Delft University of Technology
Faculty Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering
Transport Technology / Logistic Engineering

J.M.A. Quaegebeur Neckar-Rhine container shipping between Stuttgart and Rotterdam.
Masters thesis, Report 97.3.LT.4863, Transport Technology, Logistic Engineering.

The contents of this report represents a study on logistic concepts to transport containers between Rotterdam and the Stuttgart region. The focus is on the inland shipping modality via the Neckar and the Rhine and the mono-modal direct trucking alternative. From a logistic, operational and economic point of view, the Neckar-Rhine system and the existing shipping concept are analyzed. The strongest comparative characteristics of inland waterway systems are: Based on realized and predicted statistics of container throughput on the relevant section, some alternative navigation concepts have been worked out and measured according to examined criteria and logistic requirements.

Market research, carried out by the 'Industrie und Handelskammer Stuttgart', has revealed a potential transportation market of 40000 TEU import and 70000 TEU export between the Stuttgarter Container Terminal (SCT) and the ARA-ports (Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp).
Besides this, the waterways Neckar and Rhine, are described by several corresponding and several individual conditions and parameters, such as maximum vessel dimensions and maximum load capacity prescribed by law and infrastructure. Regulation by law and the presence of locks and low bridges have their influence on the performance of the logistic system.

A container transportation service from Stuttgart was started in September 1996 with two large Rhine vessels of 72 and 96 TEU (2 layers of containers). The round-trip time of a vessel is exactly one week, so that SCT offers two non-stop sailings per week between Stuttgart and Rotterdam/Antwerp. On the Neckar, it is not possible to create further economies of scale. In contrast, the recently applied conventional navigation concept does not yet make use of possible economies of scale on the Rhine. Despite that, it is permitted to operate larger vessels on determined sections of the Rhine (chapter 5), resulting in higher transport capacity.

Some alternative navigation concepts; push-convoys, are worked out in order to integrate the Neckar container shipping in the larger Rhine container shipping system. The report makes a distinction between the direct push-convoy and the 'normal' push-convoy concept which integrates a Rhine transshipment terminal, where the exchange and the bundling of barges take place. The next step is to transport them in large convoys between the terminal concerned and Rotterdam and in a small convoy to Stuttgart and back.

The direct push-convoy consists of one stop in Mannheim to connect or disconnect a number of barges to the same push-boat. This concept shows the most similarities to the conventional concept.

Based on a general transportation network and a transportation chain theory, it is determined how the 'Grenzleistungen' (maximum performance capacity) of the relevant infrastructure, equipment, fleet configuration and logistic requirements can be optimally exploited. This has to be achieved against a minimum consumption of resources, as time, energy and infrastructure. The performance of the barge push-convoy concept is examined on the following criteria, in view of increasing container through-put scenarios and is compared to the conventional shipping concept. On the one hand, the push-convoy concept is based on the 'gray barge' principle, which implies the key-issue of 'barge sharing' by different operators, in order to offer a more complete service to the client and to increase the load capacity utilization of the fleet. On the other hand, the push-convoy concept is built upon the 'floating stack' principle. The barge of the push-convoy concept holds a certain degree of stack functionality during the period that it is at the terminal to be (un)loaded. Since a barge stays 24 to 48 hours at the terminal, this might create opportunities to optimize the loading procedure, the stacking strategy and the container supply and delivery process by truck. The report does not quantify the practical implication of this floating stack functionality of a barge, but it gives the starting points and a way of approaching the creation of additional stacking volume at an inland terminal, such as SCT.

In conclusion, the Stuttgarter Container Terminal is not yet equipped to expand operations, exceeding a total container through-put over 20000 TEU per year. The stack capacity is the largest bottleneck in this expansion process. The crane capacity forms an obstacle, if the throughput goes beyond 70000 TEU per year. In relation to the first point, the push-convoy concept could, partly and temporarily, solve the stacking problem of the SCT terminal, considering the explained 'floating stack' principle. The latter is a practical performance value and can be taken as a given fact.
From a co-operation and navigation cost performance point of view, the 2-barge direct push-convoy realizes the best navigation cost performance (Ks-factor) on the Stuttgart to Rotterdam track and requires a limited degree of dependency and commitment of the joining partners in practice, regarding the need of just 2-barges.
The 4:1 proportion of the market charter price and the 3:1 proportion of the maximum transportation performance of a large and a small push-boat, explains the considerable difference in the navigation cost performance of the alternative concepts. All small push-convoys achieve a lower navigation cost performance per TEU than the large convoys. The savings on navigation, compared to the conventional concept, could be used to finance the costs, involved in the change of concept, start-up problems and additional transshipment expenses at the terminals.

Reports on Logistic Engineering (in Dutch)
Modified: 2000.04.16; , TU Delft / 3mE / TT / LT.