INTERMODAL TRANSPORT - practical aspects of its organisation in Polish conditions

We live in the times of globalisation where international trade takes on completely new meanings and scope. This is possible thanks to the development of transport and technology in logistics, simplification of trade, especially its legal, organisational and customs aspects, the banking system and IT technologies.

In terms of transport, the fact that contributed to the development of international trade was the introduction of a standardised loading unit, which is a sea container - the foundation of intermodal transport.

Intermodal transport - transport of goods "from door to door"

Intermodal transport is the transport of goods by at least two modes of transport without changing a load unit, and therefore without reloading between ships and trains, or between trains and trucks. Leaving aside the transport of semi-trailers on special railway platforms for the purposes of this article, we will focus on the use of a container as a loading unit and I will briefly describe this variant of intermodal transport, limiting the article to the land part.

A loading unit, which is a sea container, allows you to deliver goods "door to door", changing the means of transport along the way, saving time, money and at the same time minimising possible damage and simplifying insurance and customs issues.

Standard containers

Standard containers used in intermodal transport are usually divided in terms of their length, giving this parameter in feet for 20', 40' and 45', and the type can be specified by specifying height (for 40' it will be DV or HC), width (for 40' ' and 45') and whether it is a regular, refrigerated or other special container. Standardisation of types is necessary for efficient transport in intermodal chains, where containers are reloaded from seagoing vessels to railway carriages, barges (practically unheard of in Poland) and finally truck chassis.

The key role in the efficient operation of the chain is played by transhipment terminals, where the means of transport (or their type) are changed, they can be divided into sea ports (usually with railway sidings), inland railway terminals and inland depots serving only car traffic. Efficient operation of terminals means shorter transport times, cost optimisation and the possibility of real planning of specific delivery dates, which are sometimes critical, e.g. for factories operating in "Just In Time" system or due to the strong seasonality of the product, e.g. fireworks delivery before the New Year.

Sea container terminals

Considering the import relation, the first terminal for sea containers on their way to contractors/unloading places in Poland is the seaport in Gdańsk, Gdynia or Szczecin. Of course, there are no obstacles for a container to reach Poland via German ports or Slovenian Koper, continuing the journey by road transport. These terminals have STS cranes serving ships and smaller RTG or RMG cranes for handling vehicles and trains, supplemented with reachstackers (often called Kalmars from the manufacturer's name). If the option of transporting by train to the interior of the country is selected, the railway terminal will be next (the most important in Poland are, among others, Kutno, Gądki, Brzeg Dolny) - this means at least one track with a length of several hundred meters, most often served by RTG/RMG cranes less often only by reachstackers, where the container will be unloaded from the train and transferred to the storage area or directly to the truck chassis. From there, it can go directly to the recipient or to the third type of terminal - an inland depot serving car traffic.

Intermodal transport, in which we have been actively participating for 10 years, is, as I mentioned earlier, combining different means of transport, which in the realities of Poland means in practice rail and trucks combined in different proportions of the distance covered, depending on the availability of infrastructure, mainly railway, railway sidings. However, how to combine them to achieve your dream fast-cheap-good and can you have these three things together? The answers to these and other questions will be found in the next articles in this series, which will soon appear on our website.