Shortsea shipping can vie with roads

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Speaking at the Intermodal Transport and Logistics conference in Bilbao, Geoffrey Smith, managing director of MacAndrews has said that: “With a level playing field, shortsea services can be more cost-effective than truck, ” once road haulage starts to pay its true costs in terms of congestion, environmental damage and road safety.  “We should tax trucks crossing national borders, check the tachos and licence records and enforce the Working Time Directive, ” he said. He also went on to say that the shortsea sector also needed to shed its old-fashioned port-to-port image. “Customers want pre-set delivery times and to know they will be met, ” he said.

Ron Herman, MD of shortsea operator Dart Line, told delegates: “To become the transport mode of choice, shortsea must match the convenience of road, ” he said. “The shortsea mindset is to guarantee haulier turnaround time.” A late-cut off time was also high on the list of customer requirements, he said.

One company that has revolutionised its supply chain by using shortsea is Stora Enso, the world’s biggest paper manufacturer. It is moving 3.7million tonnes of paper a year from Sweden and Finland to continental Europe. The UK market is served by routes to Immingham and Tilbury.

Next July, north Finland would be linked into the network by a service which will also serve the German market via Lübeck, development director Stig Wiklund told delegates. He had ambitions to extend the network to Ireland and Spain. “It’s a totally new platform which we intend to develop a lot further.” The shortsea sector is also set to get a major financial boost from the EU’s Motorways of the Sea project. Marc Vanderhaegen, who is in charge of the project, told conference delegates that it would trigger collaboration between the public and private sectors. “There’s a high potential for shortsea shipping-based intermodal transport, ” he said.

“We need top-down planning at the regional, national and European level and bottom-up development of quality services by shipping lines.” But first the sea freight corridors, which would qualify for the aid, had to be identified and Van der Haegen called for the input of logistics operators and shipping lines in the selection process.

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