TradeLink & Associates GmbH – Breakbulk & Projects

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Interview with

Mr. Kevin Kastens
Manager Breakbulk & Projects

Kevin Kastens Portrait

Mr. Malte Bode
Head of Breakbulk & Projects

Malre Bode Portrait

First and foremost Kevin & Malte, can you tell our readers about the history of TradeLink? Who are the owners of the company?

TradeLink & Associates GmbH was founded in September 2020 and became operational by January 2021.

We have all been working together as a team with the previous employer for several years, before Thomas Butz and Harald Dönselmann decided to establish their own business organization and to continue and improve what they successfully developed during the previous 20 years (approximately).

Looking at how exciting the journey was until then, there was no doubt that we should support this step and become part of the “new” team as well.

Tradelink & Associates GmbH Interview Photos 02

I understand that you are specialized in chartering. Many companies tell me that they are good in chartering. Please tell our readers what makes you the company to “go to” for chartering matters.

First of all (and linking back to the previous question), both the management of the company and the employees have vast experience in chartering and the specific terms for many years, allowing us to work out the best possible conditions for our client’s requirements.

In this regard, we like to point out that we have strengthened our position as the neutral and reliable partner of all project forwarders throughout the last two decades.

Second, we have very long lasting relationships with major owners in the particular trades we are serving, giving us a great market overview and the ability to find the right tonnage at the right time.

To go more into detail here, our main trades are from North Continent / UK / Scandinavia to the Mediterranean / Marmara / Black Sea (and vice versa), as well as from/to Russia, Caspian Sea and Sea of Azov.

The latter, however, are on hold for the moment due to well known reasons.

Besides these trades, we concluded some interesting overseas project shipments, e.g. from China and UAE to Europe, as well as from European ports to US and Mexican ports during the last 12 months.

Last but not least, it is not only the chartering which is a part of our core competency, but also the professional evaluation, operation and post-fixture view on the entire picture for each and every cargo/shipment which is fixed with us in order to ensure a smooth and trouble-free performance.

So our credo is that the job is done to a satisfactory level only when all parties involved are happy with the result.

Tradelink & Associates GmbH Interview Photos 01

Are you a shipowner or are you finding the tonnage in the market for inquiries, and how do you differentiate yourself from others?

We do not own tonnage, and thus are looking in the market to connect the cargoes of our clients with the right vessel at the right time.

Having said that, due to our good connection and network/partnerships established, we have partly an exclusive access to some particular tonnage and are able to always find a good solution.

How do you view the shipping market at the moment from a “chartering” perspective?  It has escaped no one that the market is incredibly strong and owners hold all the cards. What is your view on this overall?

Indeed the market is very strong and has definitely changed since early 2021.

A lot of owners we work together with will recall that there were times during the last years where the situation was quite difficult, i.e., the availability of vessels/space was much higher than the actual demand.

So we always try to have in sight, together with both our clients and owners, the long-term point of view and proceed on a “take and give” basis.

“Be gentle today and have a good working environment with satisfactory outcomes for all parties involved tomorrow as well” – this is how our business approach can be summarized best.

Tradelink & Associates GmbH Interview Photos 03

Russia and parts around Russia seems to be a no-go area at the moment due to the war in Ukraine. Has this affected your business, and if so, how are you dealing with it?

As mentioned earlier, our business is definitely affected as our services destined for Russia including Northern Russia and the Russian inland waterways as well as the Caspian Sea (the latter being served by Russian flagged river-sea-vessels and barges (lo/lo and ro/ro) are suspended until further notice due to current situation.

It is not only that the cargoes to Russia are missing as a lot of Shippers have stopped their activities to these destinations, but also the in-depth cooperation with Russian ship owners is affected currently.

However, TradeLink has diversified their portfolio and has entered into other markets/trade lanes, where we have built up good relationships with both clients and also ship owners. Besides, existing trades have been strengthened and improved as well.

Still, needless to mention that we hope the situation in Ukraine is going to improve as early as possible – not only from a business point of view, but especially from a humanitarian position.

And finally a personal question, why did you choose a career in shipping and what made you decide for shipping?

KK: I always had a maritime relation. Starting with several vacations on a sailing boat, my family moved to Wangerooge (a very small island in the North Sea) when I was 16 years old. On the beach promenade of Wangerooge you can see all the different vessels / vessel types going to Wilhelmshaven, Bremerhaven/Bremen and Hamburg which fascinated me once I looked at the North Sea. Starting my career in shipping in 2011, I loved the personal touch from the beginning. Even though we are trading and working internationally, this “breakbulk and project world” is still a very small environment where you meet everyone not only twice. I learned really quickly that breakbulk and project cargo is still a very personal business in a really fast-growing and digital world which is why I have never regretted choosing shipping.

MB: I can mainly share what Kevin stated. There has always been a relation with the maritime industry within my family, as some members have been working in the shipping/logistics industry for a long time. The positions they have taken always sounded like it was a very interesting branch, and so far, I have not been disappointed with all the good times I was able to witness. The personal relationships which I have developed within the industry for the last 13 years since I have become part of the shipping world are a fantastic experience, and it is good to see that such relationships are still worth a lot when it comes to a good cooperation and way of doing business. That is exactly what makes this industry so exciting and keeps me inside of the “circle”.

How is it best for our members to reach you?

Best way to reach us is to give us a call or a short email: 

info@tradelink.gmbh / Phone: +49 (0) 421 572 328 00
kevin.kastens@tradelink.gmbh / Phone: +49 (0) 421 572 328 27
malte.bode@tradelink.gmbh / Phone: +49 (0) 421 572 328 29
thomas.butz@tradelink.gmbh / Phone: +49 (0) 421 572 328 28

If you are interested in some of our recent shipments you can follow us on LinkedIn as well.


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