How Ahlers became a creator of opportunities in logistics


1909 – The Beginning

  • IN 1909, Oltmann Johann Diedrich Ahlers, first director of "Deutsche Dampfschifffahrtsgesellschaft HANSA" (Bremen, Germany) sends his son Heinrich to Antwerp to start up agency operations. His other son Herwig goes as a trainee to London.

Surviving Two World Wars

  • After the first World War, HANSA restarts shipping lines to India and to the Persian Gulf.
  • A new shipping agency is opened in Antwerp, by the name of "Bureau Maritime H.D. Ahlers" (Heinrich and Herwig are partners). The company handles very important tonnages, inbound as well as outbound.
  • In the 30s, more shipowners entrust their agency to the company, transforming Ahlers into one of Antwerp's leading shipping agencies.
  • Second World War: Bureau Maritime H.D. Ahlers closes down. Heinrich Ahlers passes away in 1943.
  • 1950: Herwig Ahlers restarts HANSA as a shipping line in Germany, enabling agency activities in Antwerp once again.
  • 1952: the company name is changed into "Bureau Maritime H.G. Ahlers" and André Leysen, son-in-law of Herwig Ahlers, joins.

The Sixties and Seventies: From Agency to Ship Management

After the death of Herwig Ahlers in 1963, André Leysen becomes chairman of Ahlers.

  • Two ice-class ships for the liner service to Finland are acquired.
  • Ahlers enters the liner trade to USSR (via Latvian ports) and Sweden.
  • Ship management activities are developed for a fleet of reeferships and bulk carriers ordered at Belgian yards.
  • Stinnes AG (Germany) becomes 75% shareholder of Ahlers in 1970.
  • Ahlers moves to new offices in the Port of Antwerp, where we still make our home today.
  • Acquires minority participations in various ships.
  • Sells its participation in Rhenus Antverpia to Stinnes.
  • Becomes minority shareholder in the tramping company Bocimar in 1975 and the stevedoring company Gylsen (1980).
  • CMB becomes minority shareholder in Ahlers' ship management activities.
  • Through absorption of Bocimar and Gylsen by CMB, Ahlers becomes a minority shareholder of CMB and participates in later capital increases.

From the Eighties until start of a new Millennium: Internationalisation

  • Ahlers acquires Ghent-based De Baerdemaecker (a commodity logistics and warehousing company).
  • Offices are set up in Russia, Latvia and later on in different CIS States (first in the ports and later inland, as far as Central Asia). In 1993 a joint venture with the Shanghai Port Authority develops into a network of owned offices in China.
  • Furthermore offices are opened in Indonesia, Singapore and India. Today Ahlers is a well-established player in the international forwarding industry in the Far East and Indian subcontinent.
  • Ahlers ship management focuses on specialised niches (chemical tankers and offshore), complemented by training and security services.
  • Ahlers sells its participation in CMB (1991).
  • In 1994 control of the company is brought back into family hands. Christian Leysen, the grandson of Herwig Ahlers and managing director since 1989, gives Ahlers back its status as privately owned company.
  • Liner trade to Finland is transferred to Stinnes (1994) and Ahlers divests from ship ownership.

21st Century

  • Ahlers operates in 3 continents with partners elsewhere, expanding its focus on international logistics towards specific industries (fine chemicals, tobacco, consumer goods).
  • Investment in own warehouses in Belgium and Russia.
  • Focus on supply chain optimisation and data analytics.


We act for today and plan for tomorrow.

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