FROM FRIHAVNEN TO ISFAHAN AND BACK TO ALL OF NORTHERN EUROPE
Today, Ancotrans operates out of many of Northern Europe’s major harbours. But, at the start of the 1970s, Ancotrans’ drivers rarely had to drive further than Valby Bakke – apart from the odd trip to Roskilde. There was simply no need to drive anywhere else because the two biggest customers were Tuborg and Scandinavian Tobacco in Hellerup and Søborg respectively. Back then, most transport companies were based in a harbour. For Ancotrans, that harbour was Frihavnen in Copenhagen.
It was there, four generations earlier that a hardworking, diligent man with a handcart had applied for a driver’s permission from Københavns Frihavns Aktieselskab back in 1902. He was selected over hundreds of applicants, giving him the opportunity to establish his own transport business.
Today, Ancotrans still operates out of Frihavnen (now called CMP), but has also expanded to many other harbours – a development which was kick started by a very special assignment. It all started on ‘Black Friday’, when Tuborg announced that Carlsberg drivers would take care of all transport for the newly merged brewery giants, leaving a big hole in the Ancotrans order book. Suddenly, the Ancotrans director had to think of something new. So that’s exactly what he did.
Export adventures in Iran
In the middle of the 1970s, the Iranian economy was booming, so much so that the country’s harbours were struggling to cope with all the traffic. So, transport companies were forced to hit the highroad between Eastern Europe and Turkey to maintain a constant stream of goods into and out of the country. At the same time, a Swedish builder decided to transport his building materials by road to Isfahan – deep in Iran’s heartland. And Ancotrans won the contract.
No one at Ancotrans had any experience of long-distance truck driving or export goods. But, in part thanks to the many gifts of pens which Ancotrans’ loyal truckers made to customs officials, the trips were a great success.
One day, when they were still in Iran having made their delivery, the clutch failed – and suddenly home seemed a long way away. Unable to speak Farsi and with insufficient funds, the two truck drivers turned to the Danish embassy in Tehran for help. There, instead of saying they were from Denmark, they introduced themselves as “… from Anders Nielsen and Co in Frihavnen”. Even though the embassy staff hadn’t heard of Ancotrans, they recognised the drivers’ pride for the company they worked for. And with the ambassador helping in person with the language, mechanics and cash transfers, the truck and its drivers were soon on the road back to Frihavnen.
The export adventure proved as exhausting as it was exciting. But the experience turned out to be the key to winning permanent licences, so that Ancotrans had permission to drive trucks for the major Western European harbours. Ancotrans customers had already been asking for a trucking route to Hamburg. That was just the start. Since 1982, Ancotrans has gained a permanent presence in Hamburg, Aarhus Havn, Gothenburg, Helsingborg, Odense and Rotterdam. And Frihavnen was suddenly just the first of many harbours for Ancotrans.
Henrik Steenbjerg celebrated his 50-year work anniversary at
Ancotrans on 15 June 2019. Join us on a journey back to 1969, when a
22-year-old Henrik joined the family business – the fourth generation to
do so. And hear how Ancotrans developed to 2003, when the next
generation assumed leadership of the company. This is the first of four
retrospectives in celebration of Henrik’s 50th anniversary.