Navigating Waves of Innovation: A Glimpse into Cornelder Holding’s Maritime Success

Cornelder Holding, a Dutch family-owned logistics maritime provider and NABC member, redefines the traditional norms of logistics maritime in Europe to rebuild and thrive in Africa, all while embracing corporate social responsibility and fostering cross-continental partnerships.

20th of February 2024 Member Spotlight

In the vast ocean of global maritime and logistics businesses, Cornelder Holding excels in innovation and resilience. At the helm of the Dutch family-owned enterprise, is Ellen van Dam, a visionary CEO and the fifth generation to guide the company’s journey that began in 1814.

A Global Maritime Force with a Local Touch

Cornelder Holding’s operations span the globe with a particular focus on Europe, Africa, and partly Asia. From its headquarters in Rotterdam, the company coordinates various subsidiaries, including the Royal Burger Group, a logistics and maritime powerhouse. Recognising the need for transformation in this traditionally conservative sector, the Royal Burger Group underwent a strategic reorganisation to embrace digitalisation fully.

“Logistics maritime is quite an old-fashioned business. To survive, we need to think out of the box and identify the added value of logistics maritime today,” remarks Ms. van Dam. This forward-thinking approach led Cornelder

Holding to invest in cutting-edge logistics support and optimisation software. Prominent examples include LINKTHINGS, a financial support software featuring robust BI dashboards, and COLDCHA, a track-and-trace solution guaranteeing traceability and optimal transport conditions for sensitive cargo. This solution not only adheres to regulations but also allows for precise identification of location, content, and responsible parties in case of damage.

A Tale of Rebuilding and Resilience in Mozambique

One of Cornelder Holding’s significant triumphs is its subsidiary, Cornelder de Mozambique, a public-private partnership between Cornelder Holding and the Mozambican government managing the Port of Beira. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the port has transformed from the ruins of the civil war’s aftermath. Ms. Van Dam reflects on the challenges they faced in the initial years: “Big parts of the port were destroyed, there were no computers, no centralised system. Cornelder de Mozambique built up the port again.” Since then, developments have more than doubled. Today, Cornelder de Mozambique employs 750 people, of which 5 people are expatriates.

The company’s journey, however, was not without setbacks. The tragic loss of five management team members in a plane crash in 2017 and the impact of Tropical Cyclone Idai in 2019 tested the company’s resilience. “These incidents have a huge negative impact, but they also strengthen the team and further build the bond between the community,” shares Ms. Van Dam. A fact that is reflected in Cornelder Mozambique’s employees. “The Mozambicans we work with are very nice and capable people who are eager to do business and advance operations, even though they do not always have the resources to unfold their capabilities as effectively as possible. But they are very open to learning, and support and knowledge can be easily transferred. At Cornelder de Mozambique we have experienced first-hand how much people are willing to accept knowledge support and to collaborate to grow,” says Ms. van Dam.

Apart from knowledge transfer “It is very important to us to give back,” says Ms. Van Dam and thinks about Cornelder’s commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR). The company actively engages in various projects, providing support in health, education, and even investing in innovative businesses like Africa Pura, a Mozambican company tackling dust pollution in terminals and ports.

Learning from Africa: Patience, Trust, and Mutual Respect

“Doing business on the continent,” Ms. van Dam emphasises, “requires stamina, patience, and building trust-based relationships. Africa is one of the continents that will grow the most. With all the resources Africa has, it holds a huge economic potential to give back and supply the world with what it needs.”

Acknowledging the diversity of cultures and mentalities, Ms. Van Dam urges a mutual respect between European and African business approaches. “African workforce and entrepreneurs have their own experience, knowledge, and expertise. Sometimes, Europeans can be quite arrogant towards them, which we have no right to be.”

As Cornelder Holding expands its footprint in Africa, Ms. Van Dam advises businesses to understand local conditions and culture: “It’s about having a risk appetite, being adventurous, and investing time to bridge the gap between different ways of doing business.”

Charting Future Courses with NABC

In the pursuit of shared successes and challenges, Cornelder Holding joined the NABC as a member in 2016. “It is always very good to have a network with which to share similar successes and challenges, exchange experiences, and guide people by doing so,” says Ms. Van Dam. This collaborative spirit reflects the company’s ethos of fostering connections, exchanging ideas, and potentially exploring joint ventures or partnerships.

To learn more about Cornelder Holding and its subsidiaries, visit