Transport collaboration starts with regional partners

Logistics service providers can of course play an important role in the consolidation of freight flows, but the most successful collaborative projects are initiated by shippers themselves. they must be prepared to acknowledge the opportunities together and also be willing to trust one another. But even when that is the case, there are still plenty of obstacles to overcome.

By Marcel te Lindert

International transport generates approximately seven percent of the world’s carbon emissions and, if things continue as they are, those emissions will increase fourfold by 2050. So claims the Smart Freight Centre, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), based on the International Transport Forum’s figures. Hence, if the goals of the Paris climate agreement are to be accomplished, drastic changes will have to be made within international transport. “It won’t be enough to simply plan a little better,” said Sophie Punte, the director who represented the Smart Freight Centre at the negotiating table in Paris, during the Topsector Logistiek conference on 22 April 2016. “Collaboration is the key to success. We will have to bring companies together and create better alignment between the various modalities. Otherwise we will not achieve the necessary 40 to 50 percent reduction in CO2.

It is essential to bring companies together, not only to ensure sufficient volume to send a train or barge to other parts of Europe, but also to generate the necessary returns flows. Yara, a Finnish producer of artificial fertiliser which ships significant volumes from its factory in Sluiskil in the Netherlands to Eastern Europe, is a good example. Thanks to a partnership with Cargill, Yara has recently been able to start transporting its products by barge to Budapest. Once the artificial fertiliser has been unloaded, the barge is then used by Cargill to ship sunflower seeds to Amsterdam.

Another example is Cool Rail Spain, a train service which will be starting this autumn – during the peak season for citrus fruits – between Rotterdam and Valencia. The cost savings are estimated to be as high as 30 percent, but the CO2 reduction is even more substantial. “We thought at first that 50 percent would be feasible, but we now know that – when pre- and post-transport are factored in – we can save up to 70 percent on the carbon emissions,” claimed the initiators of the project, Anne Saris from Bakker Barendrecht and Fred Lessing from Europool Systems, during the Topsector Logistiek conference.

In the same region

It is striking that many collaborative projects are initiated at regional level. Yara and Cargill know one another from the Zeeland Connect alliance, and the partnership between Europool Systems and Bakker Barendrecht was partially facilitated by the Rotterdam Port Authority. Frans van den Boomen, who has recently been named as ambassador for synchromodal transport for shippers, is not surprised by this: “Mutual trust is crucial in these kinds of collaborative projects. It revolves around the people from within the companies concerned so it’s important that those people can communicate with each other easily. And the best basis for that is if they’re located in the same region.”

In addition to being ambassador for syn chromodal transport, Van den Boomen is also programme manager for NewWays. This is an alliance of companies in the Dutch province of Brabant – and supported by the regional development agencies BOM and Rewin – which work together to explore ways of consolidating their freight flows and utilising other modes of transport. The alliance has more than 30 members companies, 12 of which regularly get together to initiate concrete projects. “Trying to reach consensus with all 30 companies would make us less agile and less decisive, so instead we choose to discuss our opportunities with a select group of pioneers. We then present those ideas to other companies who want to become involved,” explains Van den Boomen.

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This article was first published in Supply Chain Movement 22 | Q3 – 2016