Working apart together

Several years ago the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment expected a strong growth in the inland shipping industry. Although the growth is less than expected, adaptations to the logistic infrastructure are still necessary to be able to deal with future growth and to compete internationally. What is being done to meet these challenges?


With the construction of Maasvlakte 2 a considerable increase in the transportation of cargo is foreseen. Due to the current modal split, the expected volumes will result in a congested road system, so the waterways must become an attractive alternative. A better usage of the waterways provides better opportunities to maintain and further enhance the strong position of the Netherlands.

In May 2010, Rijkswaterstaat, the executive agency of the ministry, started the Impulse Dynamic Traffic Management Waterways Programme (in Dutch: Impuls Dynamisch Verkeersmanagement Vaarwegen, short IDVV). In this programme public authorities, research institutes, waterway managers, carriers, shippers, harbours and terminals work together on a better usage of the waterways.

The goals were to create a more attractive inland waterborne transport, reliable voyage times and new logistical concepts and to improve the information flow. The agreement between the Port of Rotterdam and prospective terminals on Maasvlakte 2 to transport 45% of the containers per inland vessel to and from the hinterland in 2035 is still standing. And, in order to do so, a better alignment and collaboration between all parties in the industry is necessary.

Keep it flowing

Jacco de Kok, director oflDVV at Rijkswaterstaat: ”When other countries look at how we approach inland shipping, they are impressed and want to know how we do it. If we did not start the IDVV programme to resolve the expected problems, the flow of goods from the port of Rotterdam to the hinterland would have choked up, even with a lesser growth. Through better cooperation and sharing of data and information, we can expand on a modality which can compete internationally and which will stimulate the Dutch economy at the same time.”

Initially IDVV would stop in 2013. At the start there was some scepticism among the private sector, however in the meantime those same parties have asked Rijkswaterstaat not to stop, but to continue their boost to the market and the supply chain. De Kok: ”Parties were anxious and questioned themselves if they were ready to take over the lead of the projects. We decided to continue for an extra year, enabling the transfer parties and to pick up some opportunities we encountered in the process. Two of the projects that will continue in 2014 are Nextlogic and Supply Chain Alignment, which are both good examples of collaboration in the supply chain.”

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Chain optimisation

In 2011 the Port of Rotterdam started the Nextlogic programme in collaboration with market parties in the inland shipping industry, since 2012 IDVV supports the project financially and with knowledge. Programme manager Teunis Steenbeek: ”At the start of the project we said ‘doing nothing is not an option’, the inefficiencies and unreliability will stay and will even get worse.” Rien Geurts, managing director at BCTN, an inland terminal operator, adds: ”The most important thing for us is that our customers can rely on us. Reliability means we can effectively predict when a container arrives in the hinterland from the seaport, but alignment between terminals and shipping companies is difficult.”

The solution Nextlogic wants to offer, is based on three pillars: neutral integral planning of terminal and depot slots, call optimisation and performance measurement. In order for this to happen several working groups were established in which representatives of the market parties participated. Steenbeek: ”In the past two and a half years the parties, the shipping companies, inland and deep sea terminals, barge operators and depots have discovered a mutual opportunity. In the beginning all these parties did not have any insight in each other’s problems and were only interested in their own. Now there is a mutual understanding, and we can go from merely talking to taking action, with a small trial in 2014 and a larger one in 2015 to test the designed concepts.”

The first pillar consists of a neutral integral planning of terminal and depot slots in the port of Rotterdam. ”At the moment the planning of the slots is bilateral, this needs to become integral. Therefore a system based on PortBase, which offers logistical information to relevant parties, is developed that will be the information platform for the brain. The brain is a set of mathematical algorithms that creates an optimal planning for all the different companies that use each others services. However, in order for the information platform, and therefore the brain, to work the relevant companies need to put actual data into the platform and in order for it to be up-to-date they also need to keep updating their information”, says Steenbeek. The brain will be tested in the larger trial in 2015.

Call optimisation

”We try to get less calls, because the higher the number the harder it is to plan when which vessel goes to which terminal and the less reliable the planning becomes”, Steenbeek explains the second pillar of Nextlogic, call optimisation. Geurts adds: “There are three main terminals in the port and another two will be added. Despite the increasing volume the number of terminals where you need to be is also expanding. Call sizes are decreasing, but the number of calls is increasing.”

In order to decrease the number it is possible to bundle the containers in the hinterland or at the seaport. Several pilots have been started to see if this is going to work. One for example is that APM Terminals and ECT let an inland vessel unload ad the competing party. Jouke Schaap, commercial manager at APM Terminals comments: “It is important to work together on the things that can make all of us more competitive. We have to work side by side to enhance the competitive position of Rotterdam, after that we can fight for our own position.”

Collecting all the knowledge

In 2012 a baseline survey was conducted which made clear that the availability and quantity of the data was insufficient. In 2013 a periodic, anonymous performance measurement, the third pillar, was executed based on data from the Portbase and anonymous AIS data, and in 2014 further structural measurements will take place for which the brain and the information platform will be the base. Steenbeek: ”With all the information we have gathered, we want to initiate a performance measurement, this way you make the chain, the individual chain parties as well as the effect of above measurements, transparent.”

Schaap adds: ”The base of the whole Nextlogic project is creating transparency. It is important to show the whole chain how the performance has been up until now. Through measurements and insight it is possible to have a dialogue with the sector.”

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Serious gaming

Supply Chain Alignment was another project of the IDVV programme from TNO, TU Delft, Panteia/NEA, Erasmus, EICB, Modality and AbOvo, and focuses on the alignment between the different supply chain parties. The project has been completed, although a follow-up will take place in 2014. Jaco van Meijeren, senior consultant freight transport and logistics at TNO Mobility in Delft tells Maritime by Holland Magazine: ”We expect that the flow of goods will increase in the future and when this happens you need to use all modalities to make optimal use of the inland shipping industry. A simulation model could tell us more about all the different possibilities in which the supply chain could develop itself in the future.”

In order to develop the model, serious gaming was used as a way to test the model with the help of the market parties that play an integral role in the logistics chain: deep sea carriers, deep sea terminals, barge operators, inland terminal operators, logistical service providers, port authorities and governments. Van Meijeren: ”Several gaming sessions were organised in which a discussion between the supply chain participants took place about possible concepts. The main result was that the market parties and governments received an insight in the supply chain, and we developed a simulation model based on the gaming sessions that can study the current situation but can also create possible scenarios for the next ten years in the inland shipping industry. For example, one of the possibilities is to increase the number of containers that are being shipped in order to see the effects on the rest of the supply chain.”

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”In the first project you can see that we mostly tried out new concepts. The parties thought about, tried out and discussed everything. For the new 2014 project we looked at concepts that will or will not work in shipping areas. Next to this some adaptations to the simulation model have been made thanks to our learnings from the first project”, says Van Meijeren.

He adds: ”It is important that the parties are going to act on the results. One example is the inland terminal Nijmegen, which implemented a hub concept based on the discussions that took place during the gaming sessions.” De Kok: ”The way to increase the use of inland waterways is through more collaboration and sharing more information. Interests differ and the challenge is to work towards a mutual goal. When this happens the Netherlands will add another valuable dimension to being the Gateway to Europe.”

Anne Kregting

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