Mini-series: short sea stars in the spotlight (part 3)

3 June 2024
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Reading time: 6 minutes

Short sea offers a sustainable and affordable alternative to other modalities. Rotterdam’s Waal-Eemhaven is home to Europe's largest hub for dedicated short sea shipping: the City Terminal, with a capacity of over one million TEU per year. At the City-Terminal several shortsea parties work together to offer a state-of-the art shortsea product. Multiple global players are spotlighted in this trilogy. This episode highlights QTerminals Kramer Rotterdam.

Mini-series: shortsea stars in the spotlight

Shortsea offers a sustainable and affordable alternative to other modalities. This trilogy spotlights three Rotterdam global players in the sector. For part 3, we take a look at the terminal at QTerminals Kramer Rotterdam. In their field, they are the biggest player in Europe.

On top of the large concentration of cooperating (short sea) terminals and short sea service providers, the Rotterdam City Terminal ensures fast and reliable transport and transshipment of goods within Europe. Rotterdam also offers the largest network of feeder services connecting to international liner services and a direct connection to deep-sea liner connections with more than 140 international ports.

Linchpin is QTerminals Kramer Rotterdam, a relatively young name but an established player for many years.

Largest in Europe

In the mid-1960s, Marcel Kramer started cleaning containers. Later on, the services were expanded to include container repairs and other services. Today, that is still the core business of the company, which was acquired by Qatari QTerminals in late 2023. “With a total package, from one hand, we unburden the customer, both on and off dock. In our field, we are the largest player in Europe,” CEO André Kramer proudly tells us.

At five strategic locations, totaling 65 hectares of land, QTerminals Kramer Rotterdam provides container depot operations for shipping companies and short sea operators. One of those locations is the City Terminal. On exactly the same spot where it all began more than sixty years ago, the Kramer City Depot offers every conceivable depot service. “That ranges from reefer repair and container cleaning to monitoring temperatures in reefer containers,” Kramer knows. “The fact that we can provide those services in those strategic locations contributes significantly to our strength.”

‘Clustering offers opportunities’

The fact that all services are concentrated at one strategic location makes the City Terminal unique in Europe. “This is a very specialized cluster with dedicated services for the short sea sector. That is currently valuable, but it will become even more important in the future. Specifically, since we as a sector are competing with road transport.”

Thanks to the clustering, logistical opportunities arise, Kramer argues: “The clustering of all these different players at one specialized terminal can provide logistical advantages, from which the entire supply chain benefits. In the end, everything revolves around service and price. While steps have already been taken in that regard, there is much more in store. Kramer envisions linking systems, among other things. “That is currently still in its infancy and, moreover, requires a substantial investment, but that too is being rolled out,” he knows. “If everyone looks beyond their own company boundaries and cooperation increases, we can be even more successful as a cluster.”

QTerminals Kramer Rotterdam itself is already cooperating closely with all parties at the City Terminal. In addition to the ‘usual’ container depot services, customs handling is also provided for RST, for example. “We have an internal lane, approved by customs, between our depot and RST, RSC, MRT and Cool Port. A fast and efficient exchange of full and empty containers is guaranteed as a result. Our customers save a lot of time and costs because of this,” Kramer explains.

“Precisely because we play a neutral role and do not compete with any other participant in the cluster, we are the linchpin and can interact extremely well with all parties,” says the CEO.

Aerial view of Q Terminals Kramer Rotterdam. Photo MartensMultimedia
Aerial view of Q Terminals Kramer Rotterdam. Photo MartensMultimedia.

Collaborating on sustainability

With the Port Authority, QTerminals Kramer Rotterdam is also looking at other ways to improve. Sustainability is high on their agenda. Port of Rotterdam introduced a new energy system with Zero Emission Services (ZES) to make inland shipping more sustainable. The ambition is to power 400 electric ships with 650 ZES battery packs by 2050, on 40 routes through an open network of 20 docking stations. This will reduce emissions in the sector by 400-480,000 tons of CO2 and about 2,800 tons of nitrogen per year. “One of those docking stations is expected to be ready in the second half of this year on our RCT, at the Maasvlakte. That will then provide opportunities for us in the electrification of our equipment,” Kramer points out.

Within its own organization there is a strong commitment to sustainability too.By switching from diesel to HVO100, a fossil-free and renewable fuel, QTerminals Kramer Rotterdam has already reduced the CO2 emissions of its trucks and reach stackers by 80 percent. The latest trucks are also equipped with a cleaner, Stage V powertrain. “But here too we are looking further ahead, driven also by the ambitions of our parent company QTerminals,” Kramer continues. “In the future, we want to switch to reach stackers and terminal towing vehicles with emission-free electric drives. The developments are progressing so rapidly that I expect that in four or five years we will have electrified a significant part of our equipment.”

The company also envisions sustainability potential in ongoing cooperation with the other stakeholders in the short sea cluster. For example, in joint purchasing of green power. “If we really want to make strides in Europe, we have to make sure that we operate CO2 neutral as soon as possible. For more and more customers, especially in Scandinavia, that is an important criteria. We have to.” Again, the CEO sees a role for the Port Authority, for example in stimulating cost-neutral investments: “Fortunately, that is already being done. Port of Rotterdam encourages companies to make the necessary switch to greener solutions via several initiatives.”

Technological sustainability

Also, technological sustainability has the focus of QTerminals Kramer Rotterdam. After all, in addition to linking systems, further minimizing operations, for example via automation, can likewise generate benefits for the entire chain. Partly for this reason, QTerminals Kramer Rotterdam recently started a pilot in which the possibilities are being examined for semi-autonomous transport to Lineage’s Cool Port refrigerated hub, also located at the City Terminal. “Due to the relatively high investment required, automation for empty depots is not yet as well established as in other sectors. However, it is becoming more and more economical. And that opens up opportunities,” Kramer states. The aim of the pilot is to ship containers unmanned from A to B, with the terminal truck driving the route autonomously and a remote employee monitoring the transport and taking over the trickier parts if needed.

“On the one hand, the scarcity in the labor market is forcing us to look beyond and develop new initiatives like this. On the other hand, we want to work as efficiently as possible and strengthen our leading position by continuous improvement. Currently, personnel costs account for half of our transportation costs. If we can reduce that percentage with technological innovations, the entire supply chain will benefit.” Five years ago, the company conducted a study that revealed that the number of containers that can be stored in the same area can be doubled as a result of automating transport. “Especially given the expected growth, we will have to focus on initiatives like these,” Kramer believes.

Kramer City Depot

Site: 13.5 ha
Quay: 525 m
Depth: 8.85/11.65 m
Gantry cranes: 2
Capacity (TEU): 14,000
PTI: 120

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