Future of Short Sea Shipping (SSS) On the Continent of Europe

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In order to solve ossified problems of road freight transport like accidents, congestion (on roads), reliability of supply chain and environmental damage we should take into account increasingly attractive option and potential solution – the Short Sea Shipping (SSS) and integrate it better with multi-modal freight transport.

In the last decades global sourcing, just in time deliveries and fragmented production chains caused a growing need for more and more goods and products to be transported from one point to another on a daily basis. As it is the most popular mean of transport to move goods, the road freight transport is expected to grow by 60% by 2013 (Alfred, 2007). However, current road traffic capacity hardly meets this increasing demand. Even if we double current capacity, this will not be a solution since the bottlenecks of the roads cause congestion and currently 10% of the road network of EU are affected by traffic jam on daily basis (Medda, et al., 2010). In other words there are no technology or infrastructure expansion on the roadways to facilitate this rapid growth.

Roadways are the most used way of freight transportation. It is considered to be the most flexible but also an expensive mean of transportation (contrary to common belief); private companies do very little for financing, planning or provision of road infrastructure because most of these tasks are taken care by public institutions (Alfred, 2007). These circumstances force us to search for new solutions and carry out modelling on freight transportation. According to European Commission short sea shipping is the only mode that has been capable of keeping up with rapid economic growth of EU freight transport (Alfred, 2007). In order to solve ossified problems of road freight transport like accidents, congestion (on roads), reliability of supply chain and environmental damage we should take into account increasingly attractive option and potential solution – the Short Sea Shipping (SSS) and integrate it better with multi-modal freight transport.

According to many researches the short sea shipping is one of the most efficient means for freight transport. It has many advantages when compared with land-based modes. First of all, it is considerably cheaper because the sea is virtually free and does not require high level of maintenance. Besides, most parts of the sea traffic are unaffected by congestion unlike on roads and railways. Furthermore, the load carrying capacity of the sea shipping is considerably higher than that of the other modes (for instance one RoRo ship can carry approximately 300 trailers). Also, relatively it may be faster – especially in some routes (Alfred, 2007). Since roadway freight transport usually needs to cross many borders, it leads to more problems with official papers (like custom documents) and slows down the transport process. Finally, ship transport offers higher fuel economy and lower CO2 emission (Medda, et al., 2010) that is the most important advantage of SSS. Analysis in UK shows that SSS can halve externality costs imposed by road transport (Medda, et al., 2010). On the other hand, there are still some points to be improved for short sea shipping, in particular, low frequencies, unreliability of arrival time, risk of damage and incomplete integration with multi-modal transport. However, these facts can be easily solved by better network management and incentives by state authorities (such as EU).

In summary Short Sea Shipping has great potential to solve many problems that are caused by road freight transport, as well as to supply enough capacity to rapidly increasing freight transport while it is relatively environmentally friendly. In order to increase the usage of SSS, related constitutions should be more informative and promoting about advantages of SSS such as cost or time saving for carriers. Aiming at sustainable, efficient and faster freight transport SSS will gain an important role in shifting freight transport from the road to the sea.

References

Alfred J. Baird (2007): The economics of Motorways of the Sea, Maritime Policy

& Management, 34:4, 287-310

Francesca Medda & Lourdes Trujillo (2010): Short-sea shipping: an analysis of

its determinants, Maritime Policy & Management, 37:3, 285-303

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