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Transfer from road to sea requires deeper cooperation

20 October 2022

The transfer of freight transport from road to shipping is going slow. According to a new study, a deeper collaboration between shipping companies, cargo owners, freight forwarders and ports is required if we are to speed it up.

Three years ago, a report from the IVL Swedish Environmental Institute identified three obstacles that stood in the way of the transfer of goods from road to sea. Firstly, it was not a priority issue among transport buyers, secondly, there was a lack of knowledge about shipping among companies and thirdly, there was a lack of cooperation between the actors in the transport industry. The researchers from IVL then chose to study the latter together with researchers SSPA and Green Consulting Group for two years.

"In order to create a new transport system, several actors have important roles. Shipping companies, cargo owners, freight forwarders and ports need to jointly create change, but currently have no major cooperation. For me, it is striking how rarely, for example, shipping companies and cargo owners have communication and dialogue. The shipping companies lack knowledge about what the cargo owners are asking for and the cargo owners lack information about what offers are available", says Linda Styhre at IVL, who led the work on the report Aktörssamverkan för ökad och hållbar närsjöfart.

She is convinced that a forum for industry cooperation is needed, especially after conducting workshops on the topic.

"We noticed that there was a lot of interest, all the goods owners, shipping companies, ports and freight forwarders that we invited came. They had a great need to talk and get to know each other a little better. The contact they usually have today is mostly of an operational nature, there is no room to discuss strategic issues, development and far-reaching collaborations. The agreements are usually short and the length of the contract was often mentioned as a problem. Environmental investments cost money and longer contracts are needed between the actors to distribute costs and risks, for example to enable new ship investments."

So which actor can do the most on the transfer issue?

"I think everyone has a role in this. From the product owner's side, it's about being open to suggestions and setting sustainability-related requirements. The shipping companies need to be clearer with their offers and the forwarders need to get better at coming up with new proposals for sustainable shipping solutions. The ports are a bit of a hub in this and have a pretty good knowledge of cargo owners and shipping companies. They can take a more active role and connect different actors", says Linda Styhre.

A lot has happened during the project period of just over two years – Covid, a ship blocking the Suez Canal, supply crisis, container shortage, a war in Ukraine, but also proposals for a tough climate package (Fit for 55). The package means, among other things, that shipping will most likely soon be incorporated into the EU's trading of emissions rights.

"I believe that Fit for 55 will be a strong engine that will have a major impact on the entire industry. Within shipping, it has been realized that you can no longer escape environmental and climate regulation. And those who go ahead and dare to take the risks now, they have an opportunity to be at the forefront and create good business opportunities for themselves in the future", says Linda Styhre.

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