New directions of intermodal transport support development of Polish ports
Intermodal transport, especially in the north-south direction and within the Three Seas region, is a great opportunity for the Polish ports. One of the rapidly developing areas is the ro-ro transport and intermodal transport of semi-trailers. Works to restore inland navigation in Poland are also underway, noted the participants of the 8th International Maritime Congress that was held in Szczecin last week.
“Due to the safety, speed and automation of processes, intermodal transport has great prospects. Multimodal transport corridors offer flexible solutions that can meet customer expectations. Inland transport is also part of the TEN-T core corridors. The project of unblocking the Odra Waterway is in line with the concept of the Three Seas Initiative, but it must be remembered that the quality of these waterways is important. It is necessary to meet the parameters of international waterways specified in the AGN agreement,” said Krzysztof Woś, CEO of Polish Waters (Wody Polskie), the state-owned holding that is responsible for water management in Poland.
Investments are currently underway to restore the third class of navigability on the Odra River. The renovation of two locks on the Gliwice Canal has recently been completed, making it possible to sail on it again.
“We are currently designing the further barrages that will extend the section of the canalised Oder, which will be part of the intermodal corridor. We are modernising the regulatory infrastructure where it is damaged. We are rebuilding bridges that are navigational obstacles. In the past, the share of inland navigation in the delivery if export of to the Port of Szczecin from the land side was 20 per cent and we want to restore this level,” commented Krzysztof Woś.
Adapting the land infrastructure to the TEN-T standard is crucial for the development of intermodal transport and the development of ports. “Trelleborg is the largest ro-ro port in Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea. We focus on the development of intermodal semi-trailer transport. Last year, we handled 43,000 semi-trailers and it is possible the level of 100,000 units. However, the key factor is the development of intermodal rail transport and the expansion of the TEN-T infrastructure,” said Jorgen Nilsson, CEO of the Port of Trelleborg.
The transport of semi-trailers and vehicle combinations is also a direction that will be developed in the Port of Świnoujście, which has a connection with Trelleborg. “We are building a new Public Ferry Terminal, which will start operating in 2023. Currently, we handle half a million vehicles annually, but we see a trend to develop intermodal transport of semi-trailers. In the first eight months of 2021, this segment at our terminal increased by 28 per cent. At the new terminal, it will be possible to handle wagon sets onto a ferry, but this form of transport has no prospects, as it is more profitable to transport only semi-trailers,” said Marek Kowalewski, CEO of the Świnoujście Ferry Terminal.
The Polish Baltic ports regard their opportunity in the development of the intermodal north-south corridor. As experts emphasise, Poland can gain more from these connections than from the east-west transport, where most cargo is transported in transit, which means that it does not generate duty revenues or create added value in the economy.
“The railway-based New Silk Road provides only a few per cent of freight imports from Asia. However, over the last decade, we have managed to change the perception of the Polish ports and today we can compete with Hamburg. Thanks to the DCT investments, the Port of Gdańsk was promoted to the Top 15 container ports in Europe. Currently, we handle 600 trains a month, and the share of railways in moving goods from Gdańsk is 35 per cent. Twice a week, we receive the largest container ships in the world, which deliver 10,000 containers. This shows that intermodal transport is essential for the expansion of maritime terminals. Unfortunately, the 750-metre-long trains cannot currently run from Gdynia or Gdańsk to Czechia and other countries south of Poland. Therefore, the priority is to adapt the entire corridor from Koper to the Tri-City to the passage of longer intermodal trains,” noted Dominik Landa, commercial director of DCT Gdańsk.
Fortunately, investments in the adaptation of line infrastructure, i.e. railways and inland waterways, as well as point infrastructure in ports and inland terminals will be financially supported in the next budgetary perspective of the European Union.
“Intermodal transport sets new records in terms of volumes and traffic. There are a number of elements supporting this development, such as transport policy or investor activities. The Centre for EU Transport Projects supports the terminal, rolling stock and infrastructure projects, especially on the TEN-T network. This is an ambitious challenge as the core network must be completed by 2030. Unfortunately, the share of railways in freight transport has decreased in recent years. We want to go back to the level that was several years ago. Low commercial speeds of trains are still a very large barrier, although those in the case of intermodal trains are higher than those of trains transporting bulk cargo. There is also a shortage of rolling stock. Fortunately, thanks to the EU projects in the current budget perspective, the Polish carriers purchased 3,700 new flat wagons and semi-trailers. What is positive, large investments are also carried out by private companies. In the next budget perspective, such projects will probably also be supported,” assured Krzysztof Rodziewicz, director of the department for analysis and programming at the Centre for EU Transport Projects (CUPT).