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Short sea shipping – a great alternative to road freight

By Thomas Arbo Høeg, January 19, 2017
Over the years, the goods volumes have increased on the European roads due to globalisation. This has led to congested roads, delays, and unnecessary costs for European shippers. In this blog post, I will discuss why short sea shipping is a great alternative to road freight and what the benefits are for European shippers.

Large potential in short sea shipping for European trade

The concept of moving goods by sea along a coast, without crossing an ocean, has been around for centuries. But it wasn’t until 1997 that the first European short sea promotion centre was established. Today, short sea shipping is at the forefront of the European Union’s transport policy and accounts for roughly 40% of all moved goods.

Over the past decade, there has been a shift in short sea shipping from RoRo vessels to container ships, and we can now see a clear trend where container ships are increasing their share on the European market. Moving towards more short sea shipping using container ships, goes hand in hand with sustainability as a global trend.

Sustainable transport alternatives to road freight

Many European countries are looking for sustainable transport alternatives to road freight to minimise the goods flow on the roads. By establishing sustainable “sea motorways” over shorter distances and improve links between seaports and inland networks, it is possible to take substantial goods volumes off of the roads and get rid of road bottlenecks.

Short sea shipping provides many benefits for European shippers

Many European shippers are positive to the short sea shipping alternative, not only because it helps minimise the volumes of goods traffic on the roads, but also because of the many benefits it provides. One important aspect to mention is that short sea shipping is not a matter of dismantling road freight, but finding smart transport alternatives.

Short sea shipping – when speed is not a factor, but cost is

Road freight is the only mode of transport that can reach into the most rural areas, not served by any other transportation, and deliver the goods right at the doorstep. It is a highly flexible mode of transport, perfect for shorter distances. However, speed is not always a factor, and many times, shippers are looking for an alternative that is more cost-efficient than road freight alone. When shipping by sea, it usually takes a longer time for your goods to reach its final destination, but the cost is considerably lower.

Short sea shipping – when reducing your carbon footprint is a priority

Shipping containers by sea over shorter distances is way more efficient from an environmental perspective compared to road freight. When it comes to reducing the ecological footprint, sea freight almost always wins the battle against road as CO2 emissions are much lower. With the right solutions, short sea shipping can contribute tremendously in reducing the carbon footprint of European transportation.

The benefits of short sea shipping for European shippers

To sum it up, short sea shipping is a great alternative to road freight if your shipments are not specifically time-critical and you want a solution that is both cost-efficient and eco-friendly. If you have the time to plan your logistics, you will definitely benefit from short sea shipping as a well-planned logistics flow provides a more balanced overall supply chain.

Would you replace 1000 trailers with containers?

To exemplify: For one of our customers, who struggled with the problem of never knowing at what time their 1000 trailers would arrive at the final destination, we replaced their trailers with containers and placed them on a container ship with scheduled departures and arrivals. This solution provided a more planned and reliable logistics flow as well as a more cost-efficient and sustainable transport solution. Would you do the same?

Short sea shipping and the future

Our planet only provides so much space, and it is our task to utilise that space in the best way possible. There is no use in building more ring roads or beltways around the European cities as there simply is no space. Instead, we need to find smart and sustainable transport alternatives. By moving selective parts of goods volume from the roads to the seas and ship the goods over shorter distances, the problems with congested roads, delays, and unnecessary costs can be solved, while at the same contributing to a greener planet.

Today, the short sea shipping of goods in containers is concentrated around a limited number of main hub ports. But hopefully, in the future, it will be possible to use also the minor ports around Europe for short sea shipping.

I am convinced that short sea shipping is the way forward. And I don’t think it is an understatement to say that, in order to maintain a sustainable logistics flow throughout the whole of Europe, short sea shipping is more likely to become a necessity – for the better!

Greencarrier Freight Services offers shortsea shipping solutions from seaports all around Europe as well as an extensive transportation network and a full range of road freight services across Europe. For more information, please contact me directly or leave a comment below, and I will be happy to reply!

By Thomas Arbo Høeg

International Ocean Manager & Regional Director East Norway & Branch Manager Larvik
Phone: +47 95085050
E-mail Thomas


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