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"“Brand exposure on the road throughout Europe is important"

Intermodal first & last Mile: Land, sea and water
Mathijs Slangen, Director Strategic Accounts at TIP Trailer Services, a service and solutions provider aimed to transportation and logistics customers, opened the session on intermodal transport solutions at the recent Cool Logistics event in Rotterdam.

“We see more and more reefer containers inland. Does that mean that reefer trailers are being replaced by containers or are those two modalities coexisting next to one another?” asks Mathijs. “And what are the main selection drivers for the industry players?”

Firstly, it is important to consider what customers are demanding; secondly, what the price is for each modality, and also the logistics set-ups and how it all fits in the supply chain, as well as the technical capabilities of both reefer containers and reefer trailers.

“Brand exposure on the road throughout Europe is important; also, ready-to-sell products are keeping us busy; products that have to be really fresh and healthy, which bring logistical issues and challenges,” affirms Mathijs.

He states that reefer trailers tend to be more sensitive to damages than containers, with 20-30% of the maintenance costs corresponding to repairs, although in terms of logistics, “reefer trailers are less bound to inland depots, offering more flexibility; reverse logistics are less of a challenge than with reefer containers.”

Customers, according to Mathijs, “are also trying to find out what we can do with the cargo, based on the quality of the information we get throughout its shipment. Flexible planning and tight control is really the key.”

Mathijs believes that customers must weight up the advantages and shortcomings of each modality and their impact on business. “We see that reefer containers are moving more towards the inland, but this doesn’t mean that trailers are losing ground, as flexibility is in favour of the latter.”

Second to take the stage was Jack Kloosterboer, of the temperature-controlled logistics operator Kloosterboer BV. “We focus on innovation, not only in cold storage, but also in logistics, to find out how to move the goods in the best, most efficient, cost-effective way.”

He states that there is a growing trend to move from vessels with pallets to containers, “and we have to adapt to that in order to be ready for the future.” There are various ways to optimise container logistics; “we have to avoid empty vessels; thus, we use the same container for both import and export.”

Not only is this practice environmentally-friendly, but it brings great operational advantages. “Shipping companies like to have their containers back as soon as possible; they have a cost of 25,000 Euro and we must aim to re-use them as much as we can by connecting the inbound and outbound cargo,” affirms Jack.

For his part, and in line with the two previous speakers, Donald Baan, of Port of Rotterdam, argues that most of the developments made in logistics focus on efficiency in the supply chain, not only in the port itself, but from a more integrated view. “The challenge lies in making that chain optimal so as to be able to compete with other ports.”

Donald believes that it all comes down to two main points: “firstly, connectivity with the inland network, and secondly, controlling costs; being able to use the assets in the most efficient way. In Rotterdam, we see a global hub of deep sea container lines, which is nice, but it’s not where it ends, as the cargo has to move into the European inlands.”

In terms of connectivity, he highlights what an asset it is to have easy access to information about the inland network, “to get a feeling about where the growth potential is, who to work with, and how to organise my supply chain more efficiently. With the trend towards intermodal transportation, people want to know where the opportunities are.”

To this end, the website was created, where all inland terminals connected to Rotterdam are visible. “It also allows you to see whether those terminals offer reefer connections or certain customs facilities, what the opening times are, and all other kinds of information.”

As of last year, a container depot has also been included in this platform for all 75 inland terminals connected and the 15 largest shipping lines in the world have created profiles to facilitate information about where to pick up empty containers in order to save money.

“We believe that a strong intermodal network creates opportunities not only for the port, but also for its customers. Connecting is not just about sharing information, but about setting up new connections with inland markets and reducing starting costs and risks for all parties. If you want the flexibility and efficiency, you need the information,” concludes Donald Baan.