Driverless wagon ready to hit the track in the Netherlands

Autonomous single wagons that access whatever train path is accessible: that is the future of rail freight. These wagons will make rail as flexible as road, believes Paul van Bers, Innovation Project Manager at Container shift2rail. The wagons are already there, but some challenges remain. Van Bers will present this innovation at the Freight and Terminal Forum, taking place from 26-28 March in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

It was in 2012 when van Bers stood at an airport, looking at the luggage belt. Thousands of luggage pieces are thrown on this belt every day, and find their way to the right destination. The sorting is done behind the scenes. “I suddenly realised that this is the future of rail, this is how individual containers should be arranged and distributed to end up on the right track. It is a first-mile rather than a last-mile service.”

Autonomous wagon

Van Bers gathered a group of people equally enthousiastic about the idea and applied for a subsidy in the Netherlands, where he lives. “I received 100 thousand Euro to realise the concept.” Two years later, the wagon was there, ready to hit the tracks. RWTH Aachen University had built an automated unit. The software was provided by Container shift2rail.

“The software makes this wagon autonomous. It is a smart wagon, it can improvise and react. It can operate alongside the traffic management system of a network, as it is able to observe when a train path is available. As such, it does not need to request a train path in advance.”

Flexible modality

It is this last asset that makes the wagon an ideal unit to compete with the road, explained van Bers. “Rail is a non-flexible modality; when an operator wants to carry out a train journey, it must first check train path availability and then request access many days in advance. A truck on the other hand can depart when required. This autonomous wagon can do the same.

“Currently, the sector is focussing on longer trains, to be able to carry more cargo in one journey. That is a good solution for the transport of bulk, which usually requires several wagons for the same cargo. But containers are like people; they all have a different origin and various destinations. If these can be moved individually and immediately when required, rail truly becomes a more flexible modality.”

Hurdles

Nevertheless, there are still a lot of hurdles on the way, van Bers admits. Today, seven years later, the wagon is still not on track. To begin with, the software system that allows the wagon to spot available train paths – the Supervisory Route Control System (SRCS) must be marketed. Moreover, the concept should be embraced by the industry. “We need to gain trust from train operators, so they are interested in using this rolling stock”, the innovator noted.

The introduction of the wagon could be phased out in three stages, he explains. For this, the company has considered specific locations in the Netherlands, such as the Maasvlate II at the Port of Rotterdam. Here, the wagon could be used for inter-terminal transport. In the same premise, the wagon could serve as feeder to the Rail Service Center (RSC).

“Eventually, we should create extended gate terminals to access the hinterland rail network. For example, the Betuweroute in the Netherlands could have a dedicated entry point for the autonomous wagons, in so it does not clash with the regular traffic. In this way, large terminals will experience a smoother flow of goods to the hinterland, or the other way around.”

Freight and Terminal Conference

Paul van Bers will provide a workshop about the innovative concept at the Freight and Terminal Forum, which takes place from 26-28 March 2019 in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Registration for this large-scale event is already open.

Source: Railfreight.com

Morocco: Booming Tangier Med

2018 was what we can call a full year for Tangier Med and its businesses, while the opening of the Tanger Med 2 port in 2019 will add more possibilities for the treatment and processing of containers.

With a total processed volume equivalent to 317 billion dirhams (28.9 billion euros) in 2018, the port Tanger Med has exceeded that of Durban, South Africa, to become the first African platform.

More than 139 billion dirhams of exported goods passed through Tangier Med, representing more than 50% of all of Moroccan exports. For the leaders of the platform, Tangier Med would be the “first export port serving the competitiveness of the Moroccan economy.”

In tonnage handled, the volume processed last year exceeded 52.2 million tonnes, signifying a 2% increase over 2017. In both terminals of the port, more than 3.4 million of TEUs were treated, an evolution of 5% compared to the year 2017. In comparison with its beginnings, in 2007, the port Tanger Med has seen an increase of 15.7%. This rise is justified, according to the port managers, by the performance and productivity of the container terminals, the harbor master’s office and the piloting for the management of port operations.

