100 years of Battermann & Tillery
In 2013, Battermann & Tillery, headquartered in Bremen, celebrates its 100th anniversary: The parent company Battermann & Nülle was first registered with the Bremen Commercial Register on 08 July 1913. The anniversary provides an opportunity to look back on the eventful history of the business, which has been – particularly in the past forty years – a story of remarkable success. Today, Battermann & Tillery ranks among the leading cargo surveying and loss adjusting companies with numerous branch offices in Germany and several foreign subsidiaries.
Battermann & Tillery is still a family-run business: Since 1927, and now in its fourth generation, members of the Tillery family have been the sole owners and managing directors of the company. This continuity defines the company, which has been a long-time contributor to the steady tradition of Bremen-based cargo surveyors. At the same time, Battermann & Tillery contributes to new developments in the ever-changing, diverse claims handling and cargo surveying business and also to the establishment of high standards internationally.
A brief summary of the Tillery family history
The Tillery family is of Scottish descent – still today, ruins of a church where members of the Tillery family were married and baptised can be found in Belhelvie, Scotland. For many years, members of the Tillery family worked as gardeners. It was this profession which prompted one of the Tillerys to come to Bremen. Around 1870, a wealthy industrialist, Ludwig Knoop, brought the young gardener Henry Tillery to the Hanseatic city from England. The well-trained gardener was given the task of maintaining the newly landscaped garden of the “cotton baron” Knoop.
In those days, Ludwig Knoop, son of a modest Bremen-based tobacconist, and his brother Julius, who had turned Jersey & Co. in Liverpool into one of the largest cotton trading companies, largely controlled the European cotton market and commanded a vast industrial empire in Russia. It might be called fate in terms of the later developments that the Tillerys in Bremen came in contact with the cotton importing industry at a very early stage.
In 1877, Henry Tillery married the daughter of a German merchant and in 1899, the entire family acquired German citizenship. Henry’s son, Rudolf Charles, no longer followed the family tradition of gardeners but became a commercial apprentice at a Bremen-based cotton mill in 1893.
After years of training in seafaring and at various English companies, Rudolf Tillery joined the cargo surveying company Reck & Co., Bremen, thereby predetermining the path which would ultimately lead to the formation of the company Battermann & Tillery. In 1927, after having worked for Battermann & Nülle for quite some time, Rudolf Tillery became a partner of the start-up, which was later renamed Battermann, Pommerenke & Tillery, after the three partners.
Development of the company prior to the currency reform of 1948 in West Germany
In the second half of the 19th century, Bremen had become one of the major European ports for cotton imports. So, it is not surprising that for a long time, the main focus of Battermann & Nülle, later changed to Battermann & Tillery, was placed on surveying cotton.
As from 1931, after the death of the two other partners, Rudolf Tillery ran the business as sole owner under the name Battermann & Tillery. Being confronted with the effects of the world economic crisis and, most notably, World War II, the thirties proved to be a difficult time in the company’s history. Starting in 1936, importation of cotton goods to Bremen and Bremerhaven rapidly decreased. Still, Rudolf Tillery succeeded in generating survey assignments for other imported goods, especially foodstuffs such as cane sugar, coffee, wine, tomatoes and sardines, but also for tobacco, soy meal, iron and even ocelot furs. However, when the war broke out, the number of assignments constantly declined and Rudolf Tillery was forced to solely guide the business through the turbulent times, assisted by only one secretary. In 1943, the office building located in the Bremen port area was hit hard by bombing so that the business had to be carried on in provisionally furnished offices with the majority of the furniture being damaged.
After the war, Rudolf Tillery was able to secure smaller assignments. In this respect, a major role was played by the relief supplies for the German population in the Bremen administrative area, which had been assigned to the United States occupying forces. The Americans supplied foodstuffs but also certain quantities of raw materials, including cotton.
Following the currency reform in the Western occupied zones of 20 June 1948 and after the Federal Republic had become a sovereign state in 1949, the Western German economy thrived, as did the cotton import industry in Bremen. In 1950, the import volume had already risen to approximately one million bales. As a result, the number of survey assignments received by Battermann & Tillery grew, allowing for the company to expand, albeit on a small scale at first.
After receiving training at various importing and exporting firms, Rudolf Tillery’s son Helmut, born in 1917, joined his father’s company as partner in 1948. Shortly thereafter, the office space in the administrative building of Shed 13 at Bremen international port Überseehafen, which had been the business address for a long time, became too small and the company consequently moved to the main building at Überseehafen with increased staff.
Company development prior to setting up of branch offices
For years to come, cotton products continued to be the most relevant imported goods in regard to survey assignments received by Battermann & Tillery. In addition to numerous survey assignments concerning minor losses, the surveyors of the company were also called in for major loss incidents, e.g. ship collisions and fires in cargo holds of general cargo vessels. As a result, some major loss incidents required that the surveyors go abroad, thereby gaining international experience.
After the death of senior partner Rudolf Tillery in 1956, his son carried on the business as sole owner and managing director. Already in 1962, it became necessary to rent larger office space, in fact in the new administrative building of Bremer Lagerhaus-Gesellschaft (BLG), Überseehafen.
Due to the accuracy, care and competence with which the employees of Battermann & Tillery handled the assignments, usually received from cargo underwriters, the company soon became highly esteemed by insurance companies, shipping companies, importing companies, warehousing companies and forwarding agents. The field of activities widened, both with respect to the imported goods inspected and the nature of the assignments, i.e. surveyors were not only called in on a regular basis to survey damage to imported cotton products, but also to tobacco and green coffee, jute, wool, roving and sisal, pulp, paper and timber.
