Commission unveils logistics proposals

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Transport, European union

A series of proposed measures unveiled yesterday by the European
Commission could help make freight transportion cheaper and simpler
for manufacturers.

The proposal for a common transport policy marks a bid by the EU to cut down on pollution, oil consumption and road congestion, mainly by allowing bigger loads and providing designated rail lines between countries for freight. On average, logistics accounts for 12 per cent of the final costs of a finished product in the manufacturing sector. The Commission estimate includes costs such as transportation and warehousing. The Commission has identified about 500 bottlenecks in the current sysem that it says create unnecessary obstacles to the efficient flow of goods - including a lack of parking spaces for trucks and red tape. The new package of measures for the bloc is made up of proposals relating to logistics, to a rail network giving priority to freight, and to easing the logjams at European ports. The Commission also proposes to create a barrier-free European maritime transport area. The adoption of all these measures demonstrates the close links between logistics and the various modes of transport used by industry, stated Jacques Barrot, the Commission's vice-president with special responsibility for transport. "The common objective of these initiatives is to promote innovative infrastructure technologies and practices, develop means of transport, improve freight management, facilitate the construction of freight transport chains, simplify administrative procedures and enhance quality throughout the logistic chain,"​ he said in announcing the measures. In relation to logistics, the Commission proposes 30 measures, which the administrative body says are aimed at making freight transport in the EU more efficient and sustainable, while reducing costs and saving both time and energy. The action plan aims to improve the flow of information accompanying the physical transport of goods, simplify administrative procedures, improve efficiency, and encourage better services from providers. Currently many part of Europe's transport system are congested, including many of its roads, rail links and harbours, the Commission stated. The Commission wants to encourage paperless information flows, the use of radio frequency identification and satellite services as a means of simplifying logistics. The Commision also plans to create a single transport document for all forms of freight transport, to replace the many versions currently used, depending on the mode. Another proposal would lead to a single reporting interface for freight transport. Member states would also be required to recognise logistics qualifications granted by another member state. Common standards would be developed for loading units suitable for all modes of transport, the Commission stated. A review of the current limitations on road vehicle weights and dimensions will be launched to determine whether these should be changed. The Commission's measures also target the promotion of maritime transport, which remains the mode that is the most environment-friendly and energy-efficient in terms of greenhouse-gas emissions. To supplement previous measures to identify key freight transport routes across the EU, the Commission is proposing new measure that would create a European freight-orientated network in which the service would be more reliable and more efficient. For example the Commission wants to improve the Rotterdam to Genoa corridor by increasing punctuality to 26 per cent of the time, and reducting transport time by 20 per cent. The Commission says the measures would also double the volume transported between now and 2020, allowing 28 billion freight tonnes-km each year to be transported by rail rather than by road. Along the Antwerp-Lyon/Basle corridor, the Commission wants to increase the volume transported by 55 per cent over the same period, with a reduction in transport time of 15 per cent. The Commission also wants a four-fold reduction in the number of late trains on the Antwerp-Lyon line and a two-fold reduction on the Antwerp-Basle line. "On these very dense routes where rail can have a competitive edge, this would mean that approximately 7 billion freight tonnes-km use rail rather than road," the Commission stated. For freight passing through European ports, the Commission plans to promote increased capacity, and more efficiency to handle greater volumes. Unlike road transport, which has been reaping the benefits of the internal market since 1993, shipments of goods by sea between the ports of the European Union are treated in the same way as shipments to third countries. Consequently, maritime transport between Member States involves many documentary checks and physical inspections by the customs, health, veterinary, plant health and immigration control officials, the Commission stated. To ease the situation the Commission proposes a common maritime transport area for goods traded between member states. The move would put maritime transport on the same level as rail or road freighting. On 17 October, the Commission launched a two-month consultation and plans to make the relevant proposals in 2008. CLECAT, the European association of transport and logistic suppliers, said on average, container traffic in European ports has increased an average of 7 per cent a year over the last 20 years. Between 2005 and 2011, container traffic is expected to grow by 7.8 per cent a year, while European port capacity is forecast to increase by 4.2 per cent a year, CLECAT stated. In its latest report Drewry Shipping Consultants estimates that about 73 per cent of container ships arrived late in European ports in the first quarter of 2007, compared to 45 per cent in the same period last year. The changes are being proposed to meet increasing freight volumes by all modes of transport. The Commission estimates that the volumes of goods transported in Europe will increase by 50 per cent between 2000 and 2020. "In the years ahead, freight transport must address the challenges of efficiency, quality and sustainability," the Commission stated. "It will therefore need to come up with suitable responses to the problems of congestion, climate change, and energy supply and security." Earlier this year transport ministers from 53 countries called for government measures to relieve the global container ship congestion that is clogging up the delivery of goods at ports. Air traffic and maritime container traffic are expected to double over the next 20 years, putting further pressure on rail and road traffic, the ministers said in a statement at the meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria. Road, business and freight traffic congestion costs in the EU shave an average one per cent off annual gross domestic product in the bloc, according to Commission estimates. In the UK and France the cost is about 1.5 per cent. Spending on logistics amounts to about €5.4 trillion or 13.8 per cent of the global gross domestic product, GDP a year. Annual logistics expenditure in Europe amounts to about €1 trillion, about the same as in North America, the Commission stated in its policy outline. Transport accounts for one quarter of all CO2 emissions, according to the Commission.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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