Modal shift

Across the freight industry, the modal shift trend has seen businesses look at their supply chains, to see how they can make them quicker, more resilient, and even greener. Matt Green, key account manager at Portico, explains what this means for the shipping industry and your business.

Across the freight industry, there has been much talk of ‘modal shift’. In essence, modal shift means a change from one form of transportation to another and is an important element of the discussion around creating sustainable, resilient supply chains. For example, at Portico, some of the services we now offer due to modal shift shave a week off delivery times and can take multiple lorries off the road.

However, before we go any further, let’s take a step back, and look at the two competing trends in the shipping industry that have developed over the past few decades.

As you’ll know, containerisation of cargo has changed the face of the shipping. Container shipping lines have moved rapidly to order even larger vessels to take advantage of this trend. Today, there are ships operating that have a capacity of just under 24,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units). This had put smaller regional terminals, like ours here in Portsmouth, at a disadvantage.

However, over the past few years, a countervailing trend has begun to emerge, with smaller ships, regional ports, and innovative ways of using existing services coming together to increase resilience, speed up processing and have less impact on the environment. These can all be grouped together under the banner of ‘modal shift’.

In the shipping industry, this shift away from conventional thinking has come from a combination of congestion at larger UK ports, HGV driver shortages and changes to supply chains because of Brexit, all of which have had an impact on businesses.

So, what does this mean in practice? For a start, there has been a resurgence in ‘short sea’ and ‘feeder’ services between major continental ports and ports across the British Isles. These allow major shipping lines to offload containers more quickly, which can be swiftly transferred to smaller vessels and onward to regional ports in the UK. These ports are closer to the cargo’s end destination, increasing the resilience of supply chains.

The containers can then be cleared by customs whilst at sea, and as they are going to a regional port, the speed of processing once they arrive is rapid. For UK exporters, it means you can drop goods at a terminal that will be delivered directly to the heart of continental Europe, and no more delays from road congestion on the channel short straits. Portico already have a short-sea service in place, with a weekly departure to the Port of Antwerp.

We’re also part of a ground-breaking partnership with CMA-CGM and Brittany Ferries. The new ‘fast-lane’ service sees UK bound containers off loaded at Le Havre, then moved on to Brittany Ferries’ services to Portsmouth. They are then processed at our terminal ready for collection. This can shave a week of the usual transit time.

Modal shift can also improve the carbon footprint of your supply chain, with shipping already being one of the most carbon efficient forms of transport. It can also cut out an awful lot of road miles. For example, if a vessel takes 200 containers to Antwerp, that’s 200 vehicle journeys taken off the road.

At Portico, we manage the international cargo terminal at Portsmouth International Port. We are friendly and approachable. It’s much easier to get hold of who you want here. Our modern terminal has seen recent investment, with new container handling equipment and gate automation speeding up processing even further.

Portsmouth is convenient for much of the UK. The M275 goes to our door. The A3 goes direct to London and the M3 connects the Midlands.  Our freight forwarding and customs team is highly experienced, with years of dealing with documentation for non-European Union destinations and are now highly skilled in working with the UK-EU trade deal.

Plus, we are an officially Authorised Economic Operator. This means we are approved by HM Revenue & Customs to handle customs paperwork and approve documents ourselves. This saves a lot of time for customers.

Our message to logistics professionals is to look at modal shift with us and see what benefits it can bring to your supply chains. We’re ready for your call.