Going alone to preserve links in the supply chain

20 March 2020

These are challenging days for the UK supply chain. Find out how Peel Ports are looking at one method of moving cargo that could help ease the burden and keep the country’s supply chain flowing.

From restocking of supermarket shelves to components for medical equipment manufacturing, the national response relies on logistics businesses.

Of course, hauliers, warehouses, shipping lines and other operators are impacted just as severely as any other sector. Their current mission is to assure essential goods reach their destination.

It’s therefore vital that we find every way possible to preserve and protect each link in the supply chain.

Every year, millions of cargo units are transported by lorries on RORO (roll-on, roll-off) ferries, using a single driver throughout the length of the journey, including the sea leg.

But as has been widely reported in recent years, a chronic shortage of  HGV drivers, is likely to worsen for the foreseeable future.

There is an important lesson from cargo operations on the Irish Sea that could help cargo movements more widely, including with our continental trading partners. More than 50% of RORO cargo on the Irish Sea is transported using the unaccompanied freight model.

Unaccompanied freight means that only the trailer containing the goods is shipped.

Drivers are free to complete other jobs more time efficiently, saving time waiting for departures or travelling. The cargo trailers are moved on and off the vessel by special tugs, which protect the drivers from outside hazards before being picked up by another driver for the onward journey.

This has several other benefits.

Manufacturers and retailers can build contingency stock at the port of entry using stand trailers, removing the need for warehousing, which may not be available.

The unaccompanied trailer, which may not be needed for several hours after the vessel’s arrival, provides more time for the authorities to complete their border checks. If need be, decontamination and cleaning can be arranged. This reduces contagion opportunity and hauliers can maximise their productivity.

The UK has more than 20 major cargo ports capable of handling RORO vessels. There are also many RORO shipping lines, and we at Peel Ports Heysham have long standing working relationship with many of them.

Let’s collaborate at these challenging times, sharing best practice as we strive to deliver a common goal..