Heavy lift and transport company Roll-Lift has burst into the international arena

By Alex Dahm23 January 2012

Frans van Seumeren, owner of Roll Dock, Roll-Lift, Barge Master

Frans van Seumeren, owner of Roll Dock, Roll-Lift, Barge Master

A company built on experience that presents a unique offer is the premise of Roll-Lift, a new international heavy lift and transport business. Owner Frans van Seumeren and top managers explained the company and its mission to Alex Dahm.

A new heavy lift and transport service for land and sea has burst into the international arena. Many readers will know and most will have heard of the new company Roll-Lift's owner, Frans van Seumeren. Van Seumeren was owner and CEO at the world's largest international heavy lifting and transport company, Netherlands-based Mammoet.

While Roll-Lift is a new venture (IC December 2011, page 6) and has a dedicated workforce and managers, it is part of van Seumeren's heavy lift shipping company RollDock, also headquartered in the Netherlands. As such, it is an additional area of activity for that same company that extends its capability.

Adding cranes to the portfolio was a natural progression for Frans van Seumeren and his team. The step to cranes and Roll-Lift is a simple and smooth one, he says, because RollDock is already a transport engineering company specializing in heavy lifts, it is just that the work was done with ships and their onboard cranes.

Van Seumeren takes up the story, "We really want to offer clients a door-to-door solution with heavy lift ships, transport trailers and to do the installation work. Beforehand this was difficult because we had other shareholders in RollDock and we had the family van Seumeren at Mammoet. It was more or less not possible to start then with a transport and heavy lifting company.

"Then when I took over the other 50% shareholding in Roll Dock and the family van Seumeren left Mammoet I thought why not, it is quite logical, we must create Roll-Lift next to RollDock. Then you can do more or less everything."

Roderik, Patrick and Jan Junior van Seumeren left Mammoet in July 2011 and "directly after that, I was thinking, 'now is the moment'", Frans van Seumeren explains. There are no plans for the other van Seumeren family members to be part of Roll-Lift.

"Strike while the iron is hot" is apt here as there has been no hanging around in getting the new company off the ground. The first ideas for Roll-Lift were discussed in July and early August 2011. Then, "In September, we set up Roll-Lift and in the same month ordered the first cranes," says Wout van der Zwan, Roll-Lift and RollDock CEO.

Since then a healthy Euro 55 million (US$ 70 million) has been invested in equipment at a time of widespread economic downturn when elsewhere in the industry general crane rental companies and others are struggling due to a shortage of work. "If you start in an upturn you are too late so you start now, in a downturn, as it gives you time to establish," explains Jan Smout, Roll-Lift COO.

Roll-Lift/RollDock offers integrated project services in heavy lift and transport on sea and on land. "We are a little bit unique because we can do everything - the transport, the lifting and the engineering, at sea and on land," van Seumeren explains. It is a chain of logistics where the company can play all the different roles.


"The way that we are going to build up this company is: Roll-Lift, Roll Dock - two names, one company," van der Zwan explains. "Two names, one company - that is important," van Seumeren emphasises. There is so much synergy between the two that effectively it is one company with two names.

Engineering, QHSE (quality, health & safety, environment) and human resources will each be one department for both areas of the business. "Also, if you look at all the other shared services, for example, insurance, information technology, legal, administration and fiscal, there are a lot of synergies," Adriaan Aarts, RollDock and Roll-Lift CFO, points out. "And the nice thing is that the clients are also more or less the same. They are the big construction companies, oil companies, and so on," van Seumeren says.

You have to look back 11 years to find the last company that in principle could offer integrated services with its own equipment, Smout says. "Now there is a company again that can do it. We can offer an integrated land and sea lifting and transport service using our own equipment. In that respect we are unique in the world."

Helped by van der Zwan's 30 years of experience in heavy lift shipping, that side of the business is sorted, otherwise a major barrier to entry, not least in terms of cost. Then, "It is easier for us to go from the shipping side into the land-based business because Frans already knows that market," Smout explains.

"There are lots of projects, especially in petrochemical and mining, that are long-term, two years or more, where you can commute up and down with a ship and where you have to load, discharge, transport and install major components and other loads - and those are the projects where we can have an advantage," Smout continues.

The areas they are focusing on at the moment are where the big competitors are less well established, van der Zwan says. In Russia and Latin America most of the work in the past has been done on a project basis, quoted from the home offices of the companies involved and then a team dispatched from there too. Instead, Roll-Lift has set up there.

Competition is rife in Europe, the Far and Middle East, both from international and local players, while, "In Latin America and Russia, where we have established ourselves, we think we can have a much bigger impact," Smout says. "This is evident with our first major contract in Latin America in which our director Latin America, Ton Bakker had a major role. Ton will oversee all markets in Latin America and, with his extensive experience in our field as well as local knowledge, has already created a healthy inflow of projects."