Vehicle Activity Increase

In terms of passengers, traffic remains stable in comparison with 2017, with more than 2.8 million people. TIR (International Road Transport) traffic grew by 14%, compared to the previous year, reaching a total traffic of 326,773 TIR units. This increase is mainly due to exports of industrial and agri-food products.

The vehicle business also continued its upward pace. In 2018, 479,321 cars passed through Tangier Med, 11% more than the year before. On the terminal dedicated to Renault, the manufacturer has exported 383,715 vehicles, of which 91% came from the Tangier factory. The Tanger Med executives look forward to 2019, which will mark the start of exports of Peugeot vehicles, manufactured at the Kenitra plant.

Solid bulk traffic in 2018, for its part, was down 18% from the previous year, mainly due to lower cereal imports. Liquid bulk experienced a similar trend, falling by 21% from 2017, with a total of less than 6 million tonnes of processed hydrocarbons.

Digitisation, the nerve of war

More than 13,000 ships and boats docked at Tanger Med port in 2018 from 186 ports and 77 countries. Djibouti, Guatemala, Ireland, Bahrain and Madagascar are the countries with which the Moroccan port provided a first direct sea connection last year. The port has mainly enabled Morocco to establish its policy of proximity with African countries and increasing trade with Mauritania, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire or Ghana.

Occupying an extremely strategic geographical location, Port Tanger Med has established itself over the years as a gateway to the Kingdom of Morocco. Its leaders are happy to have thought about digitisation and the implementation of an IT infrastructure, which has become the nerve of the war of activity, saving a lot of time. According to the operators with whom we could speak, the port of Tangier seduces with its fluidity.

The Escola Europea kicks off the year with a course in railway intermodality

During the third week of January the first course for professionals of 2019 was organised by the Escola Europea – SURCO Operations II. This course offered advanced training in intermodal logistics and international freight transport.

The training is directed at professionals linked to companies involved with freight transport, shippers and/or port authorities.

The course analyses the different elements required for the provision of rail services, and give the necessary training and information to those who manage logistics chains in which the railroad is seen as a cost-effective alternative for services, cost or time. It also promotes the use of rail transport by exploring its characteristics.

The group of more than 20 participants came from companies such as SEAT, DB Shenker, NAFOSA, Campofrío. PortIC, Logiral, Aralogic, and from port authorities and dry ports (Barcelona, Tarragona, Valencia, Castellón, Avilés, Santander, Vilagarcía de Arousa, Cartagena, and Azuqueca. They had the opportunity to gain specialist knowledge in international rail transport. Alongside the theoretical classes, two out of the five days of the course were dedicated to practical workshops: one in Zaragoza to see the operations of the traffic control centre of ADIF and from the Maritime Terminal of Zaragoza (tmZ), and the other to discover the various railway infrastructures on the border between Spain and France (Port Bou terminal, LFP (transborder tunnel of Pertús) and the LorryRail terminal). The format of the training impressed all of the participants, as stressed by one of the participants “The visits were very useful, and combining theory and practical workshops is very good. The global experience is very good and extremely satisfying.”

From the 10th to the 12th of June 2019, a new edition of SURCO Operations I will take place in Barcelona. This introductory course will offer training in logistics and railway operators, infrastructures and equipment, legislation and documentation, freight railway services and railway terminals in ports. For more information you can consult: https://www.escolaeuropea.eu/calendar/surco-operations-i-2019/ . In the first half of 2019 the Escola will hold four other courses dedicated to professionals which will focus on technical aspects of transport (including temperature controlled freight, consolidated shipments and port operations). You can find information of these courses on the Escola’s website.

Automation forces Spain to introduce structural changes in logistics

The transport and logistics sectors are currently in the process of automation. In the coming decades it will undergo deeper transformations, which will test the reaction capacities of countries such as Spain. “We must be creative in changing our way of thinking. There is a lot of work to be done in the short term, in short electoral cycles, by survey, and there are structural changes that must be applied in the medium and long term, “says Inprous CEO and president of Pimec Logística, Ignasi Sayol.

