January 25 - Yesterday's news of Safmarine MPV's appointment of the Royal Burger Group as its agent in the Netherlands and Belgium, is seen as a sensible move by many in Antwerp.

"The appointment of independent agents with understanding of the breakbulk business seems like a logical first step," said independent consultant, Albert Pegg, who is well placed to comment, having been one of the forefathers of Safmarine's MPV operation in the first place.

Asked where else the company would be making appointments, managing director, Jorg Knuttel said: "Watch this space. We vetted a considerable number of agents prior to the appointment of Royal Burger and more appointments will be forthcoming."

Knuttel also confirmed that prior to this latest development, a sale of Safmarine's MPV operations had been an option and serious discussions were held with a number of players.

"The potential buyers were all very professional but in the end, parties could not come to terms," he said.

Knuttel added that: "The implementation of bespoke IT and operational systems designed for purpose, rather than legacy systems based on container shipping, also bodes well for the future health of the standalone Safmarine MPV company. We have an owner that is prepared to back us, a small team that is well-versed in the management of breakbulk and project cargoes and a fleet of ships purpose-built for the West Africa trade. We have a good business plan, and as an independent operation, a great opportunity to implement it."

Another factor in favour of the newly independent Safmarine MPV is that it is operating services into an area where rates are better than in other trades, whilst the move to an independent operation with its head office in Antwerp seems sensible in light of the historic relationship and connections between the port and West Africa.

Some background on the services operated by Safmarine MPV can be seen here: http://mysaf2.safmarine.com/wps/wcm/connect/a5c5108045d23d8fa5c3b7e5af471095/MPV+brochure_rev2.pdf?MOD=AJPERES but HLPFI understands that a full website is being developed and a temporary one will be revealed soon that will be use as a channel to communicate developments until the proper site is ready.