Intermodal and logistics: success of a Motorway of the Sea

Motorway of the Sea

Professor Mustapha El Khayat The “Motorways of the Sea” (MoS) concept aims to introduce new intermodal maritime-based logistics chains in Europe, which should improve transport organisation within the years to come. There are also discussions around MoSs between experts from Northern and Southern Mediterranean countries, introducing the concept to connect European and African shores. These chains will be more sustainable, and should be commercially more efficient than road-only transport. Past speaker at SmartProcurementWorld’s annual indabas, Professor Mustapha El Khayat, President of AMLOG, discusses the way to go about it.

An intermodal transport and logistic network are required for the implementation and development of a Motorway of the Sea. An international door-to-door transport chain allows at least two modes of transport and provides the interface between one mode of transportation and another. Pre-delivery and post-delivery are crucial elements in controlling the entire supply chain to ensure an uninterrupted flow of traffic and avoid trans-shipment and immobilisation of transportation assets (ships, trucks, trains and handling devices ) and optimal under-utilisation of intermodal transfer interfaces, namely logistic platforms and dry ports.

So it seems logical that the introduction of a MoS requires among other things global logistics that incorporate all components of the MoS, from the shippers at the departure point to the consignee at the arrival point. The links in the chain would be strengthened and harmonised to optimise the global supply chain by avoiding hindrances, inefficiencies and all resistance to traffic flow. In other words, create a network of stakeholders in the whole supply chain in the spirit of community (in fact create a community of supply chain).

In order to achieve this, it is necessary to create or strengthen intermodal transport logistics policies comprising a combination of actions: institutional, organisational, financial and especially training. These actions would promote a culture that involves all the logistics operators on a macro level (different public authorities), and a meso- level (private operators, shippers, transporters, handlers, service logistics, warehouse or logistics platforms managers, etc.). It is also necessary to strengthen the basic infrastructure to promote intermodality by creating suitable intermodality interfaces (Sea-Rail or Sea- Road-Sea, etc.).

There is the necessity to involve private and public sectors in the implementation of public-private partnerships (PPP). Thus, intermodal transport is a part of the global logistics chain (SCM). Management and communication tools need to be harmonised to create a community of professionals with the same references and speaking the same language. This action involves a mastery of all the components of the physical chain and a partnership between all stakeholders in the supply chain. Hence, the need for a ‘one-stop shop’ information system for circulating information throughout the value chain to optimise the supply chain.

The following methodology would drive the success of the Motorways of the Sea pilot project:

Two groups would be created:

  • A group of shippers’ representatives and hauliers who would define the main characteristics of transport demand; and
  • Another group of representatives of the maritime professions who would suggest a transport offer technically and economically adapted to intermodalism.

Shipowners should provide:

  • Means: ships (capacity, number, speed etc.);
  • Ports;
  • Service: number of departures at the beginning and if successful, number of departures to be added, the length of the crossing and so on;
  • Share of traffic to capture (transfer of the road);
  • Safety and respect for the environment; and
  • Price on dock to dock, depending on the volume of traffic and customer loyalty.

Port terminals would be dedicated to the MoS close to the motorway network. Securitisation of terminals and strong motivation of port personnel are essential guarantees of the success of the MoS pilot project.

Conditions for the success of the MoS pilot project:

  • Commitment of shippers and shipping lines: in order to move from “all road” transport to “sea-road”, users need to be convinced of the frequency, regularity and the commercial viability of the MoS service. This requires reciprocal commitments on the quality of service and changes in freight transport.
  • Commitment of handlers: a commitment of the workforce in port and on board for this new type of traffic is essential.
  • Commitment of ports and port services: must specify the ship’s treatment conditions, trailers, containers and possibly passengers. These conditions must be based on the commitment of all service providers (pilotage, mooring, etc.).
  • Obtaining aid and support at the start: cost per trailer or container between what shippers are willing to pay and the cost of the service; and cost between the level of income calculated on a filling rate, on the basis of the average filling rate during startup (scalability).

By Professor Mustapha El Khayat, Professor Emeritus, President of AMLOG, Université Hassan II Mohammedia, and AMLOG, France (, Vice-president of FAAL, as well as the author of several transport logistics publications.

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