Inland investment vital to a resilient and connected supply chain

Container Freight Train with cloudy sky

Much focus is put on ships and ports, but rail transportation and inland terminals are also key nodes in the supply chain and are seeing a flurry of investment as consumer demand continues to skyrocket.

During PTI’s Container Terminal Automation Conference (CTAC) it was noted that inland terminals must be supported in their efforts to digitalise if the supply chain is going to be made more resilient.

Some industry commentators have said that these intermodal and inland terminals lag behind seaports in terms of digital development.

Dr Eva Savelsberg, Senior Vice President and Board Member, Inform, said during CTAC that a lack of digitalisation in the hinterland is negatively affecting the rest of the supply chain, even though seaports are investing heavily in smart technologies.

Inland logistics is currently “not part of the digitalisation chain”, Savelsberg said, and this “affects handling speed” for many stakeholders and can slow down the transportation of goods.

Hinterland connectivity

Storage and intermodal transportation were key considerations for the 12 ports along the Mediterranean Corridor, according to Josep-Vicent Boira, Commissioner of the Spanish Government, who spoke during the European Sea Port Organisation’s (ESPO) 2021 Regatta.

Boira highlighted the importance shortening supply chains through intermodal options, including rail, had already been successfully established in areas – introducing a modal shift from road to rail in the Pyrenes and Alps regions, Boira said.

Hinterland connectivity will be particularly important for the corridor in the future, he continued, adding that the Spanish government is investing €6 billion ($7.35 billion) to connect hinterland facilities with the major urban ports through rail networks in the future.

Investment in intermodal

The need to increase trade across the whole Europe is clear and the Port of Antwerp recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Statutory City Ostrava, the Railway Administration (SZDC) and Concens Investments to build a new intermodal terminal.

The Mosnov Multimodal Transport Terminal will connect it to the Moravian-Silesian region in the Czech Republic, as well as neighbouring regions in Poland and Slovakia.

“Logistics and Transport connectivity aspect will become more and more important for the growing industry sector and these kind of hubs and terminals will be key to a successful and reliable supply chain,” the Port said in a statement.

“The region has also potential to be a gravity point in case of east-westbound cargo flows and distribution.”

Dealing in rail

Many of the world’s leading shipping lines also have a key part to play in rail transportation of containers.

Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) UK, for example, has renewed its partnership, which began in 2002, with GB Railfreight (GBRf) with a new five-year deal.

GBRf has been the provider of MSC’s rail services providing knowledge and expertise in locomotive and wagon supply.

The new agreement will be volume-based and is expected to increase wagon utilisation that in turn will help further reduce carbon emissions.

The services will operate from Felixstowe and London Gateway to both the Midlands and Yorkshire, with a minimum commitment of five days a week.

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