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Special edition summer 2021

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Port economy

COMBINE – Strengthening combined transport in the Baltic Sea Region

By Melanie Mesloh, Jan-Niklas Müller, Jan Wedemeier, André Wolf

COMBINE project, funded by the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme, aims at enhancing the share of Combined Transport (CT) in the Baltic Sea Region to make transport more efficient and environmentally friendly since the share of this freight transport concept remains low in the Baltic Sea region due to spatial scattered transport and tradition of road transport.

With regard to freight transportation, CT is generally defined as the movement of goods by efficiently combining at least two different modes of transport within the transportation chain without changing the goods’ loading unit during the entire transportation process, offering the opportunity to combine and exploit the individual benefits of each involved transport mode. In CT, the major part of the freight transport is carried out by rail, inland waterway or sea while the road legs in the beginning (First Mile) and at the end of the transport chain (Last Mile) should be kept as short as possible.

The COMBINE project follows a comprehensive approach to foster the application of CT in all parts of the transport chain: main leg, terminal handling, and first and last mile. It contributes to closer cooperation in the policy level, stronger support for combined transport in the Baltic Sea Region and a stronger role of combined transport in the transport system. The COMBINE project is a Flagship of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region under the Policy Area Transport.

The COMBINE project is led by Port of Hamburg Marketing (HHM) and implemented together with 14 partners from Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Sweden. The project began in January 2019 and ended in June 2021.

The HWWI has supported the practice partners with its expertise in data analysis and economic modelling, thereby providing a profound scientific basis for the project work. In the scope of the COMBINE project the HWWI compiled two comprehensive reports on the Emission Saving Potentials of Combined Transport and on the development of a Combined Terminal Strategy to push forward interregional CT development. In the process of creating the latter report, a policy workshop has been organized, which gathered stakeholder assessments as additional inputs for the Combined Terminal Strategy.

The paper "Combined Transport in Europe: Scenario-based Projections of Emission Saving Potentials", published in April 2020, analyses the different typologies of combined transportation in Europe. Future emission saving potentials associated with the shift of cargo from road to other modes of transport such as rail and inland waterways are quantified on a scenario basis. The results show that an improvement of handling infrastructure for combined transport can effectively reduce environmental costs of transporting goods between regions. However, even when assuming ambitious emission saving scenarios related to the transport sector, the expected emission reduction effects are relatively small in comparison to the total emissions of the transport sector. This is shown in Figure 1, which presents exemplary results for Germany and the EU average in the form of a transport-emissions index (based on the modal split in 2017 and the associated mode-specific emissions). This means that, in order to achieve a substantial reduction of emissions, combined transport initiatives need to be complemented by a reduction of the specific emissions of the relevant transport modes.

The second report "Combined Terminal Strategy – A strategy to push forward interregional CT development", that has been published via the COMBINE project in June 2021, gives an initial overview of the CT market and infrastructure in the BSR; thereby, putting a special focus on the role and functioning of terminals in Combined Transport. Moreover, it tries to develop policy measures at the level of the EU and the Baltic Sea. The analysis of both the BSR CT market in general and the current situation and requirements for infrastructure and technological equipment of CT terminals is mainly based on two separate COMBINE project outputs ("Overview of the combined transport market in the BSR" and "Combined Transport Terminal Benchmark Analysis"). With respect to the BSR CT market, the paper gives information on the economic potential of CT as well as the role of terminals in CT and identifies the most relevant cargo flows and export-trade relations related to BSR-internal freight transportation. Subsequently, due to the paper’s mentioned focus, detailed information on CT terminals is presented. After clarifying the particular importance of terminals for CT and the urgent need to improve terminal processes to foster CT, various relevant terminal performance and utilization indicators as well as the application of new technologies (e.g., innovative handling technologies, digitalization, automatization, and standardization) to improve terminal efficiency are discussed. Moreover, information on the importance of a terminals’ service portfolio and operating model for its competitiveness and usefulness for CT is given. The paper also refers to the theoretical reasons for the location and distribution of terminals and describes the actual spatial distribution of CT terminals within the BSR.

Most challenging are measures and instruments to address the function of connectivity, interface, and buffer to increase the capacities and reliability (e.g., throughput congestions, service frequency) on the one hand, and with regards to energy and environment on the other hand (e.g., emissions reduction, reduction of other external effects). Common challenges that have been identified are, amongst others, congestions and infrastructure, organizational and process optimization as well as energy and sustainability. Figure 2 summarizes the results of the scope of policy actions for terminals. The interfaces for political measures and instruments are to be set in the areas of (i.) Regulation, (ii.) Market-based solutions and (iii.) Infrastructure.

The mentioned workshop was addressed to all relevant stakeholders of combined transport and was widely promoted in the contact networks of the HWWI and the COMBINE project partners. On the one hand, it pursued the target to further share content on the improvement of terminal efficiency in Combined Transport generated within the COMBINE project with a wider audience as well as, more generally, strengthening Combined Transport in the Baltic Sea Region. Therefore, the workshop commenced with some content inputs and presentations from various project partners on different CT and CT terminal related topics, such as ways and innovations to improve terminal handling and operations. On the other hand, it aimed at generating valuable information on how the performance of terminals is currently assessed by actual CT stakeholders and in which areas (i.e., political/legal framework conditions, infrastructure, technology, organization, and communication) they see need for action to improve the terminal performances in CT and to push forward interregional CT development in general. Among the participants, the most urgent need for action and improvement was seen in the areas Political and legal framework conditions and Infrastructure. Moreover, during the open policy discussion, all workshop attendees had the opportunity to bring forward, concrete measures in all the above-mentioned areas that they personally consider important and valuable for fostering CT. More detailed information on the results of the workshop survey and policy discussion can also be found in the report "Combined Terminal Strategy – A strategy to push forward interregional CT development".

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