For his part Miquel Serracanta, the founder of the consulting firm Solutions & Decisions, put the emphasis on how the increase in competition “has caused a very important fall in prices both in the trunk and in capillary transport”, so that the carriers that have increased in size have started to search for synergies and efficiencies in their supply chains in parallel. For this reason, he considers that it is necessary to prepare for changes such as the electric and autonomous vehicles, since “they will substantially modify our environment in the next ten years”.

Globally, transformations will involve changes in jobs and new trends will be developed that will improve the efficiency of deliveries. Although technological advances will be inevitable, they will occur gradually and will vary according to the region. These are some of the results published in the new report prepared by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and the World Maritime University (WMU).

Evolution vs Revolution

Although the report foresees that the automation of global transport is more “evolutionary” than “revolutionary”, Sayol affirms that “the irruption of technology in logistics will radically change the way we do things”. Gradual changes are expected in transport patterns that will affect the different regions of the world. According to Serracanta, autonomous vehicles “will not arrive for another five or ten years and will do so progressively, coexisting therefore, with difficulties, with vehicles driven by humans.”

The partner founder of Solutions & Decisions foresees that automation will make roads safer and that fewer accidents and traffic jams will occur, “with which the reliability of compliance with deliveries will increase”.

Sayol points out that logistics 4.0 will be an opportunity for developing countries, “because they can implement it without the mortgages that exist in developed countries.”

“Automation will probably reduce the differences between developed and developing countries in the medium and long term, once the latter can be added to the technology train,” says Serracanta. However, it considers that in the short term it is possible to increase them, especially in terms of road and rail transport: “Those who are in the process of development may not be able to start this road yet due to previous pending issues, as indispensable basic infrastructures”.
Worldwide, it is expected that transportation routes will also change if situations such as a hypothetical stagnation of China or the growth of Mexico are consolidated. If confirmed these trends, directly affect the GDP of the countries. However, this forecast does not apply to long-distance maritime transport, which will continue to be the main means in terms of scale and volume of goods transported. In contrast, a reduction in road transport is expected both in the EU and in the countries of Southeast Asia, as well as growth in the maritime sector, because “it is still in an early stage of transformation,” according to the study.
The Impact of Automation on employment
Automation will impact the transport sector through the destruction, displacement and creation of jobs. Workers will be affected differently according to their level of skill and preparation, with the least educated being the most affected. This will require the retraining of professionals such as cargo agents and crane operators so that they can work complementarily with this technology, notes the report of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and the World Maritime University (WMU). However, despite the high levels of automation, human resources will still be necessary, especially in cases where people provide additional value.
“The challenge will be twofold, for the companies that have them on staff and for the worker himself, who must improve his own employability with additional training if he does not want to lose possibilities in his current and future position,” says Serracanta. “The repetitive tasks and added low value are the first at risk of being replaced by robots, and workers who today are the first to be recycled.” In fact, today automated metro lines are already operating, such as the one that connects the city of Barcelona with its airport, or the one that connects the two passenger terminals of the Frankfurt airport in Germany.
Logistics 4.0
In addition to the automation of vehicles, infrastructures and processes, the new logistics 4.0 will allow technologies such as Big Data or artificial intelligence to be progressively applied to know what the client wants, anticipate demand and position stocks at the suitable point. “It sounds like science fiction, but it’s already a reality,” says Sayol.
The CEO of Inprous also includes the internet of things (IoT) and blockchain in this group, which “will enable the creation of dis-intermediated and efficient marketplaces that allow for optimisation and secures the available transport resources”. Finally, “more complex technologies to apply in reality” will exist, including platooning. “Here the time horizon of implementation is more difficult to get right, as it is subject to the legislation of each country and investments in infrastructure that inevitably must be made,” he explains.
According to Serracanta, this automation and logistics 4.0 will also allow for the “reduction of consumption and fuelling of large trucks, because they are more efficient than humans, with which there will be less CO2 emissions and the environment will appreciate it”. Thus, an evolution is foreseen in the logistics transport sector that will bring economic benefits and that will entail new regulations, a greater technological preparation and the development of new skills and dynamics in the labor market.
Source: El Mercantil

Grimaldi begins the remodeling of the ferries that operate between Barcelona and Civitavecchia

Grimaldi has started the process of lengthening and remodelling the Cruise Roma and Cruise Barcelona ferries, which usually cover the route between Barcelona and Civitavecchia, in Italy.

