It is estimated that 25% (2.5 million TEU) of all containers shipped by road, rail or inland shipping are empty. The ‘transport of air’ is not only expensive and inefficient, it also impacts the environment more than necessary. InlandLinks, the port of Rotterdam’s online intermodal platform, has developed an application to substantially reduce the transport of empty containers. This is a real breakthrough in terms of efficiency and sustainability for the entire logistical chain. This new ‘empty depot tool’ was festively launched at Rotterdam’s Kop van Zuid today. Hans Smits, CEO of the Port of Rotterdam Authority, and all of the Shipping lines involved were present.
Empty depot tool
The online application, called ‘empty depot tool’, shows, per connected shipping company, the inland terminals where shippers and logistical service providers can pick up and deposit empty containers, and later reuse these containers for a new load. As a result, it is no longer necessary to always return the empty containers to Rotterdam. This is a logical choice, all the more so because the containers regularly return empty to a shipper in the hinterland for the next freight. This saves a great many unnecessary kilometres, which leads to lower costs and lower CO2 emissions. There is a lot of confidence in the new application, as demonstrated by the large number of Shipping lines that have already joined the platform. InlandLinks enables the Shipping lines to give shippers and freight forwarders more insight into their intermodal services to and from Rotterdam’s hinterland. Hans Smits comments: ‘By strongly investing in the optimisation of the logistical chains, we strengthen our position as the largest port in Europe. Improving efficiency for our clients and the entire chain is therefore an important part of our mission. Moreover, good, reliable connections with our hinterland network are a spearhead with which Rotterdam distinguishes itself from other ports. The new application InlandLinks developed innovatively unites these two points.’
Collaboration with market parties
The InlandLinks platform, which was formed in 2011, was the first to chart all of the hinterland terminals in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and other European countries based on various criteria. Earlier this year, the service was expanded to include an online intermodal route planner, which website visitors can use to map out the most sustainable and efficient shipping route to and from Rotterdam using inland shipping or rail connections. Donald Baan, project manager at InlandLinks, comments: ‘The new application is the third big step in the on-going optimisation of the entire logistical chain. From the very start we listened to the needs of all market parties, from shippers to inland terminals, Shipping lines and logistical service providers. In collaboration with these parties, we developed the empty depot tool, and the positive cooperation has allowed us to grow into an international platform of this size.’
The InlandLinks website is the ideal platform for inland terminals to present themselves on the market. The platform includes more than 50 terminals in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and a number of other European countries that have inland shipping and/or rail connections with Rotterdam. Site visitors can choose between the various terminals based on a wide variety of criteria, such as provisions, facilities and services. It was decided to opt for reliable, independent provision of information and accordingly, Lloyds Register annually audits all of the platform’s elements. It is a unique instrument providing the logistical sector with sustainable and transparent connections to and from Europe’s largest seaport. InlandLinks.eu was developed at the initiative of the Port of Rotterdam Authority N.V. in collaboration with the Association of Inland Terminal Operators (VITO).