BIGGER, BOLDER… JUST BETTER

NEW CHEMFREIGHT SPECIALIST FLAMMABLES STORAGE WAREHOUSE PROJECT TO BE GAME CHANGER

The soon-to-be opened $20 million project – dedicated to flammable storage classes – will add five million litres of storage capacity to 100% Kiwi-owned company Chemfreight, growing flammable storage capacity to over 8,000 pallet spaces. This will provide better service to existing storage clients and, in turn, allow new storage customers in the packaged market to partner with the company.

Specialist non-hazardous and hazardous chemical storage and national transport services provider Chemfreight has announced its $20 million warehouse is set to open in the coming months. The new warehouse is an addition to an impressive existing Stonedon Drive Major Hazard Facility (MHF).

General manager, Joseph Price, says of the current project: “It started back in 2015, where we challenged ourselves to design and build a chemical storage facility with a full reinforced concrete roof that would set the benchmark in size and capacity for Type D buildings.” The facility also had to exceed the regulatory requirements for the safe storage of flammable substances while satisfying council resource consent and building consent requirements.

“We had to go for scale, and we’ve achieved what we set out to do. The design process was comprehensive and exhaustive, incorporating safety in design (SiD) practices right from the outset,” says Price.

He says it is an extremely exciting time for a company that has gone through much growth and transition in recent years; constructing the latest specialised facility and adding a fourth chemical store solely dedicated to flammable substance classes 2 and 3. Chemfreight has built all four flammable stores from the ground up.

“Our total investment in this latest development for flammable substances is significant and further demonstrates our long-term commitment to customers and servicing a complex market with very high regulatory barriers to entry. This will be the fourth dedicated flammable storage facility we have built, being the largest it certainly was not without challenges.

“The engineering and complexity involved to be able to meet the various building and HSWA regulations, including seismic and incident control as well ensuring it would still remain operationally functional and be commercially successful were all part of a nearly six-year design and consenting process.”

When opened, the new flammables facility will provide much needed supply capacity to the market and is an extension of the company’s sprawling Upper Tier Major Hazard Facility strategically located in East Tāmaki.

“The facility will service the North Island with overnight transport services to provide a next-day delivery service from Northland to Wellington. Chemfreight are a national 3PL operator with three MHF locations, two MHF facilities are in Auckland and the third MHF chemical storage complex is in Christchurch and services the South Island,” says Price.

The company operates a fleet of a dozen company-owned trucks that provide a daily delivery service for the wider Auckland and Christchurch metro areas with an overnight national network through selected transport partners, providing an intra-island overnight service for dangerous goods. The Chemfreight truck fleet is equipped with GPS monitoring and tracking and also carry chemical pump over capabilities for hazardous and non-hazardous chemicals.

The new warehouse started construction mid-2021, partnering with Macrennie Commercial Construction and engineering firm Holmes Consulting.

With its full concrete wall and roof construction, the store is classified as a ‘Type D building’ under the current regulations, being the most secure and the highest rated classification – essentially a pair of cavernous reinforced concrete bunkers totalling 4,000m2 of fully racked floor space. The concrete roof, in parts, will be more than half a metre thick. The steel-reinforced concrete roof section weighs in at close to 6,000 tonnes.

“For the 3PL industry, the scale of this flammable storage facility and the technology deployed is cutting edge and will support the safe storage and handling of packaged flammable liquids and gases in the New Zealand national supply chain.”

Price joined Chemfreight six years ago and in that time the business has strategically maintained a low profile while it has undergone substantial structural and process changes. The approach has paid dividends with market demand and strong customer growth resulting in the family-owned company doubling in size. The Chemfreight team now numbers 100-strong, partnering with more than twice that many clients. Many clients, explains Price, have been with the business for “decades resulting in mutual growth and success”.

Price is focused on customer outcomes. “We don’t have any business development or sales staff. We choose to focus and invest in delivering a high-quality 3PL service to our customers and not focus on trying to sell it.”

Chemfreight has been operating in the same sector now for nearly 35 years and is capable of drawing from a depth of experience. It has formed a reputation of operating class-leading facilities – delivering an excellent 3PL supply chain service to attract new business while retaining its existing clients.