The changes will ensure that the vessels will have a greater capacity for freight and passengers, and they will incorporate new improvements to reduce their emissions and eliminate them completely during the stay in the Catalan port.

At the Fincantieri shipyard in Palermo, new gas cleaning systems will be installed to reduce the emissions of their engines during navigation. They will also have a new lithium battery system to store the electricity produced during navigation and supply it to the ship when it is moored in the port, replacing the auxiliary generators.

The Countdown to IMO 2020

On January 1, 2020, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)’s rules on sulfur emission are due to come into force – a move which will have a monumental impact on the shipping industry.  

This legislation will ban any ship from emitting more than 0.5% of sulfur in its fuel, a cut of almost 3% from the current level. Therefore, planning for the implementation will be one of the industry’s biggest challenges in 2019.

In this exclusive insight, PTI has explored the reasons behind the new rules and how some of the world’s biggest carriers are preparing for them.

The IMO’s motivation is clear – the shipping industry, while invaluable to the global economy, is one of the biggest polluters in the world.

It contributes 17% of the world’s CO2 annual emissions and 8% of its sulfur output. The former could, according to the EU, could rise to 50% by 2050 unless action is taken.

This is because, as things stand, the shipping industry relies on sulfur-heavy heavy fuel oil (HFO) and has done for decades.

Estimates vary but it is believed that the IMO’s regulations will cost the shipping industry between US $60 – 200 billion.

Carriers have devised various ways of complying with the laws, which may turn out to be beneficial to business, as well as the environment.

The biggest has been a move towards new fuels, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) which has the potential to reduce shipping times and improve efficiencies.

Carriers have also been searching for eco-friendly innovations. Japanese carrier MOL, which recently merged into Ocean Network Express (ONE), for example, unveiled plans six new technologies in August 2018.

These included water treatment systems, sulfur scrubbers, LNG-fuelled vessels and even plans to use electric sails on container vessels, which it hopes to launch by 2020.

This is just one of the big innovations that the industry is looking at. Others include new hybrid cleaning systems, which will reduce the output of dirty chemicals, and even cryptocurrencies.

On December 5, the world’s biggest carrier A.P. Moeller-Maersk announced plans to go above and beyond complying with the IMO’s 2020 rules when it set a target of having carbon neutral vessels on the seas by 2030.

That is part of the company’s plans to achieve a completely carbon-free fleet by 2050 and called on the rest of the industry to “join forces” and find new ways of keep trade moving while protecting the environment.

2019 will be dominated by the shipping industry’s preparations for January 1, 2020. It has already inspired a raft of technological innovations which could become fixtures of the sector for years to come.

Source: Port Technology

EU Bodies agree on Port Waste Facilities

Representatives from the Presidency of the European Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission have reached a provisional agreement on the proposal for the new EU directive on port reception facilities.

Ships will be allowed to deliver all garbage when paying a fixed port waste fee, without port-specific limitations towards the volumes delivered. This will guarantee that ports keep investing in efficient port reception facilities, which are to be supported by transparent cost recovery systems.

“This agreement is an important step towards the further safeguarding of the marine environment, the working space of our shipping industry,” said Martin Dorsman, secretary general of European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA).

“By facilitating all ships to deliver their waste to adequate port reception facilities ashore, the EU is showcasing how we can halt the generation of marine litter. This contributes towards the United Nationals Sustainable Development Goals to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds.”

Global outlook

Although the directive mainly focuses on European ports and ships entering those, the EU legislators clearly recognise the importance of ensuring smooth operation of maritime traffic between EU and non-EU ports, stated ECSA. The organisation pointed out this is demonstrated by the alignment of the EU legislation with the IMO’s International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), which has been amended since the current directive was adopted in 2000.

“We are looking forward now to take up the work again which started many years ago in the port reception facilities subgroup of the European Sustainable Shipping Forum ESSF and are eager to continue the good cooperation with the NGOs, the EU ports, the EU legislators and the Member States in a new expert working group,” emphasised Mr Dorsman.

Source: Green Port