TEU Shipping and Forwarding Group has been providing a variety of transport and logistics services to clients across the globe for almost two decades. The parent company was founded in 2004 in Thessaloniki with a focus on shipping, however, over the years, the company’s portfolio, as well as the number of offices, constantly grew. Today, the company’s network consists of companies in a total of 5 countries – Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, China, and since last year – Serbia.
In 2022, the TEU Shipping and Forwarding Group recorded a turnover of €120 million and currently employs around 250 people. A total of 70,000 TEU were transported via shipping, 2,800 tons of goods with air transport, about 19,000 shipments in international road transport, as well as slightly more than 13,000 m3 in collective container transport.
In its first year of operation in Serbia, the company recorded notable results. Additional expansion, investments, and hiring of new staff are on the agenda, Ninoslav Krstevski, Managing Director at TEU Shipping & Forwarding d.o.o., said in an interview with PlutonLogistics.
The primary reason we opened an office in Serbia was to connect the region and unify services in the Balkans since we already had offices in Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania. Also, knowing that Serbia is strongly oriented toward Rijeka and Koper, we wanted to connect Thessaloniki and Piraeus with those ports, so that our clients could rely on all the options they require, says our interlocutor.
– The Group currently has 13 offices in five countries. In Thessaloniki, where our headquarters is located, Piraeus port and Athens airport, Greece, Plovdiv, Varna, and Sofia, Bulgaria, Bucharest and Timisoara, Romania, and Shenzhen and Xiamen, China. We have three offices in Serbia – in Belgrade and Leskovac, and recently we opened one at the Belgrade airport. Our presence in several strategic locations allows us to provide an even better service.
PL: The first year of a company’s operations always poses the greatest challenge. If we look at the figures, what kind of results did TEU Shipping and Forwarding achieve in Serbia in 2022?
– We started working on more serious volumes in May of last year, until then we needed to wrap up procedures concerning registration, employment, etc. In the end, 2022 ended with a turnover of €4.7 million and a positive financial score, which is a significant success for a startup and the “year zero”, especially when taking into account the unfavorable global economic conditions.
In 2023, we continued to grow, in the first six months, we reached the financial results from the previous year, increased the number of employees from 19 to 25, and the number of clients by 80%. We plan to double the results compared to 2022 by the end of the year, as well as to have at least 30 employees.
PL: What was crucial for a good start?
– Firstly, the fact that we decided to hire skilled experts, with a decade or more of experience in this industry. This allowed us to provide our clients with an enviable level of service.
In addition, we should not forget the fact that the company in Serbia, although very young, is part of a renowned group that has been operating for almost twenty years and providing services to over 8,000 clients worldwide. In Greece, for example, we are one of the three leading logistics companies in the field of container transport. We cooperate and communicate with colleagues from offices in other countries daily, providing each other support in various situations and exchanging experiences.
PL: Which services would you highlight as the most important for clients in Serbia?
– TEU Shipping and Forwarding, at the group level, provides all services in the field of logistics and transport.
I will mention only a few, as far as shipping is concerned, the transport of goods by full container loads (FCL) and unitized load (LCL). We have weekly consolidated unitized lines in imports from China, India, Canada, and the US to Europe, and exports from Europe to the US, Canada, Arab countries, China, India, and Cyprus.
In international road transport, we have regular unitized lines with Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece, as the main connections with our offices, as well as with Italy, Spain, Germany, and Portugal, through our partners.
We also do all kinds of air shipments. We opened an office at the Belgrade airport to expand our services in that segment. Also, we are able to support time-critical shipments as well.
In order to be able to provide a complete logistics service to our clients, from the very start, we established a sector that deals with customs mediation in Serbia, where we have our own bank guarantee for the purposes of moving goods into free circulation. We provide this service throughout Serbia, directly through our already-mentioned offices or through our reliable partners.
We take great care about the safety of our shipments, so for the second year in a row we have a contracted forwarder’s liability policy for €1,000,000, and at the request of our clients, we additionally insure the goods in transit.
PL: What industries do your clients in Serbia come from? What types of goods do you expect in the future?
– Our Group provides services to the most diverse types of industries and there are almost no restrictions on the type of goods – we transport everything, “from needles to locomotives”.
All of this also applies to Serbia, we transport everything from lumber and fertilizers, food and beverages, and automotive industry shipments, to pharmaceutical products, cosmetics, clothes…
So far, we signed several contracts with global companies from the automotive industry, as well as the food and beverage industry. We carry out a large part of our business in export activities, through our office in the port of Thessaloniki.
This year we signed the first 3PL contract in Serbia, with a foreign company that is marketing its products in Serbia and countries in the region and uses Belgrade as a regional center for all logistics activities. The specificity and our advantage in this work is the expertise of our employees and a developed network of reliable partners, which made it possible for us to provide this type of service through the outsourcing of certain activities. We already have some confirmations and we expect new contracts by the end of the year, so our client portfolio will certainly expand.
PL: Do you intend to have your own warehouse in Serbia, as is the case in other countries where you have offices? What else is on the agenda for 2024?
– Yes, we are already thinking about it, and next year will definitely be the year when we will invest in equipment. The goal is to complete the preparation and planning in the next few months so that in 2024 we can open our own warehouse. We will also consider the possibility of investing in vehicles, but it is too soon to talk about it. We will certainly analyze market trends.
Also, by the end of the year, we will apply for the IATA certificate, which our offices in Bulgaria and Greece already have.
For the needs of customs representation, we are planning to open more offices in Serbia, depending on the jobs we will get and the contracts we expect.
PL: What are your plans when it comes to additional hiring of staff in Serbia? Will there be room in your team for young people without experience?
– Investing in people is actually the backbone of our plan for the first two years, to bring together an expert and experienced team. Most of it, as I said, we have already done. We will continue at the same pace throughout the year, to form a base of 30-40 employees who would then transfer knowledge to their younger colleagues.
In the next phase, we will start hiring personnel without experience, whether those who just graduated from university or those who are just starting out their career. We want to pass on to them not only the skills and knowledge but also the values that we cherish within the Group. In logistics, as well as in a large number of other activities, there is a shortage of professional staff today, which is why investing in young people is the right way to grow the team in the future.
PL: We mentioned how important it is that you are part of a group with a long-standing successful tradition, as well as that you have great support from teams from other countries that are members of the TEU network. What else sets you apart on the Serbian market, and what would you highlight as your advantage?
– First of all, the fact that we are flexible and agile since we are not a corporation. We are independent in our work, we can meet any client’s request more quickly and simply. Furthermore, we are financially stable and independent. We have no debt, all of our investments we funded ourselves so far. Finally, but just as importantly, I would also like to mention transparency and timely communication with both clients and all our partners.
PL: Before we began this interview, you mentioned that TEU Group is strongly focused on networking – both through membership in various global networks and the development of partner relations. Tell us more about it.
– Networking is an extremely important part of our business – TEU as a group today is present in around 20 different global networks in the field of logistics. The company in Serbia is a member of six networks.
We carefully nurture partner and agency relationships. We have partners in 195 countries, and we can support our clients with any service in any of those countries, whether it’s importing or exporting goods to those countries. In the coming period, we plan to expand our partner base, both in Serbia and globally. Globally speaking, we currently have more than 10,000 partners.