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Zuidnaties multimodal vision collides with modal split boundaries


Luchtbeeld terminal Zuidnatie

As a result of the AntwerpXL breakbulk trade fair that starts today – Tuesday 4 October – Flows made a print magazine about breakbulk. Multimodality is not always obvious in that sector, the experience of the pioneer in multimodality Zuidnatie has shown.

Freight handler Zuidnatie uses inland shipping and rail where possible to transport its flows of goods. According to transport manager Frank Provinciael, there is a lack of communication, vision and capacity management on the rail bundles in the port. The purchase of a second own barge was then postponed because the 'momentum' was lacking. Inland shipping in the port of Antwerp is still struggling with congestion.

Zuidnatie sees the conventional transport of breakbulk increasing. “There is a trend from containers to breakbulk. We transport a lot of breakbulk by rail and inland shipping, and we should not forget shortsea either. Short sea ships can come close with large volumes. With the track, we have 61 wagons waiting on the Oorderen track, north of the Churchill dock. The strong increase in rail transport is due to the healthy competitiveness between the rail operators who want to put as much cargo as possible on their wagons”, explains Provinciael.

Lack of vision

The use of the track proves to be extremely difficult from an operational point of view. “Recently we had a train with 20 wagons at Oorderen, but upon inspection, it turned out that 33 wagons were attached to it. 13 carriages were not ours. Three rail operators are active at the same time on Oorderen and it seems very difficult from an operational point of view to get everything arranged. There are fewer problems on the Far-West bundle, east of the Tweede and Derde Havendok.”

“Oorderen also has three curves, two of which are inside curves and one on the water. But the latter is in the way when ships are unloaded. It is only suitable for wagons with long products that can be loaded or unloaded directly on or off the ship. Free wagons can also be parked at Oorderen, which means that the bundle is not used efficiently. The three operators who are active there are driving each other's wheels. There is a lack of communication, vision and capacity management on the part of rail network manager Infrabel," explains the transport manager.

More complicated with new system

According to Provinciael, there was talk of starting from the Barge Traffic System (BTS) for the digitization of the rail in the port. “The configuration of the BTS could be perfectly applied to a Rail Traffic System. But within the port people have a different opinion and they want to develop a new system. I think that will just make it more complicated. Inland container shipping also has its problems, but constructive discussions are taking place there,” says Provinciael.

Better: measuring CO2

“I don't know which direction we're going. In the modal split, people want to move from 7% to 15% by rail and from 38% to 42% by inland shipping at the expense of road transport. In fact, the objective should be to measure CO2 emissions instead of looking at the modal split,” Provinciael continues.

According to a study by the Flemish Mobility Council (MORA), the share of rail and inland shipping in the modal split has remained virtually unchanged in recent years, despite policy measures and subsidies, and will remain so in the coming years.

“We can make an overview every week of the consumption of our trucks and how much CO2 they have emitted. That could also be set up for shipping and container inland shipping instead of sticking to the modal split," he argues.

Inland shipping

So far, Zuidnatie has used two barges for its own transport: the 'Zuidnatie 9', which is owned by the group, and the 'Dampezzo', which is chartered. Instead of the 'Dampezzo', the company wanted to purchase a second ship of its own. “The plans for the second lighter are in the fridge. The 'Dampezzo' will still remain available if goods flows again and we need more capacity. That is an agreement in favor of both parties. We also have the volume of our barge, which has undergone a rejuvenation treatment. We link them to the 'South Nation 9'. This means that we will sail on a fixed schedule, calling on the inner quays on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the outer quays on Tuesday, Thursday and at the weekend. We can load containers and breakbulk at the same time. In any case, we continue to believe in inland shipping and, as a South nation, we are always willing to participate in a more extensive multimodal shift," he emphasizes.

Reverse modal shift

The problems with the handling of inland shipping at the terminals also have negative consequences for the modal shift. “We are noticing a reverse modal shift from inland shipping to the truck. In fact, it should go the other way. But sometimes necessity breaks the law to achieve the closing and to avoid the costs of demurrage and detention”, concludes Provinciael.

Koen Heinen

Flowsredactie. (z.d.). Zuidnaties multimodale visie botst op grenzen modal split. Flows. Geraadpleegd op 12 oktober 2022, van


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