The company has facilities that can process up to 100 in-bound containers per week across its multiple secure MPI accredited premises, with all goods stored indoor under cover.

Being proactive within the market is a facet strong within the mantra of the company with innovation at its forefront. In 1989, Joseph’s father Harry Price founded the business with the vision and foresight to be the first storage provider to specialise in hazardous storage for the packaged market; while there were bulk services available, the packaged market was the vision. Today, Chemfreight has quietly grown to be a substantial provider of hazardous storage services for the New Zealand market.

The new specialised storage facility will store products that are deemed as flammable and therefore hazardous for storage under regulations. These include industrial and household solvents such as methylated spirits and acetone, other alcohols and cleaners, ethanol-based hand sanitisers, paints and stains, resin and fibreglass related products, butane and other flammable gas canisters, hazardous flammable consumer aerosols such as hair spray, deodorant, and household items such as spray paint, lubricants and other flammable propellant-based spray products.

As part of its full service offering to the market, the company operates a separate, fully-certified and dedicated food storage facility, also a significant non-hazardous chemical storage, and chemical toll blending operation to round off a comprehensive suite of 3PL services for the packaged chemical market.

Team training and well-being

In addition to keeping the staff well trained, Chemfreight continuously undertakes risk assessments and reviews their safety procedures. Team safety is paramount and Chemfreight invests heavily in training each year that delivers thousands of hours of targeted skills to its staff. But, Price says, there is more to safety and well-being than just training: “Staff safety and well-being doesn’t end when you walk out the door, everyone has challenges and factors influencing well-being outside work, Covid has been challenging on many levels in the critical worker sectors.”

Safety and compliance a priority

Chemfreight takes pride in having a substantial HSEQ function – team members hold qualifications or experience in organic chemistry, biochemistry, engineering, occupational health, auditing and a range of health and safety areas.

“We need to understand what we actually store and handle, to enable us to identify and assess the risks involved and how we can mitigate them; how to handle products safely and ensure we can store them safely,” Price says.

Price, a former regulator himself with a background in financial market risk and compliance, says, “Regulatory compliance can be viewed as meeting the requirements of the legislation, which is the bare minimum required. At Chemfreight, we look to manage the overall risk and that includes regulatory compliance as a part of the wider scope of how we manage our business risk; we aim to set our bar at a higher level.”

While he had grown up around the business, Joseph only became involved in the business at the age of 38 – coincidentally the same age that Harry founded the business. In that six-years, it is clear the passion in this family business is very much alive and evidenced by its advancement since Joseph joined the management team. Having a background in tax and insolvency, the chartered accountant has spent most of his career in professional services, spending seven years in London working in restructuring and insolvency followed by a number of financial management roles in the private and public sector. It is this foundation that has provided Price with the skills that Chemfreight now benefits from.

Strong investment

The business has invested heavily in plant and machinery and has completely replaced its truck fleet over the last five years, as well as acquiring an additional two dozen fork trucks to bolster its already substantial material handling fleet to 50 units.

A digital transformation is underway, too. This will provide Chemfreight customers not only an excellent operational service but a cutting-edge digital service. A substantial focus has gone into 3PL software specifically for hazardous substances logistics.

The future for this company looks very bright, with a number of land and property acquisitions secured that have locked in long-term future development growth and continued expansion.

Toll blending

Fortunately, Chemfreight has the versatility and flexibility to diversify into other services. Its toll blending service manufactures chemicals, storing and distributing them through the Chemfreight network.

With the ability to blend up to 5,000 litre batches and with four blending tanks, the company can manage the entire packaged chemical supply chain from start to finish. Additionally, a small bulk service can deliver chemicals to site, pumping them into the customer’s vessels, before the clean up and taking away of empty drums or IBC tanks.

The future

Chemfreight has been operating in East Tāmaki for 33 years and it seems highly likely that this exceptional family-owned business, under the second generation of the Price family, will be operating for another 30 years.

Price credits the continued success of Chemfreight solely down to the hard-working group of 100 staff and teamwork.

“Chemfreight was a successful 3PL business long before I joined the management team here. We are a family business and family, along with teamwork, are core values of our firm.”

The new warehouse storage facility – yet another feather in the family cap.