135 years of BLG

Free Port 1
Free Port 1 in October 1888

BLG is turning 135. In February 1877, 65 merchants founded the “Bremer Lagerhaus-Gesellschaft - Aktiengesellschaft von 1877”. They concentrated their warehouse capacities, which were scattered throughout the city, by the water, and also bundled together the handling of sea cargo. The idea sparked a long success story for Bremen – interrupted only by the two World Wars, with their trade embargoes, and the structural crisis resulting from the political and economic changes taking place towards the end of the 1980s, particularly from the fall of the Iron Curtain.

BLG’s performance profile has grown through history and continuously expanded over the course of world economic developments. The port company once limited to Bremen and Bremerhaven has thus expanded considerably. The corporate group has been developing into an international logistics service provider since 1998, and is now present in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa. 

Bremen experienced a boom as a port and trading city when services were concentrated together for the first time in German seaport history. New port capacities were soon needed. Free Port I was completed as early as 1888, and was the world’s largest and most modern port basin at the time. As the owner, the city of Bremen entrusted BLG with full operation. Free Port II and the grain facility were soon added. BLG also took over the free ports in Bremerhaven in 1953, and the Neustadt Port Basin in Bremen in the 1960s.

BLG, the pacesetter for developments

The first containers came across the Atlantic to Europe in the mid-1960s, and Bremen became the first German container port in May 1966. The containers needed special equipment and vast open areas, which is why construction began on the Bremerhaven container terminal in 1968. To date, the terminal has grown to almost five kilometres in length over several extension phases.

In the early 1970s, electronic data processing was considered to be a major production factor at BLG, prompting the emergence of the Bremen Ports database and the world’s first port information system in 1973. Handling companies, freight forwarders, shipping agents, load controllers and authorities all followed suit, and the bases for IT networking were laid.

When the Japanese car industry started its export offensive in the late 1970s, BLG was there right from the start, and itself began building the Bremerhaven car terminal. Today, Bremerhaven is one of the world’s largest vehicle hubs with over two million vehicles handled every year.

Through its founding and the over 100 years of company history which followed, BLG has consistently proven that it can act as a pioneer in all major developments. This innovative strength also demonstrated, as became apparent in the 1980s, that port handling and warehousing alone were no longer economically sufficient. To strengthen its added value, BLG expanded its range of services, and the first logistics centres emerged in Bremen and Bremerhaven.

The way out of the crisis

The Eastern markets collapsed in the early 1990s. Classic goods flows broke down, while others sought new routes. Both these aspects affected BLG’s core business. The company did, however, reinvent itself with a global strategy following its restructuring in 1997, and became an international, seaport-oriented logistics service provider.

The formation of the corporate group soon resulted in the new name of BLG LOGISTICS GROUP AG & Co. KG. The “Bremer Lagerhaus-Gesellschaft, Aktiengesellschaft von 1877” was the general partner and managing director of the limited partnership, while the municipality of Bremen was the limited partner. With 50.4 percent, it also held the majority of the stock corporation’s share capital.

BLG today works with the operational business divisions Automotive Logistics, Contract Logistics and Container Logistics. By developing new business fields and expanding the services and geographic coverage, the local port company has become an international logistics group, and the close partnership with the city of Bremen has provided the solid basis for this. BLG’s “publicly owned – privately managed” model has met with great interest in other countries around the world when it comes to privatising public property.

The three BLG business divisions act in specific markets, but also complement one another in a number of other fields, or create fully integrated logistics chains as consolidated services.

The Automotive Logistics division

Automotive Logistics deals with ready-made vehicles, and essentially involves worldwide distribution from the manufacturers to the dealers in the destination countries. With a volume of over six million vehicles in 2011, this division further cemented its position as Europe’s leading automotive logistics provider.

The terminals by the sea, by major rivers and inland are the cornerstones of this division, and are enhanced by transportation by road, rail and water, as well as by technical centres. Here, PDIs (Pre-Delivery Inspections) are expanded to include the integration of special features, such as DVD systems, mobile telephones, navigation systems and sunroofs. Retrofitting of special series is also part of the services offered. A modern truck fleet with over 500 vehicle transporters connects the seaports with over 7,000 dealers. 1,300 special wagons have currently been purchased to transport vehicles by rail.

Apart from the sea terminals in Bremerhaven, Gioia Tauro, Cuxhaven, Hamburg, Gdansk and St Petersburg, the division also operates several terminals on the Rhine and Danube, where seven barges are used to transport cars. The Danube connection is part of BLG’s Eastern strategy. In the East, the company and its services are represented in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, while car terminals are also run in Poland, Ukraine and Russia.

The Contract Logistics division

The Contract Logistics division creates complex, individual logistics solutions for trade and industry customers. Services are concentrated on the main discipline of car parts logistics, as well as industrial and production logistics, trade and distribution logistics, seaport logistics for conventional cargo in Bremen, and the BLG Coldstore at the Bremerhaven container terminal. Logistics processes for offshore wind power are currently being developed as a new business division.

In contract logistics, not all services can be bundled into a set location network. That’s why BLG is investing in places where the customers need the services. Logistics centres and special plants now work for reputable customers such as adidas, BMW, Mercedes, MAN, VW, Siemens, Konica Minolta, Ikea and Griesson – de Beukelaer at over 30 locations in Europe and abroad.

The Container Logistics division

BLG’s Container Logistics division is being developed by the EUROGATE joint venture, Europe’s leading terminal operator. It is based on the continental terminal plan and the addition of container transport services. The network includes transport by rail, road and water, as well as logistics services for containerised goods.

The terminal network covers the locations Bremerhaven, Hamburg, Lisbon, Gioia Tauro, La Spezia, Ravenna, Salerno, Livorno, Cagliari, Tangier and Ust Luga. 2012 will see the Wilhelmshaven EUROGATE container terminal added. In 2011, 13.3 million standard containers (TEU) were handled in the terminal network, with the strongest locations being Bremerhaven and Hamburg.

Recent development

2011 saw BLG achieve a total sales revenue of over one billion Euros for the first time. Pre-tax earnings will be around 48 million Euros. In 1998, the first financial year after the restructuring, the sales revenue was just under 250 million Euros, with pre-tax earnings of around five million Euros. The corporate group including all holdings now provides around 15,500 jobs; this was around 3,000 in 1998.

Historic developments: Photos available for download in our Picture archive

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