If there are any problems with fresh produce loads anywhere in the world, the companies can be helped out by an agent of DPS. “We have an international network of agents and we have built up our expertise in this sector over the years,” says Hans Frans, Operations Director of DPS. “We are active in multiple sectors, including wood, steel, and petrol. Our activities share in the transport insurance market is about 80%; about 25% of this is all about fruits and vegetables.”

Fruit experts
DP Survey Group N.V. is established in Zwijndrecht near Antwerp and has another office in Senegal to coordinate the business on the African continent. DPS is an independent expertise bureau and made a new start in 2003. Before that the company was called ITS. “We have a large team of fruit experts, of which some work in the main office, but most work on different continents. When talking about batches of fruits and vegetables, we work with very different varieties, in harbours as well as in airports. The reason that we have been established in Africa is that it is very important to have someone from DPS on the spot. The more a country needs development, the more interesting the market is for us. They perform many checks, because they are more focused on export in Africa. For example, beans from Kenya, kaki fruits from Côte d’Ivoire, you name it. China was very important to us ten years ago, but the growth in Asia has stagnated a little bit. Africa is a growing expert market for the coming years.”

Complete package
He says that they offer a complete package in terms of expertise and he gives an example: “Suppose that an insurer from New York reports a problem in Saint-Petersburg, then someone with experience in the language and the sector can be on the spot very quickly. Knowledge of the language is especially important in complex files. Our local agents take over and take care of all related issues, including the necessary files, documents, and instructions. We have built up competence in many other countries, as well as in Russia. With ITS, we used to have our own offices in Russia, but now we make use of the services of agents that are connected to our network. These agents work exclusively for DPS and this happens mainly in Eastern Europe. In Western Europe, there are mainly non-exclusive agents that offer services to DPS. These also perform tasks for other companies.”

Other areas
He says that the trade embargo has decreased the activities in Russia significantly. “Fortunately, the fresh produce sector – and we as well – has found its way to other areas. Belgian pears go to countries such as Canada, China, and India, and we can perform our expertise over there as well. For the next few years, I expect mainly growth on the African continent, with regard to import as well as export. One notices that the vibe in Africa shows a readiness of entrepreneurs to be more active internationally. Our expert teams are very enthusiastic about it as well.”

Various causes are possible
If there is a notification of a certain insurer or customer in the fresh produce sector, then an agent from DPS can go as soon as possible to the cargo to investigate. “We can investigate this immediately on board and we can check what caused the problem. Something could have happened during the journey to the cooling unit or there are certain diseases in the fruit: many different causes are possible. We write an extensive report about the problem and we can pass this to the insurer, or sometimes we pass it to the shipping company. We also take over tasks from insurers; whatever the customer asks of us.”

More cases, less damage
According to Hans, there is a noticeable difference compared to the past. “The frequency of damaged cases is higher, but the size of the damage is smaller and there is generally less money involved. This has to do with the fact that there are more containers shipped than in the past. If something went wrong in the past with reefer ships, usually it affected the whole cargo. If something goes wrong with a container, the damage is limited, because containers are obviously smaller than reefer ships.”

For more information:
Hans Frans
DP Survey Group NV
Baarbeek 1
B 2070 - Zwijndrecht (Belgium)
T: +32 3 295 1050
F: +32 3 295 1069