by La Spezia Container Terminal
When the first train in the customs fast corridor ran between Contships’ sea gateway port of La Spezia and its inland-port in Melzo/Milan almost two years ago, a small industrial revolution took place in Italy. Before this moment, the customs port-related procedures had not exactly been renowned for working very efficiently – but times have changed.
With support from the national government, the Italian maritime sector and logistics industry are pulling together to boost its competitiveness in southern Europe. One of the key drivers for this development is the introduction of a smooth import customs clearance procedure, by way of the customs fast corridor.
When it comes to transit-times and the cost of importing cargo, two factors are most relevant: Firstly, the physical distance and the characteristics of the infrastructure between the sender and receiver. Secondly, the performance of the various links that are involved in the logistics supply chain.
The performance of those links shows how the fast corridor can provide the lubrication to support the process. The ultimate objective is to move the customs clearance to the inland logistics hub without issuing any transit document at the entry port. Fast corridors are based on a highly tech-savvy container tracking technology that follows the movements of cargo. This is done through an efficient exchange of data between all the main players involved in the logistics supply chain process. The customs platform links several stakeholders within the supply chain, such as producers, beneficial cargo owners, the container terminal and intermodal transport operators, port authorities, ocean carriers and of course, customs.
Once a container is set to enter the fast corridor, it is possible to bypass some of the bureaucracy associated with customs formalities. Today, the import process involves a few stages only: before the ship arrives at the entry port, while the details of the cargo in the containers are submitted to the shipping line by the responsible party. Once the boxes are discharged, they are made available for loading on to the rail wagon or truck for onward transportation to the customer. To make sure that all parties involved are aware of every step in the transport chain, information about the departure of the train/truck is sent to customs through the customs digital platform named AIDA.
For every train or truck journey, once the respective mode of transport has entered the inland logistics hub, a supervisor communicates to AIDA to signal the end of the trip. After which, a notice then is sent informing all parties involved that the container has arrived. The logistics operator is therefore able to prepare the customs declaration before the cargo reaches the final destination, making immediate customs clearance possible, as soon as the goods physically enter the inland terminal.
Intermodal connectivity is key
This process can greatly improve import transit-times and reduce costs. It therefore facilitates and supports a more streamlined freight process for the entire supply chain. The results are clear: since June 2015, when the Italian maritime sector and Contship Italia introduced the fast corridor between its flagship terminal in La Spezia (LSCT) and its inland rail-hub in Melzo/ Milan, the gateway-port has developed into one of the most competitive hubs connecting more than 40 Asian ports every week. Today, it serves as a main gateway for cargo leaving or entering south Europe, including Switzerland, southern Germany and of course, the north Italian main markets.
The future is digital
The world of containerisation continues to evolve. What was deemed impossible in the past is now made possible. The fast corridor illustrates clearly that efficient intermodal connectivity streamlines the entire process of multimodal transportation, offering reduced idle time and associated costs. Digital technology has made it possible for Asian cargo to reach the European market quickly and efficiently with minimal effort. Monitoring the cargo in real-time, enabled by an updated rail network, technology and the integral exchange of data across multiple public and private control centres, is now considered the ‘new normal’. The digitalisation of the whole process is the ‘internet of logistics’.
However, no matter how smooth the data exchange is, the human factor continues to be key to the whole process working efficiently, with all stakeholders both big and small, having a crucial role in ensuring that it benefits everyone at all levels. This leads to a more cohesive business environment for the entire industry, and offers Asian cargo owners the ability to further enhance their integrated connections for Italy and southern Europe.
Working with reliable logistics partners with knowledge and experience remains of utmost importance to ensure that the job gets done in the right way. This is especially true for integrated transport services, which are highly reliant on interconnected networks. No matter how big the distance, the fast corridor facilitates an efficient port-to-door integrated transport process that really can “bring the ship to the factory”.
About the Author
La Spezia Container Terminal (LSCT) is Italy’s leading container terminal in terms of technology, efficiency, quality of services and innovation. Constant growth thanks to its geographical location, powerful intermodal links, operations know-how and management expertise makes LSCT the best gateway to Northern Italian and Southern Europe markets.