Story & Photography By Kathy Bergren Smith
Vernon Martin spent 25 years building Seabridge International and its partner firm, Strait Lines, at the Port of Baltimore. So, at 64, when he began to contemplate turning the reins over to the next generation, he wanted to be sure that his employees, customers and reputation would be safe. His thoroughness has paid off. He sold Seabridge to another family business, American Lamprecht Transport, and not only secured his firm’s future, but formed a symbiotic partnership that will help it grow.
Seabridge International started in 1991 as a freight forwarder and customs brokerage when Martin, a Maryland native, returned to the area with years of logistics management under his belt. Some of his first clients were servicemen returning from Europe with their vehicles and household goods. “It was a fantastic opportunity to earn a living and give thanks to our brave military service members,” Martin reflected.
“These were people who had no experience with shipping internationally and needed a lot of guidance,” recalled Martin. “ We would literally meet these families at the airport and escort them to the terminal so they could pick up their vehicles. We gave them true ‘door-to-door’ service.”
This hands-on service culture permeates Seabridge to this day. The firm grew, gaining contracts with major manufacturers of agriculture, road building and construction equipment. Seabridge expanded its offerings by signing contracts with the major shipping lines calling at the Port of Baltimore. This made them a non-vessel-operating common carrier (NVOCC).
Vernon Martin prides himself on having built a small staff of highly capable people. “I surrounded myself with the best people I could find,” he said. The team developed a reputation for expertise in handling ro/ro cargoes. Seabridge worked closely with the Maryland Port Administration (MPA) in developing a unique business line.
“We arranged the transport of many, many motorhomes both to and from Europe,” said Martin. Again, these were customers with little shipping experience, so when European tourists shipped their vehicles over to do some extended touring in the U.S. and Canada, Seabridge offered assistance far beyond just getting them through customs and on the road.
“We always go over and above for our customers,” said Martin.
When Martin first met with Lamprecht representatives, he got “a warm and fuzzy feeling.” The company, a family-owned business based in Switzerland, now has eight offices in the U.S. these offices are part of American Lamprecht Transport, which was founded in 1968 as a subsidiary of Lamprecht Transport Ltd., the parent company in Switzerland.
Martin sold Seabridge to Lamprecht last year and stayed on for six months to smooth the transition. Michael Albi will succeed him as branch manager of Seabridge-Lamprecht.
Albi came to work with Martin in 2005 from a shipping line where he was an import account manager. He moved to Seabridge and learned all aspects of the freight -orwarding and customs business in their office.
“We really have a great team here,” said Albi. “Whenever a customer stops by our office, they are surprised by how few of us there actually are; they think we are a much larger organization because we are facile with so many aspects of shipping.”
Now that Seabridge is part of American Lamprecht, Albi is happy to be able to offer customers a wider palette of services.
“We can now leverage a global company’s resources,” Albi said. “We will be expanding our market into handling more air freight since that is an area of focus for Lamprecht. In fact, we are already gearing up in that direction.”
Vernon Martin has done an excellent job with Seabridge International over the last 25 years,” said Chairman of the Board Thomas Lamprecht, “and I look forward to continuing and building upon the excellent reputation and customer service that Vernon has established and built with his customers.” By purchasing Seabridge International, Thomas Lamprecht is fulfiling his goals of adding an office in Baltimore, MD to the American Lamprecht family.
Seabridge Lamprecht At A Glance
800 S. Conkling St.
Baltimore, MD 21224
Branch manager: Michael Albi
Services: Freight forwarding (air and ocean), transport, customs brokerage house, logistics, warehousing
Merger between Seabridge International (est. 1991) and American Lamprecht (est. 1968). Parent company: Lamprecht Transport Ltd.