As home to some of the most innovative companies in the world – Nokia, Ericsson and Volvo to name but a few – it may come as no surprise that Scandinavia has also led the way in the freight forwarding market.
The Nordic countries have often been a hotbed where the international freight industry has tested innovative developments.
For example, when British Airways first tested freighter flights in the nineties, they looked to Gothenburg in Sweden rather than their major markets.
A fleet of airlines headed for Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark, attracted not by the tiny passenger market but by the huge global potential of the freight transport market.
More recently there has been a slowdown in the air freight market as customers switch to road transport for their freight forwarding. Shipping companies have increasingly taken advantage of Europe’s highly developed road network.
Most cargo carriers now serve the Nordics with a mix of freighter lift, belly capacity or smaller passenger planes and extensive truck networks.
In Scandinavia, the level of co-operation and joint working between the various parts of the industry is extremely high, with customers benefiting from this streamlining of the logistics. Sometimes called co-modality, this is the concept of the various modes of freight transport working together rather then competing with each other.
The Scandinavian countries have pioneered this model, which is now regarded as the way forward for the development of freight forwarding throughout Europe.
Many years ago, these were the very first markets, especially in Sweden and Finland, where the so-called tripartite approach was developed. This meant that the shipping company, freight company and carrier sat at the same table and openly discussed how best to organise the traffic flow. This holistic approach has given rise to some innovative developments.
A good example of this is the recent launch of RailPort Scandinavia, now being fast tracked by the Port of Gothenburg. This is a process that allows Swedish inland terminals served by shuttle trains to handle customs clearance, storage and documentation of international freight.
The first town to be integrated with the Port of Gothenburg is Vaggeryd, 200 kilometres to the east.
RailPort Scandinavia is a means of facilitating logistics, reducing costs and increasing capacity, thus improving the overall quality of freight services for the customer.
This is the latest initiative in a successful Swedish rail freight strategy introduced in 2001 with the launch of two daily container shuttle trains that saw 110,000 teu transported in its first year. In 2007, that had increased to 340,000 teu, saving an estimated 42,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
The port of Gothenburg now has 70 train departures a day of which 46 are operated for the oil, petroleum, chemical, paper and steel industries and the remaining 24 are container shuttles.
The port of Gothenburg started its box shuttles with just four train operators but now has ten rail companies – a testament to the success of Sweden having deregulated their rail industry and its impact on freight forwarding.
The Gothenburg strategy provides freight shuttle links to six Swedish ports. As only Gothenburg has the capacity to handle the large container vessels, this has had the effect of increasing the freight transport market for the smaller and inland ports.
Despite the global fame of companies like Nokia and Volvo, it’s not all about cars and mobile phones in Scandinavia.
Another hot Nordic export is fresh fish from Norway. In fact, fresh farmed salmon and trout is Norway’s largest export after oil and gas.
Freight forwarding carriers have invested in the state of the art cold storage facilities needed to keep the products fresh. In this aspect of freight services too, Scandinavia is leading the way.