It started over three centuries ago…
The term ‘Quartiersmann’ was first coined in Hamburg warehouses and is still common currency in this Hanseatic City. The quartermaster’s workplace reveals something of the origins of the name. Because he was continually active in his employer’s warehouse, that was known as his quarters. The profession originated in the 17th century. It was then that quartermasters were first hired for the warehouses of trading companies. On the merchant’s behalf, they undertook the entire handling of imported commodities, ranging from checking and assessing the commodities to processing, storage and onward transport to the customer. They acted independently in groups of four. As a company name, they generally took the name of one quartermaster plus the ending ‘& Consorten’ to represent the other three.
- Old Warehouses
- Handling of Break Bulk
All-round Service for Commodities
Cocoa, rubbers, fruit, tea, coffee, hides, skins, paper, metals, grain, spices, nuts – quartermasters specialize in a host of different commodities. The merchant profits primarily from his quartermasters’ deep knowledge and practical experience of the various commodities. A quartermaster’s work is multi-facetted. Apart from receiving consignments, he is responsible for taking samples for quality control purposes. Prior to appropriate storage, on occasion the quartermaster will refine and process commodities. He also looks after onward transport to the customer, including all the formalities, e.g. Customs clearance. Thanks to the quartermaster’s expert supervision of commodities and the personal advice he offers, the merchant is spared the need to be present throughout handling of them. He can rely on the scrupulous care, expertise and experience of his quartermaster.
Modern port logistics plus tradition
Technical progress has brought a change in the types of jobs required. Today’s quartermaster has meanwhile discarded his uniform and replaced his traditional tools with machines. Spacious storage sheds have replaced earlier warehouse floors. Quartermasters are on-the-ball port logistics specialists, capable of rapidly and efficiently providing an even wider range of services. Many quartermasters nowadays trade as warehousing or logistics companies. In some cases, however, the traditional ending ‘& Cons.’ is still part of the company name. Nor has much change occurred in the size of such firms. Even now, they mostly consist of smaller or medium-sized companies, with traders frequently profiting from direct contact with the owner, short decision-making channels and low administrative costs.