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Inland port focuses on containerization to attract growth

The Duisport Group, which owns and manages the Port of Duisburg in Germany’s Rhine-Ruhr region, expects container volume by ship, rail and truck to increase a record 16 per cent year in 2013 to surpass three million TEU.


The Duisport Group, which owns and manages the Port of Duisburg in Germany’s Rhine-Ruhr region, expects container volume by ship, rail and truck to increase a record 16 per cent year in 2013 to surpass three million TEU.

With a new record total of 3 million TEU, Duisport said it has secured its position as the world’s largest inland container port.

Speaking at the recent St. Lawrence Seaway’s Highway H2O conference in November, Duisport CEO Erich Staake noted that “this impressive growth in the container sector shows that one can generate growth with integrated transport and logistics concepts, even when there are stagnating handling figures in the sea ports.”

According to current projections, overall cargo tonnage for the full year will remain flat at 60 million tonnes.

“Acquiring new customers in contract logistics and the associated container volumes have been the main drivers of [container] growth. In addition, by targeted development and new construction of terminal capacities we have created the conditions for further growth,” said Staake.

Duisport had just concentrated on bulk handling and operating in a landlord function until 1998, but the high dependency on bulk cargo was not competitive with losses in bulk cargo over the years.

“At the end of the 1990s the EC started liberalizing the rail market. They started to discriminate against the private carriers so we, along with the shippers, started to support the private lines.

Duisport also operates daily shuttle trains between various seaports including with Rotterdam, by far the most efficient. When I started we had one daily barge link to Rotterdam, now there are five daily rail shuttles, and three daily barges. The intermodal corridor was very much driven by rail but also by barge transportation,” said Staake.

Container traffic is the only growing segment for barge traffic in Europe, as a result of the economy and because of the drop in coal and steel volumes. “Everything that can be stuffed in a container is going to be stuffed in a container,” said Staake. “The containerization rate is at around 85 per cent. It’s the driver for barge transport,” he said.

Staake said the port acquired at least 30 international clients over the last ten years, of the 70 business settlements it concluded.

“As an inland port the big ships cannot call you, so how can you participate? That was the real challenge. The port is busy, with 20,000 ships per year and 20,000 trains. We have become one of the most important hinterland hubs in Central Europe. We are well located for European standards-30 million consumers within a radius of 150 km, and located directly on the Rhine-Europe’s most important waterway, at the intersection of international motorway axes,” said Staake. The Duisport business model aimed its focus on overcoming disadvantages.

“The answer was we have to look at what was already available and what was not? We saw that we had a variety of services that were on the level of the bigger Seaports. The Duisport agency was developed to optimize the process for shippers, transshipment and logistics services. Duisport rail was another activity we founded some 12 years ago, initially as a feeder company for local and industrial activities. It is a very important tool for our growth,” Staake noted.

There are dozens of industrial companies with dedicated rail service into their facilities, Staake noted.

The port has invested very heavily in infrastructure and superstructure as a precondition for its gateway development.

Two roll-on-rolloff facilities with 220, 000 sq m for automobile logistics now have built on the intermodal concept and the next step is towards improvement of network connections to increase the utilization of infrastructure aggregation of maritime and continental cargo flows in Duisburg.

“The challenge is always the same-you have to best utilize your barges or rail activities or you cannot build such a system.”

“Our rail links are substituting at least 50 per cent of airfreight and are being used substantially by companies like HP. We are trying to act as a solutions provider, using a full service approach with logistics transport chains developed according to needs, offering the possibility of multimodal access to road, rail and water.”

“The development of Duisport has been largely influenced by putting our focus on the optimization of processes within value chains. This is how we could develop from a traditional landlord into an integrated solutions provider. We just finalized a deal to build and start the biggest CKD center for Audi, worldwide.”

The anticipated trimodal logistics center will be specifically tailored for Audi’s needs and will include a terminal integrated warehouse with in-house rail connection, neighbouring empty container depot, and container transport to seaports, mainly Antwerp by rail and barge, with transshipment at Antwerp Gateway terminal, and onward sea transport to China, India and Mexico, replacing more than 13,000 truck movements per year.

Volkswagen’s parent company has also signed a contract for 50,000 TEU containers to be exported from VW and Audi.

“We would never have had the chance to sign such contracts without having developed the services. I was in Shanghai to talk to Cosco (the carrier for VW and Audi) to make sure that this works and that we are not carrying costs that would make such deals impossible,” Staake added.


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