrival in Uzbekistan, each of the three shipments had to be taken to the construction site with a convoy of escort vehicles to ensure maximum security. In addition, we were not flexible with transit times.”

Delays in St. Petersburg

The first transport was started in May 2021. Militzer & Münch transported two autoclaves from the point of origin in northern Germany, first by truck and then via inland waterway to Antwerp. There, they were loaded onto a freighter and shipped to St. Petersburg. In St. Petersburg, however, there were severe delays because the Russian Railroad was unable to meet transit times due to a rail platform overload. The cargo then continued by rail to Shymkent in Kazakhstan and from there by truck to the construction site in Chirchiq.

Due to the delays, the first transport took 135 days – the longest transit time of the three transports. To prevent this from happening with the second shipment, Militzer & Münch chose an alternative route. Up to St. Petersburg, the two autoclaves took the same route. From there, however, the cargo did not continue by rail, but was carried on the Volga-Don Canal across the Caspian Sea to Aktau in Kazakhstan. There, the cargo was transferred to trucks and covered the rest of the way by road – the entire transport took only 60 days.

Transport number three was even faster. It took only 55 days to transport the three autoclaves from northern Germany to Chirchiq. Here, too, the cargo was first taken to St. Petersburg, but then continued via the Volga-Don Canal to Tolyatti in Russia, and from there by road to the construction site.

A satisfied customer

“Despite the delay, we were able to handle the transport to our customer’s full satisfaction and deliver the autoclaves within the scheduled time,” says Khurshid Kasimdzhanov, Managing Director of Militzer & Münch Uzbekistan. “The customer had already cooperated with us on several projects, and we were able to convince him of our merits also this time. This success is primarily due to the good performance of our team in Uzbekistan, but also to the flexibility and resourcefulness of our subcontractors.”


Containers are in short supply – what is important now

First Corona, then congestions at the ports, and a change in the flow of goods – worldwide, obtaining loading space in containers has become difficult.  Militzer & Münch has intensified cooperation with customers to meet the challenge by providing pragmatic solutions.

There are about 25 million containers in circulation worldwide, transporting about 90 percent of all merchandise traded[1]. But it is only now, as they are becoming scarce and freight rates are skyrocketing, that containers  are gaining the public’s attention.

Unpredictable dynamics – what caused the shortage

The reasons for the shortage are quickly explained: fewer containers were already ordered worldwide in 2019, a consequence of the trade war between the U.S. and China. With Corona the economy went into lockdown, fewer boxes were ordered during this phase as well. At the end of March 2020, more than four million empty 20-foot containers were stored at container manufacturers’ facilities and at Chinese ports – no one anticipated a shortage at that time.

Then economy started to pick up again, but not everywhere at the same time, and not in all industries to the same extent. The flow of goods no longer follows the familiar pattern, and containers have been piling up ever since at the ports where they cannot be handled because there are also fewer operational ships available. In rail traffic on the China-Europe trade lane, congested border crossings are currently complicating the situation. The problem is exacerbated by construction sites in the rail network and flooding, which means that wagons are not available on time either.

Container manufacturers are currently producing the coveted steel boxes at full speed. But the (shortage) situation is unlikely to ease in the coming months, hampering international trade and raising freight rates.

Militzer & Münch offers customers pragmatic solutions

“It is absolutely crucial that we inform our customers early on, in case there are deviations from the original schedule. Because for our customers, the situation is more than challenging”, says Holger Seehusen, Managing Director of M&M air sea cargo GmbH and member of the Militzer & Münch Group Management. “In order to find viable and sustainable solutions, our globally operating teams are cooperating even more closely with our customers, but also with all partners involved in handling the transport, to offer pragmatic and, above all, affordable alternatives.”

Comprehensive and real-time information

Missing equipment, overload at border crossings, or construction sites – when logistics come to a standstill, Militzer & Münch informs its customers promptly. Thus, there is still enough time to look for alternatives, as some deliveries simply must not be late.

Assistance in finding affordable alternatives

Then follows the search for feasible and affordable alternatives. “In consultation with our customers, we look for solutions on how to work around the bottlenecks,” says Holger Seehusen. “This includes finding alternative routes, modes of transport, and procuring equipment. Our big advantage: we can offer all modes of transport.”

New Militzer & Münch containers

Militzer & Münch has also increased its container stock: the Rail Segment, a business unit of M&M air sea cargo GmbH, has purchased a number of 40-foot containers together with Militzer & Münch China. Some of them got branded.

“Delays will not be entirely avoidable in the coming months,” says Holger Seehusen. “But our customers can count on us to do everything we can to mitigate the situation. This requires a lot of extra work from us, which we are happy to do to serve the interests and needs of our customers. Together, we can do it.”



[1] This and the following figures on the market situation are taken from Guillaume Dhamelincourt, Business Development – Product Specialist at JK Capital Management, a company of the La Française Group: www.institutional-money.com/news/maerkte/headline/schiffscontainer-knappheit-bedroht-globalen-handel-205915/

 A Militzer & Münch train arrives in Hamburg after its long journey from China.

