Blog: Seafood logistics giant DFDS on Covid-19, Brexit and cold storage demand – BusinessLive

DFDS has underlined its commitment to the seafood industry, as it weathers the supply storm that coronavirus has brought and invests for the future.

The shipping and logistics giant carried 96 million kg of fish products in 2019, bringing product into the UK in partnership with Eimskip and moving it the length and breadth of the country, primarily from Grimsby.

As lockdown emerged it completed on a deal to buy an express delivery service based in the town to complement the trailer business it operates, and has also invested significantly in a single site base on South Humberside Industrial Estate.

Now further cold storage, Brexit preparations and building back up are on the agenda.

Operations director of the business segment, Ivan Weatherhogg, addressed a webinar hosted by Grimsby and Humber Seafood Forum.

He said: “Come March 23, when lockdown happened, 55 per cent of volume dropped away in two weeks, with the French market closing, Spain and Italy closing borders.

“It is still a struggle now. We have had to furlough employees. The short term effect was a great drop off of trade, we are starting to see the longer effect of it. A lot of businesses have either ceased trading or closed for a short period of time, whether we see them come back is questionable.”

One that will emerge in DFDS livery is that of the logistics business it acquired.

David and Peter Colley outside the current premises on Grimsby Seafood Village. The business has been acquired by DFDS.
(Image: DFDS)

“We finalised the deal to buy the Colley Brothers van service run out of Grimsby, to use as an express service. At the time it seemed good business, both needed each other.

“We needed smaller van service and Colley Brothers had got to the stage where they were looking to increase into bigger trucks. It was a marriage made in heaven. 

“It was unfortunate timing, as it happened just before lockdown, but we still have that business, we still intend to run an express service and hope to see that grow.”

“We keep making investments in the site. At Estate road Two we have created a single operating hub there, and we have brought the fresh business, the express business and frozen business together. The intention is to keep investing in the site as we go forward and hopefully the fish business will pick back up.”

And further cold storage could be a consideration for DFDS, with Mr Weatherhogg saying capacity was at a critical level.

“Cold storage is at breaking point in Grimsby at this moment. It is down to last year, on the back of Brexit, everyone wondering about what they are doing with stock. Then, as that started to ease, we got the pandemic.

“We have seen cold storage sustain a very high level. It is something we look at, and if we invested it would be around the Grimsby area. We have got cold storage facilities elsewhere, in Larkhall (Scotland), and it is possible we would look at other sites, but the problem is cold storage is expensive to build.

“It is hard to predict, but it is something we have sustained a good living out of and it can fluctuate along with everything else. We will look at it, we may or may not build something, but it is something we are taking seriously.”

Other Brexit preparations have included establishing a team on the French border.

“We have had four years since the initial vote, there have been a number of false dawns, we maintain that we hope for the best but prepare for the worst, and have significantly invested here,” he said, referencing training as well as infrastructure. The wider business has created a larger footprint at Port of Immingham to handle slower vehicle through-put, and has been at the centre of contingency planning with ferries, services and other elements.

“Clearly Calais will be the port of entry into Europe and we have a team there,” he said.

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