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Behind the scenes at import freight forwarder Patrick Balkhoven

Behind the scenes at import freight forwarder Patrick Balkhoven

Patrick Balkhoven has been a familiar face within our team for more than 16 years. He is another one of those Ritra team members who likes to go the extra mile for his customers. And the extra mile is filled with his humour. He is a straight talker and always genuinely interested in everyone and everything around him – whether it’s customers, colleagues, or people picking up documents from the front desk. What does Patrick’s working day look like? And what keeps him busy when he is not at work being an import freight forwarder?



Let’s get acquainted

Chances are you already know him or know plenty about him. That’s because Patrick has been with Ritra Cargo for nearly 17 years, and he’s an open book. Honest, interested, sociable, and definitely a straight shooter. His sense of humour has a delightfully sharp edge sometimes, but he’s also no stranger to a decent helping of self-deprecation.


Patrick is a Rotterdammer through and through. He was born in the South of Rotterdam, and grew up in Rotterdam and Spijkenisse with his parents and older brother. These days, he and his cat Duvel live in a great apartment in Ridderkerk. It’s no secret that Patrick’s heart belongs to football club Feyenoord, and you can find him in stand X cheering for his club as often as he can.


Patrick enjoys life and food to the max, loves nature and is crazy about fishing. Last year, he even took an amazing trip to Ebro in northern Spain, where he and his friends had a fantastic time catching huge catfish.




He had always felt the pull of the port of Rotterdam. After his MBO (secondary vocational education) in International Trade, he started his career in the Rotterdam Waalhaven with forwarder Paul Gunther, which later became Karl Gross. Here, he was thrown in at the deep end, and you could say this is where he truly learned his trade. From import to export, from road transport to goods inspection.


A family friend approached him, someone who worked in Spijkenisse for a distributor of coffee, cocoa, and tea. Here, in addition to import and export tasks, Patrick was also involved in stock management and partial deliveries of coffee blends for the first time.


Eventually, in 2007, he came into contact with Ritra old-timers Ad Schoenmakers and Joost Peeters through an ex-colleague. The connection Patrick felt with the company at the time is something he feels to this day.


Patrick: “André, Martijn and until recently Ad too; they are our managers, but it doesn’t always feel that way. We have all worked together before in the same space. That makes them approachable, it makes the organisation more horizontal and the lines of communication shorter.”



A day in the life

What does Patrick’s average day look like? At his department, Customer Service (shortened to CSD within the company), the day starts with answering e-mails from Asia.


Patrick: “The time difference can trip you up quickly, so in order not to slow down the process, even sending a short response can make a big difference.”


After that, he interacts with ‘Operations’ and the Customs department. The first carriers also receive calls to ask if everything is running to schedule. He keeps the lines of communication short, something the open-plan office definitely helps with.


Patrick: “Especially with goods inspections and cross trades, where you work closely with colleagues from other departments, it’s nice to be able to contact each other so quickly. We all need to be on the same page to ensure our customer is happy and continues to be happy.”


He has a mixed customer base. From clothing to car parts and steel products. It is precisely the diversity these customers bring, all with their own needs and wants, that keeps the work interesting for Patrick.


What’s more, he tries to manage all external environmental factors for his customers, sometimes taking the rough with the smooth. Coronavirus, the Red Sea crisis, these are all learning moments.


Patrick: “Explain everything properly and try coming at it from another angle: sometimes there is nothing more you can do. But explaining the situation and making sure that the customer stays informed, that doesn’t take a lot of effort, does it?”



That’s so Patrick

“There’s probably nothing wrong with an online shipping platform, but shipping is still human work. Personal contact, knowledge and expertise: that is what makes our customers happy at least.”


“There’s a solution for every problem. Treat your customers with honesty, respect, and humour, and you will get a smile in return!”


“At Ritra, the focus is on the employee. They look at the person behind the work. Questions like ‘do you need anything?’ and ‘can you manage?’ are normal here. And that’s really nice.”  



Would you like to find out more about Team Ritra?

Are you curious about other colleagues at Team Ritra? Read our other articles in the ‘Behind the scenes’ series or take a look at Who we are? or go to our Team page!



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