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Transport buyers and shipping companies must cooperate more

25 April 2019

Although there is a political will that more transport should go via shipping, the truck is still prioritized. Why? Because it is flexible and reliable? Because that's what’s usually offered? Or because politics don't do enough? A research study financed by the Swedish Transport Administration takes a closer look on this.

During the project, which has been going on for a year, five case studies and a workshop with transport buyers, shipping companies, freight forwarders and researchers have given an indication of why transport buyers do not select the boat to any great extent. Linda Styhre, researcher and project manager at IVL, mentions three underlying causes that were discussed at the workshop at the end of March.

“One is about internal priorities among transport buyers. Although there are opportunities to increase transport via shipping, this is not prioritized.”

Another reason is that transport buyers would need more knowledge about how shipping works.

“It is perceived as more difficult to buy sea transport and that freight forwarders do not come up with sufficiently sharp offers.”

“Freight forwarders are also often organized in such a way that they have a department that deals exclusively with road transport. One can also imagine that freight forwarders may be less likely to offer maritime transport solutions, as some of them own their own vehicle fleet, but this needs further investigation.”

The third reason that was highlighted at the workshop is that there is no close cooperation between transport buyers, shipping companies and freight forwarders.

“Closer cooperation with shipping companies would, of course, increase knowledge of shipping among the merchants. But many do not have contact with the shipping companies at all.”

That is why in the project, which is a collaboration between the IVL, SSPA and Maritimt Forum, brought together the different stakeholders at a workshop.

“We hope that the exchange of experience will generate collaboration and increased transfer of goods from road to water.”

When talking about service requirements, reliability and flexibility are the top priority for transport buyers. There the truck has an advantage.

“Shipping is more sensitive. Especially in wintertime when there may be delays. But shipping also has benefits. It is often cheaper, more energy efficient and generally a better alternative for the climate.”

Could it be that old habits of transport buyers also are at play here?

“Definately. Why should you change a solution that has always worked? It is not a priority”. Linda Styhre says.

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