It is the same in Russia where Vyacheslav Zakharov and Anja Kogut are at the helm applying their many years of experience, Smout explains.

In that respect the discussion is not in terms of competitors. "We have our own means of working. We look for transport solutions for the client," van der Zwan says.

"We are not going to restrict ourselves to say that, for example, on a combined project, roll dock can only tender for a project together with Roll Lift. No, we want to give the client the best solution whether it is with our equipment and our ships or with our ships and another company's transfer equipment or vice-versa," Smout explains.

Further synergies are presented in the offshore industry by another of van Seumeren's companies, Barge Master. It develops and produces wave compensated platforms for the marine and offshore industry. These can be used to carry cranes or delicate cargoes that need to be isolated from the motion of the sea. Barge Master is being developed together with Bosch Rexroth and the Marin maritime research institute.

Going to work

"We are an engineering company with ships, cranes and transport but the basic idea, of course, is that we want to be contractors," van Seumeren comments. One of the first contracts is a project in Uruguay to install a pulp paper factory. The first shipment of cranes and equipment was already on its way in early January. It included 16 cranes, mostly telescopics but also a crawler, plus forklifts and aerial platforms. Twenty axle lines of Scheuerle SPMT will also be used. In April another six cranes will start, seeing the project through to the end of the year.

"Working with a crane is always delicate. You have to lift something, sometimes in very difficult circumstances, in refineries, for example. You want to have the best equipment that you can buy," van Seumeren comments.

Instead of inheriting a mixture of equipment, Roll-Lift has started with a clean sheet of paper in terms of being able to choose the best range and combination of equipment. Among many advantages, one is that "while the market is not so good we can get good prices from the manufacturers," van Seumeren observes.

The crane fleet is 40 units, around half of them telescopic boom cranes from 55 to 500 tonnes capacity, mostly from Liebherr but also from Tadano, Terex and Grove. Most of the wheeled mobiles are all terrains but there are some rough terrains. In the crawler fleet are eight units, from 130 to up to 1,350 tonnes capacity, including a Liebherr LR 11350, two LR 1750s and a few LR 1350s.

The 1,350 tonne capacity LR 11350, due for delivery in April, will be the first unit to have the new P-Boom capacity enhancement system. Destination is Russia, with an LTM 1500, LTM 1350 and maybe others.

Also in the fleet are 17 tower cranes, all at work building in Brazil. Some are new while the majority are used units. There is good demand for these cranes in Brazil, for example, for the World Cup football, Olympics, infrastructure projects and offshore fabrication yards, Aarts says. "It is not our aim to become a big tower crane company but here we have good rental prices and long contracts," van Seumeren explains.

While cranes account for about 95% of the investment so far, in the transport fleet there are 60 lines of hydraulic platform trailers in a mix of SPMT and conventional. SPMT includes 20 lines of Scheuerle generation 4 while new Goldhofers have been bought for Russia and some Scheuerle K25s for South America. Six heavy duty prime movers are combined with the conventional trailers and low beds and flat beds.

Reliability of the equipment and after sales service are primary considerations, especially due to the often remote areas of operation. On principle, the first choice is to go for new equipment but where the work is project-driven used is an option where new is unavailable in time. There is something to be said for mixing the age of equipment too as this phases replacement, Aarts says.


Experience is a key requirement among the rapidly expanding workforce. It is a firm belief that it is the people that make the company, Aarts says. "In the end only quality survives." In addition to the management team of five, for Roll-Lift there are 20 people in Brazil, 40 in Russia, 10 in Nicaragua and there will be 48 in the Uruguay project team composed of several nationalities.

"Being a young and vibrant company we attract a lot of attention from people in our world of expertise, very much willing to join our organisation," Smout says.

Looking ahead

"We ordered an LR 11350 without work and we are about to order a barge or barges, so we have a vision of where we want to grow, what we want to become and for that we need certain equipment," Aarts says. Smout already expects that the SPMT fleet will grow significantly as what has been bought is already booked for a year.

"We have €55 million invested so far, in the first three months, and I am sure it won't stop in the next three years. There is a lot of ambition around the table but there are no fixed plans for where we want to be in two, three or five years," Aarts says.

"We have the people, we have the know-how and we have the engineering," van Seumeren continues. And he doesn't rule out the possibility of super heavy lift cranes, "Not yet but certainly we are already now looking to other solutions, together with Huisman."

First things first, Roll-Lift has to become a quality company. The overall standard has to be at the highest level, Aarts says. "We are working hard to get our ISO 9001, 14001 and 18001 certification."

"We have a lot of knowledge in-house and that also means we understand how difficult it is to perform in the right way but that is what we want to do. We start in Uruguay in January. It is a full time job for our 48 people there to get the organisation in place. There is no option to fail, we have to perform there and we have to perform well. It is our name, it is our equipment," van der Zwan concludes.

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