New haulier in drive for Scottish business
SEAFOOD companies in Scotland may still be anxious about transport to the continent post Brexit but at least there will be no shortage of logistics experts offering their services.
Most of the country’s farmed salmon is currently handled by logistics giant DFDS in Larkhall, but as of May there is a new option – and it is looking for Scottish business.
Set up by Irish seafood logistics specialist O’Toole Transport and Luxembourg based refrigerated distribution specialist John Driege, JDOT Logistics will be based at a central distribution hub at Bellshill near Glasgow.
JDOT Logistics will collect fish and shellfish from processors and markets in Scotland and transport it overnight for arrival the next morning at John Driege’s distribution centre in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, for onward delivery to customers throughout Europe.
The venture was launched during the Brussels expo, where Fish Farmer caught up with O’Toole, director of the new group, at his stand in Hall 3, which had already attracted at least one Scottish salmon producer.
‘We’ve been looking at Scotland for four or five years and last year a depot became available in Bellshill,’ said O’Toole.
‘When I saw it my heart missed a beat because it was exactly what I wanted. It’s destiny, it has to happen, now is the time.’
Scotland is a new market for O’Toole, who has been operating in Ireland and Europe until now, but his partner, John Driege, already had some Scottish contacts.
‘He’s a friend of mine since 2006, he was at my wedding in 2008, so the friendship goes back for many years.
‘I was just speaking to John about different things we were doing in our business and mentioned Scotland and he said, oh I’m trying to do something in Scotland as well.
‘John is based in Boulogne which is a key area for all seafood exports handling in France and he would handle the product on behalf of Scottish customers.’
O’Toole, based in Galway with a depot in Dublin, said he was very proud of the service he offers his current customers and wanted to provide ‘a bit of choice in the market’ in Scotland.
‘One of our Irish customers said yesterday if she got the transport 20 per cent cheaper she wouldn’t move because she’s so happy with the service.
‘I was delighted to hear that. When we work with customers it’s about partnering with them and, for us, providing a service so our customers know exactly where their goods are all the time.’
The fleet of 100 trucks will not only be tracked for location, but will also track temperature when the goods are in transit.
‘It gives great peace of mind to the customers and it makes our job very easy. We can explain to the customer where the truck is and what time it’s going to arrive.
‘Our aim is to offer the Scottish seafood sector, especially those with guaranteed next day delivery requirements, a premium refrigerated service where they are confident that their customers will get their orders on time and in the best possible condition.’
O’Toole said he thought potential customers would value having a closer relationship with a smaller operator.
‘Customers have come to us today and said it’s not going to be about price, it’s going to be about service.’
As for Brexit concerns, O’Toole said Driege has specialists in Boulogne depot to deal with the paperwork.
‘In the port of Boulogne they’re opening a customs clearance hub and the fast-tracking system will apply to everybody – the depots are for all to use, and they can drive their lorries in there the same as anyone else.’
Since O’Toole saw the Bellshill depot last March he has already attracted some Scottish customers, and in Brussels he was busy meeting potential new clients.
He has been in talks with some of the Scottish salmon farmers, as well as smokers and downstream processors.
Up to 10 jobs will initially be created at the Bellshill distribution hub, but it is anticipated more will follow once JDOT Logistics becomes established.
And he said he had had no problems recruiting drivers.
‘The door has been beaten down by Scottish drivers looking to come and wok for us. We have a great workforce in Ireland, we have already hired two drivers in Scotland.
‘Our trucks will be in Boulogne from Ireland every day so the Scottish drivers are speaking to our drivers and they know it’s a good firm to work for and like the idea of going to a smaller company.’
O’Toole admitted that people are a bit nervous – ‘they say if we move to you are you still going to be here in six months’ time’.
‘We’ve signed the lease for six years and want to be here in six years’ time. Our plan is to grow and hopefully build a new place down the line.’
The Bellshill unit is 20,000 sq ft unit, with five loading bays and parking for 30 trucks.
‘It’s going to grow from there. The model I’m looking at is in Dublin, where we rented a warehouse five years ago, very similar to the one we have now in Bellshill.
‘And we bought a site in Dublin last year –it’s kind of a five-year process, get the depot, get the customers, outgrow the depot, buy a site, build a new big depot.
‘The place we’re building in Dublin is five times the size of the one we moved into five years ago.’
“Customers have come to us today and said it’s not going to be about price, it’s going to be about service”
Above: Laurence O’Toole in Brussels Left: O’Toole with business partner John Driege and part of the their fleets