In 1922, when Olof Wallenius was 20 years old, he started a wholesale company. Early on, he had proven to have an astute business mind and as such left school before graduating, preferring to concentrate on his business ideas. In a short time, he established an extensive trade in empty oil barrels. Later, when he decided to start an export company for vegetable oils, he filled those empty oil barrels. Eventually, Olof became an agent for AB Karlshamns Oljefabriker, which manufactured soya oil, and soon realised he could transport larger quantities of oil on board a coastal tanker than in oil barrels on trucks. As a result, in 1934 he bought a vessel, named it m/s SOYA and in conjunction with this established a shipping company, which he named Rederi AB Soya.
The rest, as they say, is history.
From tanker to car carrier
For many years, the growing fleet of vessels transported different types of oil: vegetable oil, mineral oil and later even crude oil. Before, during and especially after the Second World War, the fleet was expanded with dry cargo vessels to enable the transport of, for example, grain. During the reconstruction of Europe and Japan, slowly but surely demand for cars grew, becoming a popular return cargo.
The first cars were lifted on board and placed completely unprotected on top of other cargo. When car exports gained real momentum in the 1950s, Olof Wallenius took an educated risk and ordered two specially-constructed vessels so that the cars could be rolled on and off. In 1955, the RIGOLETTO and the TRAVIATA were delivered, each with the capacity to carry 290 cars, which agreed with a number of important charter contracts for Volkswagen and a couple of American car manufacturers. The following year saw the delivery of another two vessels – with double the capacity.
In the mid-1960s, the Volkswagen contract expired and Wallenius Lines was approached by Japanese car manufacturers. With the specially-built car carrier vessels, the company was soon able to start transporting the Japanese cars. Since then, car carrier vessels have developed into large, flexible and environmentally-efficient RoRo vessels.
At the beginning of the 1990s, Wallenius Lines started to put together a complete door-to-door service concept: from factory to dealer. Special terminals were built around the world, trucking companies were acquired and sales offices were established as new trade routes were opened. It was no longer simply about transporting cars by sea. With this entire network of terminals, offices and warehouses established, Wallenius Lines could take care of the car manufacturers' entire transport chain from the factory to the dealers via its vessels and terminals and with the necessary retrofitting and adaptation of each car to fulfil the requirements of the destination country. And, in principle, all of this could be done anywhere in the world.
Even if transport by sea and logistics solutions have dominated operations at the Soya Group over the years, the first property deal was made as early as 1937, when Olof Wallenius acquired a plot of land in Gåshaga on Lidingö, an island in the inner Stockholm archipelago. In the 1940s, 50s and 60s, a number of properties were bought and sold in central Stockholm and in areas just outside the city centre. This provided the foundation for the successful property management operations that continue as a separate business area today.
The current Group structure was established in 2000, with distinct, independent business areas, with Wallenius Shipping and Wallenius Real Estate having been joined by the Group's third business area, Wallenius Cleantech, a few years previous. Operations in the latter are based on the environmental work initiated in the 1990s in the shipping operations and which, among other things, focused on finding a chemical-free method for purifying ballast water. The solution, which was introduced to the market in 2006, has since been moved onto land and is now used to purify water in industrial processes as well.
In the mid-1990s, Wallenius Lines appointed a new environmental officer – one of our owners and the future CEO. At about the same time, a number of customers started asking for emissions statistics for our vessels, which was a new consideration for a company with a rapidly growing interest in the environment. Together with co-workers both at sea and on land, environmental efforts were systematised and an environmental management system was developed, achieving certification in 1998.
At the time, Wallenius Lines was the first shipping company in Sweden – and among the first in the world – to be certified in accordance with ISO 14001. The same process was initiated a few years later for the entire property management business, which for a few years had essentially the only environmentally-certified properties in Sweden. Wallenius Waters' operations have also been environmentally-certified since the turn of 2012/2013.
All business areas in the Soya Group currently pursue active and long-term environmental work. Even if each company establishes individual objectives and follows its own strategies, the work complies with a number of important group-wide rules.