52 trucks – from door to door

More than 50 trucks with numerous components started on their route in Germany and Estonia in spring. Overland and by sea, they went to Novocheboksarsk, where a hydrogen plant was to be built from the finished parts. A challenging project – but not uncharted territory for the experienced Militzer & Münch team.

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future. It has many uses and is a key element in ensuring the successful energy shift. So far, hydrogen has been used primarily in the chemical industry, but is also gaining in importance as a fuel for vehicles. However, hydrogen is not a primary energy; like electricity, it has to be produced in special plants.

Such a plant for the production of hydrogen went on its way to Russia – via a total of 52 trucks, most of them special transports with permits and escort vehicles. Over a period of about two months, Militzer & Münch delivered the individual components from Germany and Estonia to Novocheboksarsk. Depending on the pick-up location, part of the cargo went from Hamburg by ferry across the Baltic Sea. The majority of the transports, however, was purely overland.

Good planning leads to the goal

There were no detours for the hydrogen factory to arrive in St. Petersburg for customs clearance, as the project was a door-to-door delivery: the individual parts were picked up from their respective manufacturers and delivered directly to the consignee in Russia. Moreover, to make customs clearance as uncomplicated as possible, the consignee requested classification. Thus, it was possible to declare several parts under the same customs tariff number, and to clear them through customs en bloc.

For a transport of this size, the key issues are good organization and coordination. No problem for the Militzer & Münch team at Filderstadt headed by Hardy Rosentreter. For the customer, a manufacturer of gas purification and gas generation plants, this was not the first order of this kind. Militzer & Münch had already successfully delivered similar plants to Poland and Turkey before.

“The hydrogen factory in Novocheboksarsk is an important contribution to the energy turnaround,” says Thomas Winter, Managing Director at M&M Militzer & Münch GmbH, M&M air sea cargo GmbH. “We are glad that we, as a logistics service provider, are involved in advancing projects in our core regions that support alternative energy sources.”

First LNG truck at Militzer & Münch

Low-emission transports owing to natural energy: Militzer & Münch Serbia now operates its first LNG (liquefied natural gas) powered truck. The specially branded vehicle runs between Serbia and northern Germany, and significantly reduces CO2 emissions on this route.

Thus, the LNG truck is part of the company’s global climate protection strategy. By using the environmentally friendly truck, Militzer & Münch also wants to stand out even more clearly from its competitors. “In the future, we want to expand our fleet by as many LNG trucks as possible,” says Nikola Vasiljevic, Executive Director of Militzer & Münch Serbia.

An eco-friendly alternative to diesel

Like gasoline-powered vehicles, LNG trucks are powered by an internal combustion engine. The natural gas is cooled down and stored in liquefied state, usually in a tank on the side of the truck. While offering the same performance as diesel trucks, LNG trucks cause lower emissions of particulate matter, CO2 and nitrogen.

A premiere: Militzer & Münch Serbia is using a truck powered by liquefied natural gas.

“Flat hierarchies give us space to implement ideas”

Holger Seehusen is a member of the Militzer & Münch Group Management and Managing Director of the German M&M air sea cargo GmbH. Thanks to his 30 years of experience in the logistics industry, he is particularly familiar with the market in Asia. In the interview, he explains why the Militzer & Münch Group’s business has developed well in the past months, and why he considers it a privilege to work in the logistics industry.

Mr. Seehusen, you are responsible for the Militzer & Münch Air & Sea business. How have the two segments developed this year?

Holger Seehusen: Since 2018, based in Frankfurt, I have been responsible for the Air & Sea activities in Germany. As a member of the Militzer & Münch Group Management, I am also responsible for the product development of the Air & Sea sector worldwide. We drive the product development in our de-centrally organized group of companies taking a joint approach and banking on a corresponding implementation, which also means a certain amount of persuasion work needs to be done at the individual country units. Currently, we are working on various projects in these business segments. In particular, the focus here is on sustainability. I must say this is a very interesting task.

Last year, after the difficult COVID-19 months in spring, business development in the Air & Sea activities, but also in particular in Rail transports, was very satisfactory. This extremely positive development has continued in the current fiscal year. Thanks in part to the restructuring measures implemented in previous years, we were already well positioned at the start of the pandemic, and able to master the temporary uncertainty in the industry.

In recent years, we invested heavily in our Trade Lane Management for the USA, Asia and India regions, and opened a subsidiary in Malaysia, thus laying important groundwork for further growth. Yet despite the generally positive sentiment in the industry, I believe we must not allow ourselves to be blinded by the currently good results. Challenges such as digitalization, junior staff, promoting young talent, reducing CO₂ emissions in transport handling and the resulting shift in procurement markets are topics that we have on our agenda. The answers to these issues are indicative of the future of our industry.

What distinguishes Militzer & Münch from the competition?

Holger Seehusen: Militzer & Münch is a family-owned company, and we see ourselves as a medium-sized enterprise. To me, this means that we have high social responsibility towards our employees – probably more than is the case with other large companies. Flat hierarchies give us the leeway to implement ideas. Our colleagues learn early on to take responsibility themselves and to simply try things out. Success and failure depend on open communication and constructive feedback, all of which serve to support personal development in leadership.

