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The value-add inland option

Monday, 13 February 2012 | 00:00
Much has been written about the virtues of dryports in increasing the capacity of sea ports under pressure; enabling cargo to be whisked inland with minimal delay; offering ‘green’ supply chain opportunities; and providing critical hubs to serve the import/export needs of landlocked countries.
Dryports are increasingly being seen as the key to trade growth in developing countries. In Ethiopia, the government has decided to establish four new dryports to increase trade with neighbouring countries and drive industrial growth. In India, the government is considering a pact with neighbouring countries for the development of dryports to global standards; India already has 155 dryports, with nearly 90 more being developed.
Dryports commonly incorporate physical activities such as container storage and repair, warehousing, packing and repacking, and distribution; but what is becoming increasingly important is the administration side of logistics operations.
Of course a container can be quickly shifted inland by train – but what happens to the paperwork, and how are issues such as security, customs and statutory checks incorporated in an ‘unbroken chain’?
Jason Monios, representing Edinburgh Napier University’s Transport Research Institute, joint Scottish partners in the EU-funded Dryport project, says: “There has been a lot of talk in the past few years about integrating ports and hinterlands, but unless there is vertical integration between the port and the inland location, or at least some kind of joint venture with full visibility of cargo flows between them, the potential efficiency advances will remain elusive.”
Dr Monios is currently writing detailed case studies after visiting ECT-operated facilities at Venlo, the Netherlands’ largest inland terminal, and in Duisburg, the world’s largest inland port.
What TCT Venlo and DeCeTe Duisburg have in common is an ‘extended gate’ concept developed by ECT, offering document-free passage of containers from the shipping line through the port to the inland location.
Dr Monios, research fellow with TRI’s maritime research group, says: “At Rotterdam, ECT charges the shipping lines to take the container off the ship to the stack, including storage time. They will then load the container on to rail/barge/truck, including all administration procedures and documentation – including customs, if required, or that can be done at Venlo. Then either the shipper, freight forwarder or shipping line will have arranged the onward transportation – but, for users of the extended gate service, ECT will rail/barge it to Venlo, where it can wait on the stack there for a few days storage, then on to the customer’s truck to the final destination. For an additional fee, ECT can also truck it to the final destination if required.”
Meanwhile, ECT has a licence to treat the Duisburg terminal as part of its sea port terminal for customs purposes. “Therefore they can move cargo between them without additional documentation,” says Dr Monios. “This is their ‘extended gate’ system, as developed at Venlo. It was difficult to resolve the customs issues to bring the container to Germany under the authority of Dutch customs, but the issues have now been resolved. These containers are the responsibility of ECT the whole time.”
Felipe Mendana, director of intermodal transport at the Spanish port operator Noatum, says that the Puerto Seco de Coslada, outside Madrid, was designed from the beginning to give added value services to the container sector – and the administrative side of these services is growing.
“Added value work done at the sea port is extremely expensive; on the other hand, we need to offer these services for the shipping lines, to give them some added value so that they come to the terminal [by rail] instead of bringing the container by truck. But the common characteristic in dryports is to give additional services that are not only physical but administrative too,” he says.
Noatum, which has a 20-year concession to run the Coslada intermodal terminal, is very conscious that added value on the admin side is very profitable, he says: “But it also gives the client the security of knowing that someone is on their side, at the point of export/import.
“A container coming into Spain from outside the EU can go directly to Coslada with transit documents, to be opened, inspected and authorised by customs clearance authorities when it arrives.
“We have an agreement that exports to the US have to be under surveillance 24 hours. As well as our own surveillance, we have Spanish police inside the terminal because we are considered a free zone.”
When freight arrives with transit documents, someone has to be ‘responsible’ for the merchandise between sea port and dry port, he points out.
“Administratively speaking, you can have all the procedures or documents you want but there has to be fiscal responsibility in the chain. So we try to give our client a unique window for all that activity.”
This is especially a practical solution for smaller importing companies, which cannot justify employing a full-time person in-house for documentation and related activities, says Mr Mendana. “We can take that on for them, and we have synergies because we have the volume. We have many SME clients that let us do all the admin activities for them – and also some larger ones which have their own people but need us to help them in busy times. For us, this is very important part of the business.”
The Coslada facility operates as the hub, close to Spain’s biggest area of consumption, with spokes spreading out to Noatum’s port operations around Spain. Dryports are ‘obviously the solution for the future’, says Mr Mendana, enabling logistics operators to make smart choices and limit carbon emissions by using rail, in this case.
“Storage is another issue – we are used by the big lines to store containers of imports or exports, or even empties, because they don’t have space for all the freight. We are also there if something doesn’t run right in their operations; companies can’t afford to run 100,000 square metres of storage just in case something happens, and the dryport can become a kind of auxiliary depot between sea port and warehouse. In short, we absorb the errors of road and rail transportation, as well as absorbing congestion at the sea port.”
Source: Port Strategy
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