West-Brabant Corridor celebrates its third anniversary: demonstrating the added value of chain collaboration
An alliance of deep sea and inland terminals, shippers and transport firms can look back with satisfaction on the first three years of the West-Brabant Corridor (WBC). The idea to bundle container flows in the direct hinterland of the port of Rotterdam has proven hugely successful – and has made inland shipping more attractive in the process.
BTT Multimodal Container Solutions, Combined Cargo Terminals (CCT) Moerdijk and Oosterhout Container Terminal (OCT) have joined strengths within the WBC to bundle container flows along the route between Tilburg, Oosterhout, Moerdijk and Rotterdam. The WBC came out of a sector-wide container consultation initiated by the Port of Rotterdam Authority in 2017, in response to mounting waiting times for inland container vessels that call on the various deep sea terminals in the port of Rotterdam.
Inland vessels stop at the inland terminals in Moerdijk, Tilburg and Oosterhout to combine cargo destined for a single deep sea terminal in Rotterdam – or vice versa. This improves capacity utilisation, meaning that companies can cut back the number of vessels along this route and reduce waiting times at the deep sea terminals. The Port Authority supported this initiative in the start-up phase in order to encourage collaboration within the chain. Over 12% of the container volumes carried to and from the Maasvlakte deep sea terminals by inland vessels are transported along this corridor.
The results so far have been very promising. The WBC partners not only report around 75% fewer deviations from the requested call slots at the deep sea terminals, the number of inland vessels calling on these facilities has also dropped by 30% – combined with a 20% reduction in trucking volumes. The average call size per barge has tripled compared to the start of the programme and the total stay time for inland vessels in the port of Rotterdam has decreased by 30%. Compared to three years ago, the volume of containers transported along the WBC has grown by 12%: a share formerly handled by road transport.
“Our product has become more reliable,” notes Luc Smits, Managing Director of CCT Moerdijk. “Our clients are satisfied and our planners feel a new enthusiasm for their work. If we manage to convince even more shippers of the advantages of the WBC, we can keep raising volumes and reducing costs in the longer term. We are constantly improving the programme by automating processes and entering into even more effective agreements with clients. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has led to a temporary increase in road transport between Rotterdam and the hinterland terminals. This has put pressure on the rates. I expect that when the pandemic is under control, there will be a renewed focus on the sustainability theme. At which point we can hit the ground running.”
Arie Rietveld, Managing Director of OCT, agrees with this assessment: “We’ve had a fantastic first three years. In Moerdijk, we significantly improved our central planning. Major clients have told us that they have experienced a strong improvement in our performance. In addition, we’ve invested in new push-barges, built here in the Netherlands. One of the spearheads of our strategy is re-using containers within the region. In 2022, we will be paying even more attention to developing Moerdijk as a pivot for empty equipment flows. In the course of 2021 – working in partnership with the Zero Emission Services (ZES) consortium, we will be realising a fixed service with electric vessels between the Heineken terminal in Alphen aan den Rijn and Moerdijk. So we’re also investing in a green inland shipping sector, in other words. No fewer than 22 round trips per week! This can only be achieved by scaling up. A few years ago, these ships still had to move between different terminals.”
The Rotterdam deep sea terminals call it a very successful inland shipping concept. Rotterdam World Gateway (RWG): “The WBC connects seamlessly with both the requirements of our shipping companies and shippers and those of the deep sea terminal itself. We explicitly need these large call sizes to bridge the gap between the massive new sea-going vessels calling on Rotterdam and individual end users. The direct, fixed connection between RWG and the three hinterland terminals enables us to provide reliable service and cover a very wide area on our clients’ behalf.” APM Terminals: “Bundling flows in the hinterland allows us to handle cargo swiftly and on schedule. Combined with the WBC’s fixed sailing schedule, this yields a reliable end-to-end product for the shipper.” ECT: “It’s admirable how well the WBC parties are working together. The number of fixed windows has risen. This increase shows that this product clearly fulfils a market need. The barge operators can count on their flows being handled at a specific time – which allows them to offer their clients added value and extra quality. The success of fixed windows obviously also depends on cooperation between different parties to bundle their cargo.”
And the WBC has enabled logistics service provider Euro-Rijn XL Logistics to organise the just-in-time delivery of products at final destinations elsewhere in Europe. “Leading to substantial cost savings in our client’s supply chain! A container that is unloaded from a sea-going vessel in Rotterdam today can be in one of our warehouses tomorrow. And this for at least one hundred 40-ft containers per day.”
The WBC participants look to the future with confidence. Luc Smits and Arie Rietveld: “We’re no longer in the start-up phase, and our confidence in each other has proven justified. We’re one of the few initiatives in the Netherlands where three independent companies can look beyond their individual interests and join forces. This shows that collaboration can create a win-win situation too. You don’t always have to expand via mergers and acquisitions. We want to continue to grow and build our programme of services.”