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Bold moves ahead for Port of Gothenburg

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Bold moves ahead for Port of Gothenburg

January 07, 2013 - 14:19
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GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN, Jan. 8, 2013 (RISI) -With several new projects on the horizon the Swedish port of Gothenburg is poised for tremendous growth. Stig-Göran Thorén, senior manager, business development, Gotherburg Port Authority, explains some of the moves that he believes will lead to further expansion of a facility that in 2012 is expected to handle about five million tonnes of forest products alone, about one third of Sweden's forest products exports.

First, administration devolved into a port authority about two years ago. Prior, the port was part of the city administration which oversaw the day-to-day operations. Thorén says city officials felt that new expertise was needed to run the shipping terminals more efficiently. Companies such as Logent, APM Terminals (APMT) and DFDS/C.RO Ports were brought in to operate the car, container and RoRo terminals respectively. "Now," he adds, "we act as a landlord. Our responsibilities are the waterway and quays. This is quite a new situation for us. From our view, we act more as a facilitator to present various options to help bring cargo into Gothenburg."Now, we have professional terminal operators who are much more aggressive than we were before."

APMT and DFDS have both signed 25-year operating contracts with the port authority. As part of its contract, APMT will invest 800 million SEK for three new Panamax gantry cranes. It will replace older gantry cranes with two news one to handle trains. APMT will also buy new straddle carriers that will be able to lift a container over three stacked containers, thus improving handling in the port.

Another important investment is a new rail track. The port sits on an island and only a single-track bridge connects it with the Swedish mainland. The new track will eliminate a serious bottleneck. Thorén stresses that investments into the infrastructure are needed to keep the port competitive. "Money is supposed to be there in the future for further improvements."

New quays planned

Renowned car maker Volvo, which has a production plant near Gothenburg is also contributing to the project. Volvo is a huge player at the port using it as an export center for cars and trucks. The new rail link should help to more than double the capacity.If all goes according to plan, the authority has permission to expand the port area, for example, building new quays. Current container capacity at the APM terminal alone is about 800,000 TEUs but it could be expanded to handle 3.5 million TEUs.

Gothenburg is about eight times bigger than its nearest Swedish competitor when it comes to container capacity. This is an increasingly important sector for the forest products industry as well as the port in general. For example, third quarter 2012 statistics showed container traffic jumped 4% over the same period in 2011, to 217,000 TEU. Year-to-date figures also show a rise, up 2% to 684,000 TEU.

As the port notes in its third quarter release, Sweden is heavily dependent on shipping with 90% of all imports and exports moved by ocean transport. Approximately 33% of that total passes through Gothenburg. About 65% of all container traffic, to and from Sweden, as well as 33% of the country's seaborne exports pass through Gothenburg. Thorén says that the port has a very good balance between export and import traffic, with export accounting for about 52% of business.

Half of Sweden's crude oil imports pass through Gothenburg. In the third quarter, 6.1 million tonnes of oil, diesel, asphalt, ethanol and other fossil-related products passed through the port, a huge 30% jump over the third quarter in 2011.

Another growth sector for the port relating to transport is rail. Rail traffic increased by 10% over the third quarter 2011, to 100,000 TEUs, and, as Thorén alluded to earlier, should rise even more with increased rail capacity. Rail traffic to and from the port is said to replace 700 truck trips daily.

Close to 50% of the containers handled at the port travel by the container shuttle. There are 26 daily shuttle trains to and from Gothenburg from inland terminals. Thorén likens it to a commuter system for cargo. "If we did not have it, we would not be as successful. We have been able to increase out cachement area for cargo."Although other industries are critical to the success of the important, it is impossible to understate the importance of the forest products industry to Gothenburg. Thorén notes that 50% of all of Sweden's exports are related to the forest products industry. "We need to find new logistics solutions that are good for the economy, environment and customers. We want to grow.

That's why we are building a modern bulk system able to transport goods on cassettes (open rail cars)."

Growing forest products traffic

The cassette principle helps the port move away from truck traffic. Before, the port could only work with unitized cargo and could not "stuff" close to the port. It did not have the right infrastructure to handle sawn timber and stuff it into containers. Working with the rail carriers and with increased connections with producers in northern Sweden, rail car loads can be transferred onto the cassettes at the port and then onto RoRo vessels for shipment abroad. Maximum load of a cassette is about 100 tonnes.

For example, Stora Enso is a long-term customer of the port taking advantage of this change. It currently ships high volumes by RoRo through the Älvsborg RoRo terminal using this cassette concept to the UK and Zeebrugge, Belgium.

Thorén says the port has continuous dialogue with the major Swedish forest products producers such as Holmen, Billerud, Arctic Paper, Södra and Smurfit Kappa, all in the effort to grow its forest products traffic.Future expansion plans call for a project to build a new transfer facility adjacent to the port by the container terminal. A rail connection with the Swedish rail system will need to made and the port is seeking an operator for the project.

RPG Logistics has opened a new forest products terminal adjacent to the port. Covering 20,000 m2, the company can handle 1.5 million tonnes/yr (equivalent to 110,000 TEU). Cargo will come to the center by rail or road and be transferred into containers for shipping.

It is served by a double track, one of which enters the terminal, protecting cargo against bad weather. Thorén explains that RPG has a novel method to move containers into the port. It uses a "road train": a truck with five trailers (each holding a 40-ft container). "They are very aggressive at finding new solutions to keep costs down." Tests are also being done with a 10-TEU road train.Thorén adds that RPG has grown tremendously in the last year. "They are very good at doing business."

Increasing direct calls

Among the other operators involved with forest products, APM Terminals officially took over the container terminal in early 2012. Formerly Skandia Container Terminal, the company was renamed to capitalize on the recognition of APMT's global services.

The container facility is Scandinavia's largest, able to handle 800,000 TEUs annually, about 60% of Sweden's total container traffic. As mentioned earlier, APMT has signed a 25-year concession agreement with the port authority. APMT now has 63 container terminals in 36 countries and local inland services in more than 150 sites in 46 countries.

DFDS offers special services for the forest products industry such as a complex logistics system developed in conjunction with its customers, shipping lines and export and import companies. There is a direct rail feed to the terminal and the 14,000-m2 Paper Logistics Center (PLC). The weather protected PLC offers paper reloading to and from rail trucks and cross-docking, that is, the process of splitting loads between carriers depending upon their final destination.

DFDS offers bespoke solutions for its forest products clients. These are based on the services it can offer such as multi-modal transport, innovative mega-cassette and equipment solutions that optimize payload and cargo care as well as added value services such as weighing, packing, repacking, repair, labeling and quality control.As can be seen, the mood is one of optimism at this ice-free and tide-free port. "We have new shipping lines calling direct to Gothenburg," Thorén adds. "That's what Swedish industry wants, more direct calls to Asia, North and South America."

It is an upward spiral: the more direct calls, the more cargo leading to more direct calls.

This article appeared in the Winter 2012 issue of the IFPTA Journal, published by RISI.Click hereto learn more about the IFPTA Journal, the professional journal of the International Forest Products Transport Association.