Multimodal is always a time that makes me look backwards nostalgically and look forwards excitedly. It’s an event when we discuss future plans, no more perhaps than in 2011. Having launched our Masterplan for the Mersey ports, we spent a really exciting week talking about our plans for a new container terminal, Liverpool2, and the development of multimodal logistics hubs along the Manchester Ship Canal that uniquely connect warehouses to waterborne transport in the heart of the UK, as well as to road and rail.
Multimodal 2016 will be another milestone year as it the year when these plans are becoming a reality. In April, Culina Logistics became the occupier of the first warehouse at Port Salford, with General Mills as the anchor tenant. Over the summer, Liverpool2 will see its first container ship berthed alongside, thus removing the physical constraints that have prevented large container ships from directly servicing the North.
All of these plans were driven by our desire to create a more sustainable future. However, it’s important that we don’t just read the word sustainable in an environmental context. Corporations cannot commit to costs on environmental grounds alone. This would leave them at a cost disadvantage compared to their competitors, so unless their clients were willing to pay a premium for the “greener” service, they would become financially unsustainable, go out of business and the industry as a whole would return to its previous level of emissions.
When we talk about our major investments, we talk about the cost, carbon and congestion benefits to our clients. We are seeking to facilitate a change that transforms the way a supply chain works in the UK, reducing road or rail miles by maximising the use of water. Using a fictional client in Trafford Park, Manchester, as an example, the traditional routing would be from southern port by road or rail, resulting in around 250 land miles. From Liverpool, that journey is just 40 miles. This reduces the cost significantly, maybe by as much as £300-£400 when comparing equivalent trucking costs. Whilst there will of course be a premium to ship to Liverpool, it will be far, far less, driven by the fuel efficiency (per tonne carried) of a container ship.
But as the source of the cost saving is in part driven by less fuel, there is a consequential impact on reduced emissions. Environmental sustainability is driven by financial sustainability.
The reduced miles also reduces the impact of congestion. Rail freight is close to capacity and we’ve all experienced long delays on the UK’s road network. This isn’t about whether roads in the North or South are congested or not, it’s about being able to plan your journey to avoid peak travel periods. By relying on roads less, the impact of congestion is reduced, whilst the short distances become easier to plan to avoid rush-hour.
So in many ways, my multimodal story this year will be the same as it has been for the last five years: we’re investing in new facilities that can transform the way supply chains work, to enable our customers to enjoy a more financially and environmentally sustainable future. The difference? This year it’s real.
Head of Commercial Strategy & Planning
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