Our History


Independent Stevedoring Limited was established as a stevedoring and logistics consultancy in early 1996 by Hans-Henning Axt, a master mariner and former member of the water police in Germany.  Hans was soon joined by partners Donald Howard, Gerben Muntendam and Murray Poole, giving the fledgling company a collective 100 years' experience in shipping and port-related services.

From its establishment in the aftermath of the port industry reforms of the 1990s, Independent Stevedoring has been a leader in providing excellent working conditions for its employees.

Independent Stevedoring received hundreds of applications when its first vacancies were advertised and, in early 1997, ISL won its first contract - loading Europe-bound onions onto the MV Cape Cod.  Contracts for forestry products - for large company Tasman Asia Shipping (now Swire Shipping) - and bulk fertiliser imports soon followed.  By mid 1997 the number of permanent operations staff had grown to a close-knit group of 16.

ourhistory_2.jpgThe close working relationship between management and staff was enhanced by a unique business arrangement.  Independent Stevedoring hired all of the stevedoring equipment it required from a separate company, Independent Gear Limited, which was owned by ISL's staff.

Hans Axt says: "As owners, we wanted the people working with us to have a positive stake in what the company was doing, and be rewarded by its achievements."


From its first days, Independent Stevedoring won a reputation for developing simple, innovative solutions to common problems, such as keeping the wharf clean during bulk cargo discharges, and streamlining the performance of semi-automatic pulp spreaders.

ISL's primary aim was to turn ships around in the shortest time possible to minimise costs for shippers and carriers.  However, safety was also of paramount concern.

No job or task is that important that we cannot take the time to do it safely, was the company's motto, and it remains to this day.

ISL added cargoes such as aluminium ingots, reels of kraft paper and bulk salt to its areas of expertise, developing and modifying loading, lifting and stowing mechanisms along the way.  The stevedores unloaded Dennis Conner's "Stars and Stripes" yacht and "America One" when they arrived for the 1999/2000 America's Cup.  In 1999 the company started providing stowing and lashing services at the Tauranga Container Terminal at Sulphur Point.


In 2000 Independent Stevedoring had outgrown its initial premises, and moved to its new location adjacent to the No. 5 shed at the Mount Maunganui wharves.  By now ISL was also earning an international reputation for handling heavy lift and project cargo, such as delicate yachts, launches and industrial plant.

ourhistory_1.jpgBy 2001, ISL was handling more than 340 vessels annually at New Zealand's largest port and its permanent staff had grown to nearly 40.  Those permanent employees are supplemented by experienced non-permanent employees as workload demands.

In May 2007, Quadrant Pacific Limited (jointly owned by Swire Shipping and the Ahrenkiel Shipping Group) bought a 50 per cent stake in Independent Stevedoring.

The company's logo of three inter-linked chains represents the close relationship between the shipping company, the shipper and the stevedores responsible for getting the goods on and off the ship.  Close observers may notice that the link configuration is physically impossible.  Independent Stevedoring believes that it is the company that can make the impossible happen.