The concept of logistics zones in the hinterland is now well-advanced in Europe. The interaction between seaports and inland locations connected to them leads to the development of large logistics pools of intermodal transport.
Port hinterland connectivity and inland transport need innovative approaches from various transport stakeholders, connecting road, inland waterways, and rail networks, which are able to handle similar cargo volume as the port itself. For instance, the Korean government has launched a research project to study the development of a new intermodal Automated Container Transport System (ACTS) via a roll-on/roll-off method that connects ports to hinterlands or uses a logistics hub between ports and the inland. As safety is a prerequisite, the implementation could start as separate traffic and progress with developing technology towards mixed traffic in its advanced forms.
Seamless collaboration between sea ports and hinterland logistics hubs will require advanced and shared information systems. In the Netherlands, for example, a web-based search engine supports the planning of intermodal transports and provides an overview of intermodal terminals and their connections using dynamic data from transport operations, terminals, and connections in Europe. In the future, a further integration of intermodal transport and supply chain management will be a source of new value-added services also in inland locations.
Major sea ports are preparing themselves for autonomous vehicles and this development extends towards the hinterland hubs. Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are already essential parts of container operations at many ports. The transportation routes between sea ports and hinterland hubs offer a lucrative application for such equipment. Investments to both physical and digital infrastructure are needed. Infrastructure investments are made with 30-50 years lifetime in mind. Within such a time frame, consideration of future investments should take into account possibilities to adopt to future technology development.
Got interested in the hinterland hubs? Have a look at the literature review Hinterland hubs/inland terminals and automation that highlights the emerging opportunities and novel technologies. The review is available at VTT (direct link to the review: https://cris.vtt.fi/ws/portalfiles/portal/46154296/Autoport_hinterland_hubs_literature_review.pdf)
Teuvo Uusitalo, Helena Kortelainen & Risto Tiusanen; VTT