August 3, 2015

Bicentennial bliss: celebrating 200 years of forwarding

2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the forwarding business as we know it. In 1815, Louis Danzas founded the company that still forms the backbone of DHL's Global Forwarding, Freight division.

In 200 years the world of freight forwarding has changed dramatically. But one name has remained consistent throughout Danzas. It may have been absorbed into the DPDHL Group, but its legacy remains. Visit regional offices and you'll still find the name on branded posters and merchandise, or a Danzas map proudly displayed on a wall. Many long-timers still think of themselves as 'the Danzas band'.

But what's the story behind the Danzas name? And how did it manage to survive – and even thrive – for over two centuries? The story begins at the end of a war and the resounding defeat of Napoleon's Grande Armée at Waterloo. A demobilized young French lieutenant named Marie Matthias Nicholas Louis Danzas, or Louis Danzas for short, decided to seek his fortune by joining a small freight forwarding company called Michel l'Evêque, Etablissement de Commission et d'Expédition, in St. Louis, France. By 1840, Louis had moved up the ranks to become joint owner of the company, now named Danzas and l'Eveque.

The company took advantage of new technologies and the rapidly expanding rail and steamship routes in Europe. In 1855, it merged with the transport companies Favier-Gervais Vonier and Ouzelet & Cie to form a new general partnership, Danzas, Ouzelet & Cie. 

Rapidly expanding

Louis Danzas remained a senior partner of the rapidly expanding company until he died in 1862, at which point his son, Emile Jules Danzas, succeeded him. Jules Danzas began to expand his branch network in Switzerland establishing an office in Basel. New mountain tunnels and rail links enhanced Basel's role as a trade center on the Rhine River at the point where Germany, France, and Switzerland meet, and Danzas took advantage of this geographic position to forward freight between these countries and to the larger continent beyond. In 1886, Laurent Werzinger became chairman of the company and he expanded Danzas' branch network, acquiring an interest in the Rhine steamship company, Basel Rheinschiffahrt AG. 

Fast forward 37 years. Danzas suffered great material and personnel losses during World War II, but its base in neutral Switzerland remained intact, allowing the company to make a speedy postwar recovery. Fritz Hatt took over as chairman in 1948 and under his leadership the network of branches was expanded in Switzerland, France, Germany, and Italy. The company's name was changed to Danzas AG in 1960. New branches were established in Greece, Spain, and Portugal and representative offices were set up in Latin America and New York and other commercial centers. International expansion continued throughout the 1980s and by 1989 Danzas had established representative offices in 36 countries and 41 U.S states.

In 1990, The European Community ended national restrictions that had prohibited trucks based in one country from carrying goods within the borders of another member state. The move, along with the opening of East European borders and markets, transformed the goods transportation industry. But the end of customs barriers throughout the European Community in 1993 resulted in a sales drop of 35 percent for Danzas. At the end of 1998, Danzas allowed itself to be acquired by Deutsche Post AG, which paved the way for further acquisitions.

Major acquisitions

In 1999, Danzas acquired Sweden's ASG AB and then Netherland's Nedlloyd's European Transport and Distribution (ETD) unit. At the end of 1999, the company acquired Air Express International, the leading freight forwarder in the United States. These three purchases helped to triple the company's sales, turning Danzas into an international giant with European leadership in overland cargo and worldwide leadership in air cargo transport. All of the company's new operations were now united under the Danzas name.

When Deutsche Post acquired DHL International in 2002, it fully integrated Danzas, DHL, and EuroExpress under the DHL brand. In 2005, Deutsche Post dropped the Danzas brand and renamed the business unit DHL Global Forwarding, Freight. In 2006, it combined parts of Danzas and other ground-based freight subsidiaries in its new DHL Freight division.

Today DHL Global Forwarding Freight is the number one in air freight, the number two in ocean freight and the leading European road freight provider. It is present in over 150 countries and territories and employs some 42,000 people around the world. A lot has happened in 200 years and the story continues today.

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