Shifting freight movements to sea requires new thinking and major efforts

Between 5 and 18 percent of current road transport volumes could potentially be transported by maritime transport, but the economic incentive policies to stimulate a shift would have to be very ambitious in order for there to be any real effect. This according to a new analysis from VTI.


The report, which has been made on behalf of the Swedish Transport Administration,  studies the extent of competition between maritime freight transport and land-based modes of freight transport.  During the work, analyzes have mainly been made on the basis of the national freight transport model Samgods.

Altogether, the evaluation of shift potential shows that between 5 and 18 percent of current road transport volumes (ton-kilometers) could potentially be transported by maritime transport, but that the economically achievable level is likely to be closer to the former value rather than the latter. The value 18 percent should be viewed as an upper bound rather than a ‘best estimate’ of the modal shift potential.
Due to shipping's low sensitivity to cost changes, it is difficult to realize such a potential with economic instruments that involve small reductions in shipping transport costs. To achieve a real effect, they must be very ambitious.

"We see that there is a need for further research and development of methods for analyzing effective and innovative solutions for shifting freight movements to sea", Inge Vierth at VTI says.

Decomposing the growth in freight transport work over the past years using a shiftshare analysis technique shows that maritime transport lost market shares, primarily to road transport, due to competition effects during the years 2011 up to and including 2016. At the same time, the official forecast by the Swedish Transport Administration until 2040 shows that several factors are expected to favor maritime transport in the future.