CMB n.v.



It's no surprise finding CMB's seven-story headquarters fronting the Schelde River, after all it's been in the business of transporting goods via water since 1895. With revenues of 455 million euros and 5,800 employees, CMB transports primarily bulk/dry cargo such as coal.

Built in 1991, the good-looking building looks newer. No signs are visible on the building's exterior but I note six flags are flapping on flagpoles. I took the photo accompanying this story from a parking lot across the street and directly behind is the Schelde River, which must be a quarter mile wide at this point. Two receptionists man the somewhat small reception area and I see names of other shipping companies on a wall.

After explaining to a receptionist who I am and how I mailed a letter of introduction a month earlier to CEO Marc Saverys I take a seat on one of two sofas. Hanging on walls in the waiting area are two very large (6 feet wide by12 feet tall) oil paintings of what looks to be Antwerp in the 1800's.

It's a fun visit thanks to Frank Geerts, Financial Controller. CMB owns the building and occupies two floor with about 50 people working here. More CMB employees work here and in adjacent buildings but for various subsidiaries. Employee parking is free and plentiful, smoking is allowed in the workplace (CEO Saverys is a cigar smoker), there's no formal dress code and employees who cycle to work enjoy covered parking for their bicycles. There are no onsite recreational facilities but showers are available. It's a 10 minute walk to Antwerp's city center, five minutes to the nearest freeway, there's one corporate aircraft (Citation) and it's a 20 minute drive to Brussels airport. Employees are on their own for lunch as there's no company cafeteria-though there are break rooms.

CEO Saverys occupies a fifth floor corner office. I count several family pictures and lots of ships (7) in the office including a 12-foot long scale model of a 1939 vessel. What does Saverys see when looking out his window? Great view of the river. A picture of Belgium's king and queen hangs in the boardroom.
Company website: www.cmb.be

*****Boy, I've always prided myself on having a great memory but this proves it isn't so. A few days AFTER visiting shipping company CMB I was going over my stories written10 years ago during my last trek through Belgium and found I had already visited CMB. Jeez, what an idiot! Sometimes I'll purposely revisit a company because the first reception was crummy or the company has a new headquarters or even a new CEO. That's not the case here though as I just plain messed up. Posted below is the story from the 1995 visit.

 

CMB's good-looking, company-owned, six-story headquarters fronts the Schelde River that passes by downtown Antwerp. I'm not surprised since its main activities are directly or indirectly related to the shipping industry. CMB (Compagnie Maritime Belge) transports dry cargo, crude oil, gas, and refined oil and operates terminal activities in Antwerp and Zeebrugge. Revenues for the 100 year-old company in 1994 were BEF 39 billion, profit BEF 1 billion.

The small, two-story lobby contains two impressive oil paintings that completely overwhelm the room. Both done in 1795, one's a 20 foot by 20 foot painting showing downtown Antwerp and the larger one (26 foot by 15 foot) shows a shipping scene in Antwerp. Sitting on one of three brown sofas waiting to meet with Jacques van Damme, a company director, I thumb through three piles of magazines on the coffee table. The wide range of magazine titles include Global Finance, Institutional Investor, Knack, Chief Executive, European Communications, Banking Review, Cigar Aficionado, Outlook, Sea Trade Review, The Shipping Professional, Leaders, Treasury, Corporate Finance Europe and, the ever popular Site Selection.

About 600 employees work here but, there isn't a cafeteria only break-rooms containing microwaves and refrigerators. The 60-something year old van Damme gives me a great reception and has a good sense of humor. He mentions how everyone always asks if he's related to Jean-Claude van Damme, the action movie hero. He's become so tired of saying no that he now answers, yes. The company's art collection consists primarily of oil paintings having to do with shipping plus, there's a neat collection of old shipping advertising posters framed and hanging on hallway walls.

CEO Marc Saverys has a fifth floor office with a straight out, unobstructed view of the river. A large framed picture of his four boys hangs on one wall as well as a large map of Colombia and two pictures of company cargo ships. I also note the dartboard, the mini-refrigerator and one plant (real). The sixth floor, called the Penthouse, is sort of a lounge area for executives. I count six comfy-looking sofas and several antique globes (one dated 1863).