The principle of sustainability influences every aspect of business at multimodal operator Samskip. 

Earlier this year, international transport and shipping company Samskip unveiled an online CO2 carbon footprint calculator to help shippers quantify the impact using multimodal transport could have on the environment. The new app provides a tonne per kilometre comparison by trade lane to measure the effect of shifting freight off the road, using a 45ft pallet-wide container as the base load for comparison.

For Samskip, the eye-catching tool is more than a gimmick: it provides a way for customers to see how its group-wide commitment to sustainability can bring major environmental gains to go along with the service superiority it claims over road haulage.

Samskip’s sustainable shipping credentials are built on increasing the intermodal component of its transport services – rail, river barge and shortsea – to be more environmentally friendly than trucking, but also on its claim to be more reliable and efficient. In putting this case, it has grown to become the largest door-to-door container multimodal network within Europe, moving about a million TEU annually, with core markets in continental Europe, the UK, Ireland, Iceland, Scandinavia, the Baltics and the Iberian Peninsula.

Scale economies are a specific advantage for multimodal transport over its road competition, and Samskip’s recent expansion and acquisition strategies have seen the group pressing home this edge for more sustainable shipping at every opportunity.

Multimodal reach

Perhaps the most notable extension of the Samskip service portfolio in recent years has been GreenBridge, which has brought Turkey into the multimodal fold and is a joint initiative of with Intercombi (ICL) Transport – a subsidiary of the logistics company Turkish Netlog Logistics Group. Northbound, the service uses road service to transfer containers to Istanbul or Izmir, where they are loaded onto six weekly sailings offered by UN RO-RO to Trieste, then transferred on dock to rail services at Trieste to connect to Samskip’s rail hub in Duisburg, Germany. From there, loads can be transported to destinations all over Northern Europe.

The last 12 months have seen no shortage of new services from Samskip to advance the sustainable transport case. During the period, Hector Rail and Samskip added six round trips per week between Helsingborg in Sweden and Duisburg to the existing operations. Again, Samskip and the Rail Cargo Group (as part of the ÖBB – Austrian Federal Railways) launched new seamless rail services connecting Romania and Sweden, again via Duisburg, Germany.

This year, Samskip has also expanded its services in Scotland by increasing capacity into Grangemouth, following the deployment of a larger 803-TEU container vessel into UK shortsea services in August. In addition, the new service provides a direct intra UK shortsea connection from Hull to Grangemouth offering a cost-effective, sustainable solution for domestic transports.

In the meantime, while the full consequences of Brexit are yet to play out, Samskip has both customs outcomes covered, offering shortsea services from Rotterdam to Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Belfast, or Rotterdam-UK shortsea services connecting to Ireland via land bridge.

Acquisitive scale

The sustainability through scale card has also been played through acquisitions. Having entered the Norwegian market 20 years ago, Samskip has gradually built up its services to include shortsea and refrigeration warehousing services, but two significant recent investments represent a radical step up. In 2016, Samskip bought Euro Container Lines (ECL) and took full control of reefer shipping company Silver Sea, following up with the acquisition of the much larger Nor Lines during 2017.

The latter purchase brought with it a serendipitous investment in new sustainable technology, with the acquisition including two vessels designed by Rolls-Royce delivered in 2015 which run on lean and green LNG.

Kvitnos and Kvitbjørn eliminate NOx emissions, minimise SOx emissions,” says Samskip spokesperson Eva Rademaker-de Leeuw. “In per ton/km terms, they produce 70% lower CO2 emissions than the equivalent truck freight move. Overall, they are 65% more energy-efficient than a ship running on conventional marine fuel.”

The emissions equations are being compiled for every aspect of Samskip’s activities, Rademaker de-Leeuw adds. This year, the company has also been enhancing its barge services, this year adding a second vessel to the Rotterdam-Duisburg service it operates with Pro-Log to increase service frequency to six times weekly. In the 10th anniversary year of the Pro-Log services, the partners have calculated that the 2,876 trips completed have saved 479,415 total kg in CO2 emissions that would otherwise have been belched out along roads connecting the Ruhr region and Rotterdam.

