Ocean Carriers

Contship at the Forefront of Asian-to-Mediterranean Trade Shift

Contship at the Forefront of Asian-to-Mediterranean Trade Shift
Chatchaya Jianswatvatana

The logistics landscape in Europe is changing. On one hand, terminals in Northern Europe that have been the preferred gateway for import cargo from Asia for decades, are facing several challenges (infrastructure, unions etc) . On the other hand, facilities in the Mediterranean are investing heavily in terminal infrastructure and upgraded their road and rail facilities. Routing cargo via Southern Europe leads to a seven- to 10-day reduction in ocean transit times to and from Asia and facilities in Southern Europe are more and more able to tab their full potential. Shippers realise the potential to save both time and “end-to-end“ costs and especially the trade with Switzerland has experienced significant growth rates.

La Spezia (LSCT), run by the Contship Italia Group, has been a key driver for this development in Italy. The Group’s flagship terminal at the Ligurian Sea is not just a gateway to Italian markets, but also to Southern Europe and beyond. The natural protected harbor connects to 50 plus Far East and Oceania ports via 5 weekly services. Over 3.5 km of port roads and 17 km of rail tracks lead directly to the national road and rail networks, facilitating an efficient transfer from ship to shore to shippers’ final markets and vice versa. La Spezia’s catchment area accounts for 45% of total Italian gross domestic production (34.4 million tons of import and 20.5 million tons of export).

Contship has been at the forefront of transforming the Italian maritime landscape and Michael Cashman, the group’s Commercial Director is available for a chat on the initiatives Contship is undertaking to promote maximised operation and business efficiency with modern integrated solutions in maritime logistics. Mr. Cashman has discussed how port facilities in the Mediterranean had evolved to become the preferred mode to import cargo from Asia in contrast to their Northern European counterparts which are mired in union and aging infrastructure issues.


From East to West

Contship Italia dates back to 1969 and has been a key driver to develop Italy’s maritime landscape. The country has had a reputation of being bureaucratic and anything but easy to do business in. Contship is part of the German Eurokai Group, the largest independent container terminal operator in Europe. This is one of the reasons that Contship has been running its terminals in Italy and Morocco on a private basis, even when this was still an exception in Italy. Its customers benefit from Contship’s extraordinary position: less red tape, virtually no issues with unions and thus smooth and effective terminal procedures. The Group furthermore offers integrated intermodal logistic solutions.

Michael_Cashman (hi-res)

Mr. Michael Cashman, Commercial Director at Contship Italia

At present, there is a shift within the broader Italian maritime landscape happening. To improve the country’s competitiveness, the Cabinet of the Mediterranean country approved a new ports reform aiming at cutting bureaucracy stemming from a system regulated by a 1994 law at the beginning of August.

The port reform leads to the decrease from 25 port authorities to 15 regional Port System Authorities together with the transformation of the former Port Committee into a lighter Management Committee. The number of members nationwide is to be reduced from once more than 330 to around 70 today. The reform will furthermore consolidate the entire administrative and customs port-related procedures into just two new single-window offices. According to the latest Logistic Performance Index of the World Bank, Italy has improved its logistic competitiveness with regard to customs processes, now fully digitalized and coherent with EU standards.

As the infrastructure in Italy is changing, the entire country becomes more competitive in an international environment. Many ports are only adjusting to the new requirements just now. However, Contship has been offering streamlined terminal procedures for decades, which is why every single one of the big liner alliances call at the Group’s gateway of La Spezia. In total, there are currently nine weekly services on the trade lane Asia – Mediterranean with about 11 million TEU of trade capacity per year. Just for comparison: the capacity employed on the Asia – North Europe trade is about twice as much. However, a clear shift is happening. As industry data suggests, the total weekly capacity deployment on the Asia/Mediterranean trade stood at almost 130,000 TEU at the end of September, compared to just under 117,000 TEU total weekly capacity deployed in June 2015. This is an increase of 9.3%. As more and more terminals are able to handle ULCV, this development is clearly set to continue.


Smooth terminal operations are on thing, but when it comes to offering shippers end-to-end transport solutions, integrated products are key. Boxes shipped via LSCT benefit from Contship’s logistics hub in Melzo, which is located in the interland of Milan, the larger italian city. Through this link La Spezia connects to Switzerland, Germany and the Benelux and thus serves some of the most important economic centres in western Europe. As the Italian economic committee CIPE (Comitato Interministeriale Programmazione Economica) has just authorised some 39 million EUR of investment for the port authority of La Spezia for the new port rail tracks and rail station, the so called “RAILability“ of LSCT is to improve even further. “The advantage is clear“, says Daniele Testi, Marketing Director at Contship, “global shipping lines calling at La Spezia are able to serve multiple markets with just one call, saving both time and money.“ The key component of the “Southern Gateway” option connects maritime and inland terminals with the main markets of Italy, Central and Southern Europe.

La Spezia offers 200 weekly train connections with a total rail share of 30%, 3 times more the average of the Italian ports. As a consequence of the improved rail infrastructure network, each train passing the Alps has a loading capacity of about 1,600 tonnes. By connecting the North Sea ports with Ligurian hubs, Contship covers some of the most densely populated areas on the entire continent, which features around 70 million inhabitants. Huge infrastructure projects such as the new 57-kilometer-long Gotthard rail tunnel in Switzerland will push toward more southbound traffic even more as a consequence of the improved rail transit time and capacity of the tunnel.

Identifying the most efficient route from a variety of options is key when optimising the supply chain and this can be a challenge at times. That is why Contship has developed an online connectivity tool. This fully adaptive web service can be used from both desktop and mobile devices to find the best fitting solution for every individual customer. It links services provided by global shipping lines calling at the Group’s ports and furthermore integrates rail services offered by Hannibal, Contship Multimodal Transport Operator as well as by third parties to main inland hubs. Or to put it differently: Contship brings the ships to your factory.

Ocean Carriers
Chatchaya Jianswatvatana

Amp is an energetic writer and an adventurous traveler seeking to explore and broaden her horizons. Her travels have taken her to far flung destinations, experiencing various cultures with fresh eyes. She is a book-lover of various genres and is also a skilled photographer. She enjoys very strong black coffee.

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