Customer satisfaction is Militzer & Münch’s top priority. Where are you in terms of customer satisfaction at the moment?

Holger Seehusen: Before the pandemic, we did a survey among our customers – and at that time, satisfaction was high. In view of the shortage across all modes of transport, the current situation is, frankly speaking, somewhat different. In supply chain management, the general conditions throughout the industry are not satisfactory at this time. It is important to inform customers at an early stage if a transport cannot be carried out as planned. Our customers in the textile industry in particular sometimes have tight contracts with their customers, with conditions where every day really counts. We enter into dialog with the customer very early on, and try to offer alternative transport routes and solutions. Often, we cannot influence whether, for example, a container arrives later, and at a different destination port, than originally planned. The subsequent hinterland transport has then to be rescheduled at short notice.

At some airport warehouses, there is a backlog of several thousand tons! Truckers sometimes wait 48 hours before they can load their freight. In the meantime, some trucking companies have stopped accepting orders that involve picking up goods at airports. In some cases, the shipments may have arrived on time, but it takes long to locate them in the crammed warehouses of airlines and handling agents.

In addition to transportation bottlenecks, we are also facing challenges in finding skilled personnel. Since the September 11 attacks, very strict rules have been in place for personnel at airports – and this also applies for the commercial staff at the transshipment warehouse. Anyone who wants to work there needs a background check as required by the Aviation Security Act.

Have there been any new products in the Air & Sea business in recent months?

Holger Seehusen: We have developed a relatively new product together with our Greater China Trade Lane Management in Frankfurt and our country unit in China: from China by truck via Kazakhstan to Europe, among other things to deal with the shortage of cargo space on other modes of transport. We can draw on our expertise and benefit from having our own country units in Central Asia here. We have been offering this transport alternative to our customers with growing success since the end of 2020.Another exciting project is in the planning stage, namely an air – road service between China and Europe. From Shanghai, goods are to be transported by air to the Kazakh city of Almaty, and from there on to Europe by truck. As a freight forwarder with particular expertise in niche markets, we are experienced in such alternative transport models. In view of high freight rates and a shortage of capacity for sea transport, this product is certainly an attractive alternative for our customers.

As a matter of fact, we can claim to have recognized and understood the potential of rail transport between Asia and Europe at an early stage. The new Silk Road still holds a lot of potential for the Militzer & Münch Group. Which is why, some time ago, we incorporated the Rail segment into M&M air sea cargo GmbH; a team of four coordinates all our rail transports from Düsseldorf.

From the Düsseldorf office, we have also further expanded our project logistics by sea segment. In Hamburg, we would like to continue growing in air freight, especially in AOG together with our colleagues in China. Moreover, the Militzer & Münch Group is striving for GDP certification, the certificate of Good Distribution Practice, so we can expand our service portfolio for pharmaceutical companies.

For some time now, container shortages and transport bottlenecks have been affecting the industry, and Militzer & Münch is feeling the effects, too. Have there been any shifts in transport modes?

Holger Seehusen: Oh, absolutely. To give an example, we had to fly 40 tons of steel from Europe to Mexico – a shipment that had originally been planned as ocean freight. Our great advantage is that we cover all modes of transport and can quickly offer alternative solutions. One thing applies here, however: we need to keep an eye on the liquidity of our customers and partners, who in turn depend on their own customers to pay on time. Some shipments were planned well in advance, but freight rates skyrocketed, and that’s not easy for every customer to shoulder. We always have to be beware of financial risks.

You’ve been active in the logistics sector for a long time. What fascinates you about the industry?

Holger Seehusen: I have been at home in the industry since 1991. Before I joined the Militzer & Münch Group in 2018, I had been with Rhenus Logistics for over 17 years in various areas of responsibility and working in different regions. This included Germany as well as interesting assignments in CIS countries, but especially in Asia and then for many years in Southeast Asia, before I decided to go back to Germany in 2016. After returning, I realized after a while that it was just not my “home” anymore, and that I wanted to try something new. Despite my long years in this industry, I have a lot of fun and am still learning every day. Frankly, I feel it’s a privilege to still have that fun and that daily challenge – that’s what drives me. I think I can transfer that enthusiasm to my colleagues with whom I work directly. At least that’s what I hope, but my professional environment is a better judge of that.

What advice would you give to young people who want to pursue a career in the logistics industry?

Holger Seehusen: The industry is very diverse and offers great development opportunities. What is particularly appealing is the internationality, which often gives us a different perspective on things. If you’re curious, you can make good use of the opportunities this industry offers – and that’s what I hope to convey every day with my management approach.

Our challenge as an industry is to improve the image and the multifaceted opportunities of the profession. For example, as part of our cooperation with the University of St. Gallen (HSG), we sponsor the annual Supply Chain Innovation Day and, in September 2021, were part of the panel. In my view, this is exactly the right approach to being visible as a company and getting more young people interested in logistics.