Rotterdam helps fund new inland shipping link


The Port of Rotterdam has provided financial support for the launch of a new fixed-schedule inland shipping service as part of an ongoing strategy to address chronic barge congestion issues between Europe’s biggest container port and its hinterland.

The twice-weekly round trip routing, operated by HTS Intermodaal, links the Rotterdam World Gateway (RWG) deepsea terminal and the inland German port of Duisburg, via Gorinchem, ‘bundling’ containers which otherwise would have been transported on several barges.

Earlier this year, the port authority contributed to the funding of a similar inland shipping service project linking Rotterdam with Moerdijk and Tilburg.

“The combining of cargo means that fewer ships are required, resulting in less congestion in the port of Rotterdam,” the Port of Rotterdam Authority (PORA) said. “In the first three months of this collaboration, the fixed sailing schedule has increased call sizes at the terminals by 100% and resulted in more reliable handing at the terminals, more container transport via inland shipping, and less reliance on road haulage. In addition, vessels’ average waiting time in the port area until they can be handled has decreased by some 30%.”

Allard Castelein, CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority, commented: “Good accessibility and the smooth flow of cargo to the European hinterland are crucial for a major sea port like Rotterdam. Any measure we can take to reduce congestion in the port area is of vital importance.

“This calls for close collaboration between all parties in the logistics chain. As the Port Authority, we have taken on the responsibility of working to bring these different parties together.

“Despite the results achieved so far, congestion remains a complex systemic problem that we cannot resolve with a few simple measures. Therefore, the Port Authority will keep facilitating consultation between the chain parties so that they can work together on new solutions.

“In addition, we will continue to develop assets that can contribute to the smooth flow of cargo through Rotterdam – like our Nextlogic planning tool, for example, or the construction of the Container Exchange Route.”

However, news of the second fixed schedule barge service came as DP World Inland introduced a congestion surcharge at both the port of Rotterdam and Antwerp, effective 16 April. It said waiting times and “distortions” in barge handling at the two ports had made planning very challenging for the company and that despite efforts to engage with all stakeholders “a workable permanent solution” to the issue had yet to be found.

“After performing extensive trials to help reduce this adverse impact faced by DP World Inland at these ports, the results have not seen a marked improvement and we foresee a negative trajectory in barge handling going forward,” the company noted.

Intermodal operator Contargo has levied a congestion surcharge at Rotterdam and Antwerp since July 2017 and in a post on its website late last this week apologised to customers for delays in its barges at the two ports of 12-48 hours.

PORA yesterday published an interim review of the “top-level consultations in the inland container shipping sector” that it has been facilitating, which it claims “have yielded a number of tangible results”. It added: “These results show that shippers, forwarders, barge operators, inland terminals, deep sea terminals and shipping companies take the congestion issues in the port of Rotterdam seriously and want to make a joint effort to resolve them.”

A total of 19 Dutch and international parties presently participate in the Inland Container Shipping Sector Consultations. So far, there have been four plenary meetings, held since September 2017, discussing the progress made by three working groups, each of which had been assigned a specific task.

One working group is responsible for fact-finding with regard to the relationships and balances of power within the inland container shipping sector’s logistics chain. A second working group was asked to identify quick wins within the operational planning process. The third group worked to establish KPIs that can lead to chain-wide insight into the performance of the inland container shipping chain, as well as crucial transfer moments within consecutive links within this chain.

It said the Inland Container Shipping Sector Consultations had yielded the following results:

Improvement of the slot application procedure for inland vessels that plan to load or unload containers at the terminals. In addition, all consecutive changes to the original slot application – changes to the call size, for example – will henceforth be stored in the Portbase port community system. Together, these measures make it easier for both terminal operators and barge operators to draw up their schedules and gain better insight into the current status of the handling process.

The funding to the two sector initiatives, above, in which deep sea terminals, inland shipping companies and inland terminals working together to combine cargo and transport this cargo according to a fixed sailing schedule along major routes between Rotterdam and the hinterland.

Development of a ‘chain performance dashboard’ by the PORA, in which “individual chain parties have committed to work towards a clear, fact-based inventory of performance indicators for crucial transfer moments between consecutive links in the inland container shipping chain. The improved insight into chain performance yielded by this dashboard will make it easier for participating parties to identify the source of a congestion issue and jointly work towards a solution.”

Parties have performed an analysis of the factors causing congestion within the inland container shipping chain. One of the outcomes of this analysis is a variety of directions in which the chain can look for solutions. These priorities will be worked out in further detail in the period ahead.

A visible increase in the number of bilateral agreements between ‘chain parties’ “to utilise the available capacity and increase reliability within the chain. Among other things, this is achieved by reducing so-called ‘no shows’ and exploiting handling capacity that becomes available at short notice.”

The participating organisations are: APMT, BDB, BDI/DSVK, CBRB, Deltalinqs, EBU, ECT, evofenedex, FENEX/TLN, Royal BLN-Schuttevaer, LINc, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, RWG, SPEDLOGSWISS, SSC, SVS, VRC, VRTO and the Port of Rotterdam Authority.