However, Samskip’s carbon footprint initiatives go beyond generalities: efforts to strengthen its competitive position through sustainability initiatives go as far as a new type of container flooring, made from fibre reinforced plastic (FRP). Developed with Guangdong-based CIMC ECO New Material Development Co. Ltd, the material is lighter in weight than wood, delivering greater container payload as well as avoiding deforestation.

Road to better future

Furthermore, while the main environmental benefits of Samskip’s sustainable transport policy accrue in shortsea, inland waterway and rail transport modes, the company’s commitment to sustainability is also tangible over the road. After all, Samskip operates a fleet of 200 new Mercedes trucks, covering an estimated 17 million km per year.

Between 2012 and 2017, the CO2 emitted by Samskip trucks has fallen by around 11%, from 834 g/Km in 2017 to 743.5 g/Km. The results have, once more, been achieved through an eye for detail.

“One initiative we have is for trucks to be scanned and checked to ensure optimum air pressure and correct tread depth at the Duisburg Rail Terminal, to maximise truck miles efficiency,” says Rademaker-de Leeuw. The VENTECH Systems ‘PNEUSCAN’ system yields data that is forwarded in real time to Samskip’s trucking pool management at Genemuiden in the Netherlands, with Duisburg terminal staff instructed to intervene in cases considered suboptimal.

In addition, since January 2016, Samskip has been implementing a new monitoring and coaching programme to promote fuel efficient and safe driving. “We use ‘FleetBoard’ technology to analyse driver actions in real life, the programme offers follow-up mentoring to coach bad habits out at the individual level,” Rademaker-de Leeuw explains. In just under two years, the new approach has achieved 6% less fuel consumption, a 6% reduction in CO2 emissions, and a 10% reduction in truck damages compared to 2015.

Elsewhere, in Sweden, Samskip is trialling five trucks running environmentally-friendly HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil) as a fuel, supplied via Preem. HVO generates 80% less CO2 than conventional diesel fuel, 46% less particulates and 14% lower NOx emissions.

Shipper engagement

Crucially, the transport provider works hard to ensure that the fruits of these sustainability initiatives are tangible for individual shippers supported by hard evidence. It works with world leading producer of paper-based packaging Smurfit Kappa and BCTN Roermond (BCTN) to cope with the increased volumes for the last mile delivery from Rotterdam to Roermond using ‘blue road’ inland waterway services, saving carbon emissions of 45 kg CO2 per load.

Elsewhere Howdens, the UK’s leading supplier of fitted kitchens, appliances and joinery products, and multimodal service provider Samskip have developed a cost effective multimodal solution for moves between Italy and the UK. The multimodal option is reckoned to have avoided 292,082 kg as CO2 emissions from equivalent road moves.

In fact, Rademaker-de Leeuw suggests, sustainability runs through Samskip as a core value from every perspective.  “Recently, we secured ISO14001:2015 certification for our Rotterdam (shortsea) and Genemuiden (rail) operations, as one of the first Dutch companies recognised for its Environmental Management System.”

“We will always seek independent verification of our sustainable values, but we do not need affirmation to justify our approach,” she adds. “Last year, we made a major investment in the roofing to support Rotterdam’s largest solar panel system at our storage subsidiary frigoCare; that is now generating 750,000kWh of electricity per year and cutting the carbon footprint of Europe’s largest port. We have also installed specially laminated glass at our headquarters to block infra-red rays, cutting cooling energy demand in half. Now, we even run a ‘green’ data centre cooling system that automatically ‘decides’ whether the temperature of the air outside could be useful for cooling inside.”

The list goes on, with the sustainability message drilled down to the level of individual guidance for office staff on best environmental practice. “At Samskip we say, ‘We aim to build a better future’, but we also believe the actions need to match the words,” says Rademaker-de Leeuw.