Multimodal network stands ready to catch Brexit fall-out

Samskip suggests that a recent rise in its shortsea volumes in services connecting Irish and European continental ports is only partly due to overall trade growth in the early part of 2019. Continuing uncertainty over the UK’s land border with the EU is also creating momentum, according to the Rotterdam-based group.      

The multimodal service provider has increased shortsea frequency ad hoc during the latter part of 2018 and early 2019, adding capacity that has averaged out as “an extra ship per month” according to Samskip Ireland General Manager Richard Archer. Two 800 teu containerships are scheduled to connect Dublin, Cork and Waterford twice weekly to Samskip’s multimodal network via Rotterdam, with Belfast calls made weekly. 

“We have been optimising productivity using the existing assets but stand ready to adjust service levels as demand requires,” says Archer. “We believe that regular, reliable and cost competitive container services have become a key element in planning for the post-Brexit future in the Ireland-north continent trades.”

The Samskip network may be becoming more attractive for more distant markets because it has established local organisations, Archer suggests. Over recent months, Samskip in Ireland has been feeding growing unitised volumes in dairy and alcohol moving between Ireland and the Baltic States/Russia via Rotterdam, he says.

The group also acquired Nor Lines in 2018, with a service restructure adding network links between Dutch ports and northern Norway that benefit the entire Samskip network, including Ireland. Shortsea services also link to Spain/Portugal, Central Europe, Italy, Germany, and beyond to the Baltic States and Russia, and even Turkey.

“I think that it’s become clear that Irish importers and exporters considering alternatives to the UK landbridge are taking a mature view on the kind of network they are buying into at the other end of the shortsea link,” says Archer. “Samskip operates separate shortsea services connecting UK ports and Irish ports and our rail, road and inland waterway network available through the Netherlands. This means our network of services can respond to Brexit without disruption.”

Exemplary are the north-south volumes that sustain six trains a week between Rotterdam and the Melzo rail terminal in Milan, transporting 45ft containers, reefers, flat racks and tank containers. “It’s a service frequency that makes it possible for Samskip to offer part load services between Italy and Ireland as an alternative to road haulage that is cost competitive as well as more sustainable.”

Archer says that the increasing cost-competitiveness of container transport was also renewing interest in Samskip’s wider sustainability strategy, which attracted particular attention in Q3 2018 when the company piloted hydro-treated vegetable oil as fuel in its Rotterdam-Ireland services.