Source: adapted from “The future of freight transport and inland shipping in Europe 2010 – 2011”, Dutch Inland Shipping Information Agency.
The development of inland terminals in Europe has been based on two main modal options complementing trucking; rail and barge. Facilities along the Rhine, such has Duisburg in Germany, are handling substantial intermodal volumes in the range of 1 million TEU in 2009, and with a modal split of 50% by road, 30% by rail and 20% by barge. Still, European inland terminals are facing several challenges. First, the hinterland often does not correspond to national boundaries, leading to coordination problems. Second, there is no double stacking of containers along rail corridors, which limits economies of scale and the optimal efficiency of inland transportation. . It is therefore not surprising that the most successful inland ports are those able to benefit from the economies of scale of barge services. Third, trucking remains an effective competitor as the distances concerned are relatively short.
The development of intermodal rail services is conferring a level of flexibility required for period of peak demand, low/ high water periods along the Rhine / Scheldt, which impairs inland navigation, the repositioning of empty containers and customized services. Some shippers are using a bi-modal alternative to avoid congested port rail facilities (on dock or near dock) by moving by barge to an inland port and then shift traffic to rail. This also enables the consolidation of traffic coming from a several ports along the range, particularly for Antwerp and Rotterdam.