SYNCHRO-NET: Short Sea Shipping

Synchromodality and Short Sea Shipping

SYNCHRO-NET is an innovative initiative to optimize the supply chain by developing new synchromodal and smart steaming software tools that enable shippers and logistics operators to de-stress the supply chain.

A key focus is increased use of short sea and coastal shipping, by providing shippers and logistics operators with advanced optimization and planning software that facilitates scheduling of multimodal movements.

Motorways of the Sea

SYNCHRO-NET exploits the Motorways-of-the-Sea concept by encouraging increased use of short sea shipping for intra-European movements.

The Motorways of the Sea (MoS) initiative has led to increased investment in ports, freight terminals and logistics platforms. Similar advances in information and communication technologies (ICT) such as logistics management systems have proceeded in parallel.

Case Studies and Examples

DHL, Cosco, Kuehne+Nagel and Dell have explored the benefits of the SYNCHRO-NET solution and opportunities for increased use of short sea routes in the four main Motorways of the Sea corridors in Europe.

South East Europe

The synchromodal scheduling algorithms were used to optimize and analyse routes from Piraeus to Central Europe.

From an optimization perspective this presents a technically challenging problem as there are many routes and modes to choose from. For example:

  • Piraeus to Trieste or Koper by sea, followed by train or truck inland.
  • Rail: the Orient and East Med TEN-T corridor for example.
  • Via Constanta: short sea shipping followed by barge along the Danube.
  • Many other possible routes, ports and combinations of modes.

The SYNCHRO-NET algorithms optimize the selection of the route, based on the type and urgency of freight, always aiming to use the greener and more cost-effective shipping options if possible.

South West Europe

The coastal route from Fos to Algeciras is part of the South West Europe MoS corridor and includes several major container ports.

For example, freight coming from the Far East to Spain can use large ports such as Algeciras, Valencia and Barcelona. Coastal shipping services connect these ports and smaller ones such as Cartagena and those on the North African coast.

The SYNCHRO-NET model allows shippers to optimize the multi-modal door-to-door route, considering all possible ports and combinations of services.

For example, a traditional ship/long-haul-truck option might be replaced by a more efficient combination of ship-feeder-rail-truck combination.

Such combinations are difficult to find by hand, especially as it is necessary to consider the schedules, transit times in terminals and customs requirements/constraints. However the SYCNHRO-NET algorithms can search through millions of possible options to find the best for each shipper.

Baltic Sea

The recent congestion problems in the Dover-Calais connection have prompted freight forwarders to look for alternative solutions. A particular example considered in SYNCHRO-NET is that of freight moving from Poland to the UK.

Again there are many possible options, depending on the urgency of the movement. The Baltic ports provide a range of short sea shipping options, connecting to several ports along the Eastern coast of the UK, including for example Port of Tyne, Hull, Felixstowe and London Gateway.

Alternatively there are truck/ro-ro options between ports in the North Sea, and for containerised freight there are rail services available also.

The SYNCHRO-NET algorithms identified viable alternative routes which avoided congested ports and exploited the capacity of regional terminals, by using short sea routes and integrating with rail services.

Western Europe

The recent political discussions relating to Brexit have prompted shippers and manufacturers in Ireland to consider alternative transport solutions for their exports both to Europe and to the wider global market.

In particular the UK "land bridge" route involves trucks using ro-ro services to ports in the UK, particularly those in the South East such as Dover. There has been widely-documented concern expressed about the possible delays in these main ports that might occur post-Brexit.

SYNCHRO-NET was used to optimize new multimodal routes, switching to lo-lo options, or re-routing via alternative ro-ro services to de-risk and de-stress the supply chain.

Operationally this allows freight forwarders to present viable alternatives to their customers, while at the strategic level it allows shipping companies to analyse the benefit of offering new services which connect ports such as Cork or Dublin to mainland Europe.

The SYNCHRO-NET Approach

SYNCHRO-NET allows transport operators and shippers to reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions through advanced optimization and de-risking of the multi-modal supply chain.

Dynamic scheduling of processes at ports and terminals reduces bottlenecks and smooths flows through these key nodes in the supply chain, developing a win-win proposition for all actors in the supply chains.

In particular SYNCHRO-NET supports the MoS objectives that will deliver significant economic and social benefits in Europe:

  • Increased concentration of freight flows on short sea and coastal shipping routes.
  • Better integration of regional ports and shipping routes with global trade lanes.
  • Reducing congestion through modal shift, and increasing overall supply chain resilience.



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