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100 Year Anniversary at Lübeck

In 1919, 22 years after the founding of Fr. Meyer´s Sohn (FMS) in Hamburg, a branch was opened at Große Altefähre 21 in Lübeck | Germany. It immediately began its activities as a shipping agent.

For the sole proprietor Ernst Meyer and his authorized representative Willi Nupnau, one of the main reasons for opening this branch was the proliferation of large cellulose shipments for the German cellulose industry, which FMS had to process itself. White sugar was also being shipped in sacks to Königsberg from the Tangermünde sugar refinery, which belonged to FMS's founding family.

Despite the hyperinflation which began in 1923, FMS remained the only carrier in Lübeck not to have to let staff go under the difficult circumstances. That is because, in 1924, the first paper wood shipments handled by FMS Lübeck began. The following year saw the opening of a dedicated shipbroker's department, and clearance also began to be done at Lübeck.

Despite the bombings and military occupation, Lübeck survived the War without significant damage. But orders declined over 1947/48, which presented the firm with another challenge. They quickly recognized the opportunity that lay in the fact that large wood and cellulose shipments would have to begin just as soon as heavily damaged manufacturing plants were repaired. Most of these plants began their repair works in 1948, and big paper wood shipments began as expected in 1951. FMS then began to dominate the forestry products sector again, as it had before the War.

Former apprentice Kurt Fischer, who began a three-year apprenticeship as a shipping agent at Fr. Meyer's Sohn in Lübeck in April 1949, remembers the difficult times following the War. He wrote about his time at FMS in a series of articles in LHG-Tugmaster. Kurt Fischer recalls how, after the War, other things were done in addition to shipping agency work, to keep business alive. For instance, they got heavily involved in interzonal transport of household effects and parcels. They also tried to earn money through warehouse services, horse-drawn carts for local cartage and furniture removals.

An apprentice's wages at that time were: 30, 60, and finally 90 marks per month. Working hours were Monday to Saturday, 7.30 am to 1 pm and 3 pm to 6 pm. To begin with, Kurt Fischer worked in the FMS warehouses - called 'Schuppen' back then - to learn the trade from scratch. These served mostly as depots. By then FMS was already operating with the slogan "FMS - not just a carrier, an advisor", as Fischer recalls in the LHG-Tugmaster. Kurt Fischer worked for FMS for a total of 43 years, 20 of which as managing director. He was also on the Board and was the deputy chairman of the Lübeck Carriers' Association.

The Lübeck branch got its own trucks for the first time in 1948, and they were old military vehicles. Kurt Fischer remembers them too: "The company used these vehicles to start a regular service between Lübeck and Hamburg, and it picked up well and kept running right into the 1990s."

After the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany in September 1949, a feeling of freedom and internationalism and a spirit of optimism were felt once again at the port, and the first flows of shipments of mass-produced goods began. Export goods arrived in Lübeck as rail breakbulk, complete railcar and truckloads, collective rail/truck consignments, and by barge. If shipping agents managed to arrange things so that they could load complete railcar and truck loads straight onto a ship, then the transshipment costs would be significantly reduced.

The Lübeck branch opened three offices there over the next few years.

  • A ferry office at Skandinavienkai in Lübeck-Travemünde, which mainly dealt with customs clearance for trucks and trailers arriving from Sweden on ferries.
  • A truck and furniture department at Schwartauer Landstraße 89, for what was then the main activity: truck transport within Germany and removals. By 1999 FMS Lübeck had ten vehicles for long distance transport and three furniture vehicles.
  • There was a seaport office at Große Altenfähre 21 in the city center. The main activities were import clearance of cellulose, paper, and wood coming from Sweden and Finland, and export clearance of new vehicles made by big name manufacturers and going to Sweden, Finland, and the Baltic States.

When the EU expanded in 1995 and Sweden and Finland joined it, there was no longer a basis for the office in Lübeck-Travemünde, and it was closed. They decided to combine forces and merge the shipping agency and truck haulage businesses into one unit at Schwartauer Landstraße.

The company moved to its current location at Alter Kühlturm 33 in 2007, with its new office buildings and spacious parking for the fleet.

The Lübeck office remains especially active in the forestry segment, which includes paper, cellulose, and lignin transport. These are transported in the beginning and end segments of their journeys by the company's own 40 trucks inside Germany and to and from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. The company ensures that its own trucks are of high quality and ready for the future. All of them comply with the EURO 6 standard, they are equipped with fleetboards to supply track & trace data, and all of the trailers have Joloda systems. The first 13 trucks with turn-off assistants will be brought into the fleet this year.

The premises in Lübeck have 1,250 sqm of storage space for handling paletted goods such as paper, viscose, and lignin. As well as forestry products, FMS Lübeck exports and imports machinery and commercial and passenger vehicles to and from Scandinavia and the Baltic States. FMS Lübeck carried almost 1.2 million tonnes in 2018.

FMS Lübeck began with two employees in 1919, and 71 FMS colleagues now work at the location, 46 of whom are drivers, and 5 apprentices. The next century saw many turbulent events, but FMS always kept its eye on the latest situation and future needs, which enabled it to steadily become by far the biggest company of its kind in Lübeck.

Author
Nadine Kinscher-Masur

Corporate Head of Marketing at Fr. Meyer's Sohn

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