rotterdambarges © Mishkacz
© Mishkacz

Barge operators have denied any responsibility for the congestion plaguing inland container terminals across Benelux ports.

Spokesperson for Contargo Heinrich Kerstgens told The Loadstar that, while fragmentation had hit the industry, the impact on operations had been minimal.

“I can’t agree with the finger-pointing towards operators – you can’t run half-full barges over a prolonged period, as it doesn’t cover the costs,” he said.

“There is fragmentation in the market, though, which causes operators to run their barges with a cargo mix for multiple terminals in the seaports.”

Mr Kerstgens held firm on the view that the causes of inefficiency and congestion lay at the feet of others. In particular, he pointed to the “tremendous” increase in size of deepsea vessels over recent years.

“There is also the increase in the number of feeder vessels calling, which all have priority over barges at the deepsea terminals,” he continued. “And the lack of available staff is indeed a problem in Antwerp – although this is not an issue at Rotterdam.”

Mr Kerstgens’s comments followed claims made to The Loadstar by an industry source that congestion was as much the fault of large operators as the terminals.

In particular, the source highlighted “fragmentation” of inland shipping operators, claiming their “pernicious inefficiencies” needed to be addressed.

Furthermore, the source accused them of “navel gazing” and expecting port operators to absorb the estimated €24m cost of inefficiencies created by barge operators.

Mr Kerstgens said: “[Fragmentation] could be improved, due to the fact that this leads to smaller lot sizes. As such, it may cause an eventual domino effect when a delay in handling occurs at one of the planned terminals in the seaport.”

But he maintained his view operator fragmentation was negligible, compared with the problems caused by larger vessels and terminal inefficiencies.

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  • Gunther Ginckels

    March 08, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    Mr Kerstgens confirms the analysis of “The Source”. Its nobody’s fault. Operators running 240 TEU barges serving 5 oceanterminals in a port like Antwerp with left and rightbank terminals where 60% of these bargecalls feed less than 15 moves?? Its not the operators fault. labour and berthing capacity shortage? Its not the terminals fault. Dumping 5,000 ++ TEU from one ULCC? Its not the shipping lines fault. So please in the name of the small single barge owners; don’t change anything and continue to run inefficient inland navigation operations as for the past 10 years. And don’t invest in joint solutions where all stakeholders contribute and benefit from sustainable and efficient inland navigation operations.

    • Hein Kerstgens

      March 10, 2018 at 2:02 pm

      Our experience is, that it is nearly always better to ask for a smaller berthing window than for a really big one (>100 moves). We could easily do that, but the we have to wait much longer for an slot appointment. That is in my option due to the fact that there is simply no enough capacity available and it is more often possible to take a small lot in between the big ocean vessels and shortsea feeders. If capacity is not available either because of missing crane capacity, to little stuff resources or because of economical reasons than there is no capacity – full stop.