One year ago Antwerp Port Authority announced its determination, together with the stakeholders involved, to improve mobility in and around the port. One year later, in view of the European Mobility Week, it is the time to take stock. The ambitions have been set, the projects have been mapped out, and the first results are visible. Night logistics have been introduced and barge services are being made ever more efficient and innovative initiatives for commuters like the Water Bus and Bike Bus are both up and running. Here we look at these and other developments.
One year ago Antwerp Port Authority and private sector companies announced their commitment to reduce the mobility pressure on freight transport and personal transport, with temporary, short-term measures in addition to structural, long-term solutions.
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“Mobility is one of our five strategic spearheads. To ensure further sustainable growth of the port in future, it must remain accessible both to people and to goods,” explains Port Authority CEO Jacques Vandermeiren. “But the current mobility situation is a serious drag on companies in the port. There is no silver bullet for the problem of mobility in and around Antwerp. We are assuming our social responsibility by searching for structural solutions together with the entire port community, both for goods and for personal transport.”
Port alderman Marc Van Peel for his part declared: “The Port Authority is working on mobility solutions in collaboration with all partners, even beyond the boundaries of the port. The Water Bus is a good example of our pioneering work. The Scheldt is an underused highway for commuter traffic, and given the problems of mobility we want to make the best possible use of it. Mobility by water is new to Antwerp, but already it is a success. With initiatives such as these we are encouraging people to leave their car at home and use a sustainable alternative.”
LIST OF INITIATIVES FOR GOODS TRANSPORT:
Night logistics: an appeal to the community
Freight transport by road is still a headache. Long-term solutions such as the Oosterweel connection bring major disruptions in the form of infrastructure work. The Port Authority is therefore keen to encourage the port community to make greater use of night logistics, since all the necessary infrastructure is already there. But this can only be successful if all the parties involved commit themselves to changing their policies. For this purpose a Night Logistics Action Plan has been set up and workshops with all the parties involved (shippers, forwarders, shipping companies, terminals, agents, hauliers etc.) will begin in October. With this project the Port Authority seeks to emphasise its role as community builder. Here we have a good example of collaboration across sector boundaries to offer a solution to a challenge facing society.
New and upgraded parking facilities
In order to deal with the problem of the lack of parking space in the port, a large, modern truck park is being built on the Left bank. This will offer space for 370 trucks, with all modern facilities including toilets and showers, wifi, camera surveillance and vending machines. It will also be energy-neutral, thanks to solar panels. There is already a truck park with 200 spaces on the Right bank, where the facilities will be expanded and modernised on the model of the Left bank. Once planning permission has been obtained this truck park is expected to be in use by the summer of 2020. The Port Authority is investing 8.3 million euros in this project. In the meantime the problem of unauthorised parking is being tackled, in closer collaboration with the police.
Streamlining container barge transport
In the barge transport sector, Antwerp Port Authority signed a Container Barge Action Plan earlier this year with three main components, namely scheduling & collaboration, consolidation and digitisation. These measures in combination should make container barge transport more efficient, for all partners in the supply chain. Various pilot projects will start this autumn.
One pilot project for consolidation of small container volumes is due to start on 5 November 2018. As of that date only barges with a minimum of 30 moves per call (loading plus unloading) will be allowed to call directly at the shipping terminals in the port. Another trial project in the Container Barge Action Plan is “Central Barge Scheduling” which comes into operation on 1 October. There will then be a single, central scheduling unit for barge loading and unloading operations. The schedules drawn up by this unit will be followed by the various container terminals in the port, including PSA, DP World and MPET, with the help of scheduling software and the BTS berth reservation system. Having a single, central point of contact will also make the scheduling cycle simpler and more efficient. This in turn will benefit the consolidation project, since there will be closer coordination between the central scheduling unit and the consolidation hubs.
Doubling the share of rail transport
Rail at present only accounts for 7% of transport within the port, a situation that urgently needs to change. In addition to promoting barge transport the Port Authority aims to put its full support behind rail transport, with the aim of doubling the amount of use made of rail in the next five years. Responsibility for making this happen has been assumed by Railport, a joint initiative by Antwerp Port Authority, the Left Bank Development Corporation and the industry associations essenscia Flanders and Voka Alfaport. Nils van Vliet was appointed CEO in June this year, and after a period of studies and pilot projects for distributed transport his task will be to introduce practical initiatives for improving and promoting rail transport. In the meantime constructive discussions have started with Infrabel to develop a new management model for rail infrastructure within the port, in order to make rail transport more flexible and efficient.
Port Authority Mobility Manager Tom Verlinden explains: “To improve mobility in and around the port we aim to create a modal shift that brings the share of truck transport down from 55% to 43% by the year 2030. To help achieve this we want to double the share of rail transport to 15% and to raise the barge share from 38% to 42%. At the moment we are already getting 2.1 million trucks off the road annually thanks to barge transport. That’s more than 8000 trucks per day, which is to say we avoid a continuous line of trucks 120 km long. Further gains in efficiency can only improve this situation.”
LIST OF INITIATIVES FOR PERSONAL TRANSPORT:
Water Bus, a crucial success
Since first being introduced on 1 July 2017 the Water Bus has carried more than 300,000 passengers. The Port Authority now seeks to further promote this form of water mobility in combination with bicycle traffic, in collaboration with the other stakeholders. The Water Bus service will therefore be extended from 8 October onwards. Next year there will be a third expansion, on the Albert canal.
Bike Bus, another successful initiative
The Bike Bus for its part has already carried more than 50,000 commuter passengers since the service started on 3 April, representing an average of 9000 to 10,000 passengers per month. Meantime, further improvements have been made to the service. A web app was recently launched that allows users to track the buses in real time.
And to offer alternatives for yet more commuters, an interlinked system of bus transport and a collective electric bike system in the port area is planned for next year.
In addition to the above initiatives the Port Authority is investing in safe cycling infrastructure. This will improve cycling mobility, safety and convenience over a wide area where there is no public transport.
“Together with the port community and employees we are working to create an accessible port,” says Tom Verlinden. “We are offering numerous possibilities as an alternative to avoid the traffic jams. The Water Bus and Bike Bus are good examples of the modal split for personal transport, making the port a good deal more accessible for soft, alternative means of commuter traffic for the 60,000 employees in the port.”