Smart Multimodal = Smart Technologies + Smart People

Multimodal transport is becoming more and more widely used due to its flexibility. In the meantime, the optimisation of multimodal solutions is constantly underway. The Netherlands, an important logistics country, makes much efforts on the research and practice of smart intermodal logistics. With rapidly developing smart technologies and platforms, cooperated with knowledgeable logistic practitioners, intermodal transport is developing in a smarter direction.

On October 23, the second session of the Dutch Smart Logistics Webinar: Smart Multimodal Transport was held. This is organised by ISEA, the Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Chongqing with the support of HIDC and Martijn Hordijk, Sales Manager at Portbase, Marco Huijsman, CEO and Founder at Cofano, and Arnoud Paans, Logistics Development Manager at Schavemaker shared their smart intermodal solutions.

Portbase: reduce chain cost, increase quality

Portbase is a non-profit neutral logistic data platform which provides digital services for Dutch ports. In Portbase, all the data needed in the transport process are entered and used in one single flow. Every party involved can get easy access to the data and benefit from its efficiency. “The system is built on and for the clients. Our objective is to reduce chain cost while increasing chain quality,  by making the connections with Dutch ports smarter”, Hordijk says. Based on its ecosystem with smart applications and platforms, Portbase built a big community of 4700 organisations and developed 44 different services. 

However, the optimisation of the system is continuing. Hordijk explains: ”We are rebuilding our systems to adapt to the new changes in the industry. For example, we invested in cargo tracker, which enables our clients to track cargo from the port to inner terminals or their other locations. If the cargo is discharged or ready to be picked up, it is visible in the system, you don’t need to look up to other websites.” Also, Portbase is ready for Brexit, to provide solutions with UK cargo.

Cofano: optimise intermodal logistics smartly

There are many more examples of smart technologies and collaborative platforms like Portbase being applied as intermodal logistics optimisation solutions. Huijsman, CEO of Cofano, presented some of the smart logistics optimisation solutions provided by his company. These solutions cover all aspects of intermodal transport.

The Intermodal Voyage Planning System resembles map navigation and enables the planning of routes for barge or inland shipping. Data including all bridges, locks and water depths are stored in the platform. By simply entering the origin and destination on dashboard, the system automatically calculates all the alternative routes based on the service data provided by different suppliers, and displays detailed data for each sector, including sailing time, distance, cost, carbon footprint, etc. 

3D visualisation

Online booking

Bookingsportal is an application that supports online booking and cancellation of containers, as well as tracking the status of containers. Customers can easily follow up the latest container status with simple clicks. Likely, the Train & Barge Transport System helps to manage and plan intermodal container orders. Its flexible data import functions make data integration easier. Order information can be directly matched to sales contracts and e-invoices can be generated automatically. All order information is visible to clients.

Automatic time arrangement based on algorithms aims to save time and efforts for decision makers. When a train/barge/truck arrives at a terminal, the assistance of the Inland Terminal Operating System can come in handy. This system can help manage the loading and unloading of containers at the terminal, truck gate access and yard work. The system is equipped with a 3D visualisation interface for efficient tracking of containers stacked in the yard. Also, unexpected cases should be taken into consideration. The control tower system is used to dynamically monitor the process of transportation, automatically identifying delays based on the sailing positions and sending alerts at an early stage. In short, every aspect of intermodal transport can be optimized through smart technologies, in order to achieve more efficient and smarter logistics.

Build up multimodal transport solutions

However, smart logistics is not only related to technologies, but also to logistics decision makers. Paans, who has an extensive logistics background, brings his experience to the table. The decision-making process varies depending on many factors. For example, if a container arrives at the port of Rotterdam and is delivered in France, should it be transported from the port to the warehouse by truck or barge? This depends on the distance from the port to the warehouse, the availability of barge terminals nearby and the urgency of the goods. Another example, for a shipment of goods from the EU, via consolidation in warehouse until delivery in China port, how to combine all different modalities of transport? The urgency, nature of goods and the costs in every sector should be taken into account. 

According to Paans, an intelligent intermodal solution means: extensive knowledge of the logistics market; a thorough understanding of freight demands; flexibility in changing circumstances; optimisation of service, cost and lead times; transparency of design and choices; visibility on the supply chain; and simplified invoicing process.

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Author: Huilin Shi

Author: Jialu Zhang

Jialu Zhang heads the China Desk of

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