Multimodal logistics solutions are used to deliver goods via several transport modes arranged by a single provider. These solutions are gaining popularity in the industry due to their flexibility, which helps businesses continue operating in unpredictable times. Despite their many advantages, multimodal logistics schemes require more time to organize as experts on multiple transport modes work together to develop comprehensive solutions best meeting each client’s requirements.
In 2020 the AsstrA international corporate group handled 146% more multimodal transport orders vs 2019, and the strong growth trend is expected to continue. The main routes the company served were from Poland and China to Russia, from Germany and the Netherlands to Poland, as well as domestic trade lanes within Russia.
Andrzej Iwanow-Kolakowski, EU Region Director at AsstrA, shares his opinions on the advantages of multimodal transport schemes and their future in the logistics world.
- What will 2021 hold for multimodal transport?
In 2021, we expect to see rising interest in these logistics schemes in line with the recent trend. Last year, combined deliveries were often speedier alternatives to road shipments delayed by border closures and complicated by the pandemic. The logistics industry has learned a lot from previous years and will use this experience to rely on multimodal schemes even further. Multimodal schemes also help overcome the international truck driver shortage facing the industry. By integrating sea or rail transport into delivery schemes, logistic providers minimize their dependence on available drivers. Therefore, we expect to see multimodal transport partly replace unimodal road transport.
Another trend is the further integration of advanced technologies like blockchains. While a variety of such technologies have already been being used to support unimodal delivery schemes, using them in multimodal schemes is typically more complex. They must be running continuously, even during changes between transport vehicles. Mastering these complexities will open new opportunities and business possibilities for logistic providers.
- What advantages do multimodal schemes have over unimodal shipments?
The wide variety of multimodal logistics solutions creates more flexibility. Combinations of different transport modes help clients efficiently optimize scheduling and costs. For example, for urgent deadlines, a cargo truck can be placed on a train to reach a destination faster than by road. Another example is that multimodal schemes involving road transport and high-speed container trains can bypass congestion at ports, which are currently experiencing a shortage of sea containers – especially in China.
Another advantage is that multimodal solutions are often “greener,” a characteristic increasingly appreciated in the industry. Optimized multimodal deliveries often reduce CO2 emissions vs unimodal schemes. For example, air pollution can be reduced by partly replacing road transportation with more environmentally friendly sea or rail transport. To encourage greater awareness of how multimodal schemes can help the planet, AsstrA provides clients with invoices detailing the amount of CO2 emitted during transportation projects.
- For which projects do you recommend multimodal transport?
Multimodal transport schemes are best for bulky freight and regularly scheduled, ongoing deliveries. But that’s not all – the AsstrA team has executed many multimodal transport orders for clients from the metal, manufacturing, fashion, beauty, and chemical industries.
That being said, multimodal options may not be ideal for oversized cargo. For instance, sometimes it is not possible to place an out-of-gauge equipment part on a train, so road transport is the only option for shipping such freight. Even so, AsstrA specialists recommend intermodal schemas whenever cargo characteristics allow it.
- How did the Suez Canal blockage affect AsstrA’s European operations?
AsstrA was not immediately affected, but the aftermath brought challenges. Vessels could not depart from European ports, which have experienced traffic jams. Freight rates are rising, containers are in short supply, and shipping delays are generating extra costs. Order execution can be delayed for up to 3 weeks, in which time previously negotiated rates may change. Fortunately, the AsstrA team always proposes several delivery options and clients do not have to rely on sea transportation alone.
- Is there a chance that another challenge like the Suez Canal blockage will appear again?
Since it happened once, it can always happen again J The investigations are still ongoing, and we still do not know exactly what happened there. So there is a risk that something similar will happen again. Let’s hope that it will not – but if it does we will be ready to respond as effectively as possible.