The European Community Shipowners' Associations (ECSA), the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) and the Federation of Private Port Operators (FEPORT) issued a joint letter dated March 20th 2014, urging the Council of the EU to adopt a sensible approach regarding the circulation of 45-foot containers in the EU.
In April 2013 the European Commission came forward with a proposal to review the cross-border transport of 45-foot containers with the intention of promoting the use of intermodal transport and by extension the use of shipping. This initiative ties in with the Commission's stated goals of a more sustainable transport system in Europe.
45-foot container transport relies on trucks that are longer than the standard truck length. The circulation of these trucks is today subject to heavy administrative formalities, especially if the transport operations are not limited within one Member State but are cross-border. This in turn limits the circulation of 45-foot containers, a loading unit that is used extensively in short sea shipping.
Administrative formalities act as a choking point by not allowing a 45-foot container that has been transported by sea to continue its journey unhindered on Europe's road network and reach its final destination.
To remedy this situation, the European Commission's proposal specified that, in the case of intermodal transport, (slightly longer – 15 cm) trucks capable of transporting 45 foot containers would circulate freely if the containers were used in short sea shipping.
Moreover, the Commission indicated that (longer) trucks carrying 45 foot containers that were used in deep sea shipping could only be allowed to travel up to 300 km from the port of unloading.
Regretfully, the report adopted by the Transport and Tourism (TRAN) Committee of the European Parliament on 18 March 2014 does not support the Commission proposal, but stipulates that longer vehicles, regardless of whether they transport 45-containers used in deep-sea or short sea operations, should be prohibited from travelling further than 150 km from the port of unloading.
Ideally, trucks carrying these longer containers should be able to circulate freely within Europe and not be subject to distance restriction that act as an impediment and prohibit the streamlining of transport operations.
"The EU should not miss out on this opportunity to stimulate European intermodal transport by streamlining the transportation of 45-foot containers" said Patrick Verhoeven, ECSA Secretary General and added "After all, efficient intermodal transport is a sine qua non condition to achieve a more sustainable transport system for Europe".
In light of the European Parliament's more restrictive position, ECSA, ESPO and FEPORT have jointly sent an open letter to Member States representatives in the Council asking them to support the Commission's initial proposal as a more balanced option.
(The photo is used only as an illustration)