Netherlands-based Samskip has reinstated its direct container service between Amsterdam and Hull, claiming shortsea market conditions have improved in favour of multimodal over road-ferry services.

Furthermore, the multimodal transport operator says its new rail service between Amsterdam and Duisburg could provide supply chain opportunities for UK importers doing business with China.

The Amsterdam-Hull link was suspended in March, as container and ferry volumes were impacted by Covid-19 lockdowns. However, Samskip said it won new container business from importers wanting to replenish empty supermarket shelves.

David Besseling, head of UK trade, explained: “While the total market dropped, the reliability of multimodal transport into the UK persuaded new shippers to convert from trailers to containers during lockdown, especially from Italy.

“Some trades remain subdued, but structural volumes from the paper, construction and chemicals sectors are returning to pre-Covid levels, and the time is right to re-establish Amsterdam-Hull as a robust intermodal product for the post-Brexit era.”

The 300-teu-capacity service will re-start on 5 September, focusing largely on 45ft containers, and three sailings a week from TMA Terminal Amsterdam will arrive a day later at ABP’s terminal at Queen Elizabeth Dock, Hull.

Mr Besseling said Samskip was “keeping its options open” on adding more capacity early next year, however, as the conclusion of Brexit negotiations could see rising demand for multimodal services.

Moreover, a shortage of drivers in Europe could also be benefiting multimodal over road-ferry transport, Samskip said, with low diesel prices encouraging hauliers to focus on continental business and pass on opportunities to run trucks into the UK.

“Recent trailer rate rises represent hard evidence of a shortsea market tipping in favour of the container,” said Mr Besseling.

He added: “Our experience has been that container transport’s ability to scale-up quickly and reliably proved compelling in the face of the uncertainties brought by previous [Brexit] deadlines, but then some of that freight returned to ferries as those deadlines simply became negotiation staging posts.

“This time, faced with new bureaucracy, driver shortages, trailer parks on motorways and Covid-related ferry schedule uncertainties, we expect a sizable chunk of clients to stay with multimodal.”

Meanwhile, Samskip’s new rail shuttle between Amsterdam and Duisburg completes the multimodal link for UK importers utilising the big uptick in Silk Road trains from China. The service was launched last week in collaboration with Nunner Logistics, which operates weekly trains to Duisburg from the Chinese cities of Xi’an and Changsha.

Mr Besseling said Chinese exports by rail to North Europe were increasing quickly.

“There is also strong and growing demand for cross-docking services in Amsterdam, where trailer loads are increasingly being converted to container loads for the UK,” he noted. “Higher frequency sailings into Hull create new supply chain possibilities for UK importers.”

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