Himilco is a Belgian logistics company run by Charles Meeus. In June 2020, it changed course. Charles has been in the logistics sector for more than 20 years. Last year, he decided to take his company in a new direction. "I used to be a freelance consultant at Seafrigo. That partnership ended after six years," Charles begins.
"That was just before COVID-19 broke out. At first, I tried to find other partnerships - not easy during a lockdown. So I started my own business. I already had the experience and connections. Himilco was born partly out of necessity. But now, a year on, things are going well. The company's growing every day."
“COVID-19's been weighing on the whole world since 2020 began. Besides the health risks, the global economy's unbalanced. This virus has significantly affected the logistics sector too. There's still a shortage of containers. Spot prices are at an all-time high. And many things are still uncertain," says Charles.
"The food sector's been spared, in part, because people must keep eating. That sector's generally been doing well. To start a new business in these uncertain times is challenging. But I'm happy to have been greatly supported by shipping companies and suppliers. They gave me confidence. Without that support, I wouldn't have come this far."
Himilco organizes everything. From transport from suppliers to delivery to the client's door. The company's mainly active in West African countries. "We do frozen meat, but also seasonal products. These include potatoes, onions, carrots, and white and red cabbage. We do some non-perishable cargo, beverages, and canned goods too. We're currently mainly focusing on exports. However, we want to do imports too. You have to find a healthy balance in your business. Diversification is a good example of that," Charles explains.
Booking freeze, West Africa
“Last week, shipper Hapag Lloyd announced a booking freeze for West Africa. [Morocco's] Tangier harbor is becoming overcrowded. That's resulted in very long waiting times. Ships can no longer berth there, which causes congestion. This booking freeze is one of the most extreme actions a shipping company can take. But other shipping companies are facing the same problem."
"The global pandemic is affecting dockers and harbor staff. So, ports can't work at full capacity, which creates major issues. Europe's going in the right direction by vaccinating its population. That doesn't mean West Africa and other areas in the world are already at that level. As long as people outside Europe don't get vaccinated, these significant challenges will continue," Meeus continues.
Service and communication
Himilco focuses on service and quick, direct communication. That distinguishes it from its competitors. "I'm in close contact with my customers. Every question comes to me, allowing me to respond quickly and accurately. That's vital in this sector. Small mistakes can have considerable consequences, and rates change quickly. I also try to brainstorm with my clients, and they appreciate that. I try to bring parties into contact with each other too. That's when they're in search of a particular product. That creates a bond of trust and is a win-win for both parties."
“It's now almost a year later. I can reflect on a successful year," Charles says. "I hope to expand the company or establish a nice partnership. Then we can continue to grow. I also want to focus more on the commercial side of things. Even though I really enjoy the operational side. We're working towards a time when the market will begin to boom again. I expect it to pick up when the crisis is over. We have to ensure we're ready by then."
"Fun fact - our company is named after the Carthaginian navigator and explorer Himilco. He lived in the fourth century BC. Himilco wrote about sea monsters and other dangers. He presumably did so to discourage competing seafarers. We all try to be the best and keep our competitors in line. Even in this day and age," Charles concludes, laughing.
For more information:
4 Maurice Leytens Street
B-2610, Wilrijk, Belgium
Tel: +32 (0) 470 135 035