"I like that Hapag-Lloyd is constantly on the move" - Interview with our new head of Area France

France is one of the biggest and most important Areas of Hapag-Lloyd in Europe with around 200 colleagues working there. Officially since mid-September, they have a new Area head: Peter Mertens. Time to ask some questions to the new Managing Director”.

Peter, congratulations to your new position as Managing Director of Area France. What are the biggest differences compared to being the Sales Director in Benelux – your job before?

Being Managing Director entails being much more involved in all blueprint functions of course, taking responsibility for the overall Area. France, in addition, has the added attraction of having port of calls both on the North Continent and the Mediterranean side which makes it double as interesting.

What are the key challenges in your new daily work? What do you like about it? What not so much?

What I like about it is that I learn a lot each and every day. What I don’t like is that my French language knowledge is not yet at a level to express myself in the manner I would like to some times. However, this is work in progress and I will continue to work hard on it.  

Peter Mertens is managing director of area France since 15th of September, 2017. He studied maritime business in Antwerp and has been with Hapag-Lloyd for 23 years. Previously, he was Director Sales both in the Areas UK & Ireland and Benelux. He’s married and has two sons.

How about the French market? How was 2017?

Both UASC and Hapag-Lloyd have done well in the French export market, growing well above market.

Does that mean that the French economy is doing very well?

Yes, signs are fairly positive with the major French companies showing positive results.

What are the main import and export goods Hapag-Lloyd is transporting to and from France?

This is France, so foodstuffs and beverages, are always going to be somewhere in the export top, whilst with customers like the automotive business also remains strong alongside the other more general commodities. As France still has some very strong homegrown retailers’ consumer goods in general are still big business on the import side.

What is our market position in France?

We had a good market share in the North Continental market and with the addition of UASC we now gained a lot of momentum in the Mediterranean. We now have 22 liner services connecting the country to the world.

How can we do better – what are the key initiatives to improve our market position in your Area?

The size of the country means that having a sustainable network of container depots that support our carrier’s haulage-initiatives can prove vital to some of our clients.

How do you perceive the culture of Hapag-Lloyd at the moment?

I like that Hapag-Lloyd is constantly on the move. I would lie if I said this wasn’t challenging at times but being innovative and trying to look at things differently is necessary to stay ahead of the pack.

Why did you choose shipping for your own career?

Antwerp born and raised it felt like destiny to go into the shipping world. And so far without any regrets.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I leave that the others to judge…I hope at least ‘supportive’ and ‘fair’ are aspects that come to their mind.

How do you relax when you are out of office – what are your passions in life?

Football is a big passion of mine. Now in France I will try to increase my running sessions again.

Back to Top