By this time, Battermann & Tillery also frequently received assignments to monitor/survey loading and warehousing operations, for example in 1964, when the disassembly and packaging of machines was to be monitored at the Borgward factories, which had gone bankrupt. It was those survey assignments, which were constantly growing in scale, that led the senior Helmut Tillery and – since the early seventies – also his son, Percy, to travel abroad, including to South America, Ethiopia and South Africa. As a result, Battermann & Tillery, still firmly rooted in Bremen, gradually turned into an internationally operating company.
Percy Tillery, born in Bremen in 1950 and a trained cargo underwriting agent, joined his father’s business in 1974. In 1980, he was appointed and sworn in as registered expert by the Bremen Chamber of Commerce and simultaneously took over the management of the company. Under his management, the family-run, constantly growing business, now covering various fields of activity, soon became a widely known market leader in the field of cargo surveying.
The expansion and diversification of Battermann & Tillery is directly related to the far-reaching reorganisation of global maritime transportation, which began in the seventies. In 1966, the first cargo vessel transporting standardised steel containers headed for the port of Bremen. That same year, the first German container vessel was launched in Hamburg. The reorganisation of general cargo transport by sea, and later also by land – the “container revolution” – had started. Not only did the design of cargo vessels fundamentally change, but also the methods of handling cargo in ports, the infrastructure of sea ports as well as many aspects of the organisation and technology of railway and road transport.
In the early eighties, container vessels were capable of transporting 3,000 to 4,000 containers – nowadays (in 2013), there are vessels with a cargo-carrying capacity of 18,000 standard containers. The use of containers made it less and less necessary to discharge and store goods at port facilities. Instead, it was possible to directly deliver the containers to consignees by means of railway or truck/trailer. Inevitably, surveys more and more frequently needed to be conducted inland at the consignee’s premises.
The enormous change in cargo shipping, having an effect on the entire field of cargo transportation, meant that a company of experts and cargo surveyors could not afford to limit their activities to the port area alone. The business was to expand its presence, first on a national and later on an international level.
At a very early stage, Percy Tillery grasped the situation and saw the need for change. Many assignments had caused him to travel to various places all over Germany and abroad. Conducting surveys and assessments from Bremen not only proved to be rather time-consuming and costly. In addition, the changed situation made it necessary to have the business represented in various locations. Thus, the reasonable thing to do was to open branch offices.
After successfully opening their first domestic branch office in Regensburg in 1983, Battermann & Tillery established further branch offices in the years that followed: Hamburg in 1986, Munich in 1989 and afterwards, in quick succession, in various locations all over Germany. Today, Battermann & Tillery have a network of altogether 20 branch offices in Germany, allowing the company to effectively and competently act at the local level. However, it is vital for coordinating and assuring the quality of the work that all employees of the branch offices receive training at the Bremen head office where all strings come together.
As a result of the structural changes in the field of cargo transportation, the types of assignments received by the company also changed. The number of road carriers’ liability underwriters requesting the services of Battermann & Tillery grew constantly and special assignments regarding loading and warehousing operations were received more frequently. For example, specially trained Captains of the company supervise loading/discharge operations of passenger cars at sea ports, the loading of heavy lift cargo and special cargo, such as pleasure crafts and yachts, as well as the packaging of demanding and sensitive cargo.
Growing into an internationally operating company
As a result of the changes in the field of transportation, Battermann & Tillery not only performs standard survey tasks, i.e. assessing the amount of loss, the cause of damage and the suitability of packaging, but is also faced with the challenge of changed professional requirements resulting from diversified fields of activity. The company is highly qualified in evaluating loss prevention, e.g. in regard to packaging and storage, or with respect to nautical issues related to maritime freight traffic. Battermann & Tillery has thus evolved into a cargo surveying company within the transportation and warehousing industry which offers a wide range of surveying, consulting and monitoring services. Accordingly, the competencies of the company have expanded, as can also be seen from the fact that trained transportation and nautical engineers are employed.
Due to the ever-growing staff at the head office and the diversified tasks, the company structure was also to be adapted to the altered situation. There are currently 65 employees working at the Bremen-based office. The company is internally divided into different departments, including departments for international assignments and coordinating surveys abroad.
Nowadays, global freight traffic demands that a company such as Battermann & Tillery is part of the global business network. In order to meet the corresponding requirements, e.g. in regard to the expertise of the instructed surveyors abroad, in 2006, Percy Tillery took the initiative in founding the TMN organisation based in London. The organisation was founded by three companies with the aim of educating and training surveyors and in order to be able to coordinate international assignments more effectively.
It proved vital for Battermann & Tillery to establish a strong presence abroad in order to offer face-to-face contact for the internationally operating underwriters and transport companies. As a result, in 2006, the company founded the Istanbul based subsidiary in Turkey, and in 2012, the Bucharest based subsidiary in Romania was established. Furthermore, in 2016 Battermann & Tillery acquired transpack surveys GmbH, based in Vienna, Austria.
Today, the family-run business Battermann & Tillery GmbH, now in its fourth generation, is managed by Percy Tillery’s son Patrick, who is a cargo surveying expert trained at different firms in Ireland, France and Australia. On 01 August 2001, Patrick Tillery joined his father’s company as surveyor and became a partner in 2007. Since 2010, he has occupied the position of Managing Partner.
Together with its subsidiaries, Battermann & Tillery GmbH is an international group of companies, which is ideally adapted to the global market of loss assessment and surveying, particularly in the area of freight traffic. The high standards applied to surveying, assessing and claims handling are ensured by the company’s own training programme, developed for its employees.
Beyond a solid training and thorough scrutiny, it is the highly dedicated employees to whom the success of Battermann & Tillery is owed. Therefore, deepest gratitude is expressed here to the entire staff of Battermann & Tillery for their commitment; this appreciation also extends to the partners of the employees.