Current and future challenges in the supply chain

At the Port of Antwerp Intermodal Marketplace on the 9th of November 2021, ESC Secretary General Godfried Smit talked about current and future challenges in the supply chain. In his keynote speech, he referred to supply chain disruptions in the maritime market and the issues of service reliability and container scarcity. He stressed the need to improve relationship between the partners within supply chains and optimise the functioning of supply chains.

“We, as European Shippers, consider it as a key issue to reinforce the dialogue with all our stakeholders. “Curing” the market is one of our most important objectives for the years to come. Optimisation within a supply chain with the use of available digitization should go hand in hand with fulfilling the challenges addressed by the European Green Deal”.

For hinterland transport, a lack of drivers and of personnel in general (for instance, in warehouses) will be an important issue. A lot of drivers will leave the profession because they are going to retire. The implementation of the Mobility Package on posting of drivers will probably contribute to the scarcity. ESC and IRU are working on the proper treatment of drivers at the premises of shippers. A common Charter has been developed by now. But if we look at other modalities, similar issues arise there as well. A common action of all supply chain partners will be required to prove that the logistics is able to stay an attractive sector to work in and can offer interesting employment prospects.

If we talk about port and hinterland activities: there is a discrepancy between the 24/7 activities in the port and in the hinterland (closing in weekends and nights). Solving this may decrease the current peak times in ports. However, the bottleneck is the availability of personnel.

Data sharing is necessary in logistics and it is passing through different layers of collaboration in supply chains. But it seems that in order to have it finally implemented, we may need a different approach. As when it is taken as a commercial opportunity, it continues staying an opportunity. But data sharing is a vital “infrastructure”. One of the ways to enable it may be through a private-public collaboration.

Rail and inland waterways will play a significant role in multimodality. In the last years, however, there hasn’t been a substantial growth of the percentage of cargo carried by rail. For years, the percentage of cargo carried by rail stays at 19%. A recent rail network study was conducted by FERRMED and proved that there were still some bottlenecks to work on.

Looking at all the challenges laying ahead of us a paradigm shift is important. If we stick to the present framework with a strict legislation on state aid, possibilities for individuals to use multiple procedures to delay investments etc., real game changers will not happen. To safeguard European competitiveness, more is needed. At the same time, we should also look for synergy in innovation that has been already developed within the sector and companies. A small practical pilot could be a better investment for today’s challenges than another big European project on physical internet.