This subchapter will deal with seaport and inland terminals. At first, a comprehensive definition of both seaport and inland terminals is given, and their general characteristics are discussed. Then, the focus should be placed on the seaport and inland terminals within the BSR that have been analyzed in the scope of the Combined Transport Terminal Benchmark Analysis[1] of the Combine project. In this regard, a list of the observed terminals for both seaport and inland terminals as well as a map to visualize their spatial distribution will be presented.

Seaport terminals—definition and general characteristics

Historically, seaports play a major and supportive role regarding the emergence and development of trade networks as we know them from today (Notteboom et al., 2021). From a supply chain perspective, and as stated by Notteboom et al. (2021), seaports can be defined as complex and multi-faceted logistic and industrial nodes in global supply chains that have a strong maritime character and both host and fulfil a broad range of activities related to the transportation, transformation and information processes within global supply chains. Ports represent essential nodes in global trade relations and can be described as transit areas or gateways for the movement of goods and people from and to the sea. In other words, they are places where the land and maritime spheres are coming together, and ocean and inland transport systems interact, consequently, leading to the convergence of different modes of transportation in ports (Notteboom et al., 2021; Rodrigue and Notteboom, 2020). Despite their strong maritime character, it would be wrong to consider seaports solely as maritime terminals, since they are simultaneously functioning as land terminals where inland traffic originates and ends (Rodrigue et al., 2017).

There are several locational characteristics that seaports must meet to be considered as such they cannot be located everywhere, and the location of ports is constrained as they have to fulfill certain geographical attributes. Traditionally, as ports are primarily dedicated to serve ships, the access to navigable waterways has been the most important factor regarding the localization and construction of a port (Rodrigue and Notteboom, 2020). Historically, land transport was hardly possible, which means that cities were mostly settled nearby waterways or sea. As a result, many settlements became city ports. Due to the requirement of maritime access, meaning the physical capacity to serve ship operations, possible locations for ports are sites along a coastline, in a bay or natural harbor, in an estuary, in a delta or along a river (Notteboom et al., 2021). In the past, many ports with convenient locations and therefore advantageous conditions over other sites became, and usually still are, trade hubs (Rodrigue and Notteboom, 2020). While Notteboom and Rodrigue (2021) only consider ports in bays or natural harbors as seaports and the others as mainland ports, in the scope of this e-book each port with any of the mentioned geographical location can be considered as a seaport as long as it offers maritime access by not only serving inland but also deep-water waterways (e.g., Port of Hamburg) (SGKV, 2020). In this regard, seaports with direct coastal access might have an advantage as they usually do not face as many problems related to tides, water depth, river width, sedimentation (requiring improvements through dredging and landfills), and/or periods of flooding and drought (Notteboom et al., 2021; Rodrigue and Notteboom, 2020).

In addition to pure maritime access, there are further requirements that seaports must meet. At first, they have to offer enough space that is suitable for the execution of maritime operations, which can be referred to as maritime interface. Especially in view of the construction of ever larger ships, the growing land consumption requirements (through, inter alia, containerization) and often limited possibilities for expansion of port sites, in particular in combination with the frequently observed competition for the same land between ports and cities as well as other urban and environmental constraints, this is an increasing and costly challenge for many port locations, particularly city ports (Rodrigue and Notteboom, 2020).

Moreover, ports require infrastructure and equipment. They need suitable infrastructures such as piers and basins to enable the mooring of modern cargo ships and to conduct the ship-to-shore transshipment process. Furthermore, enough stacking and storing capabilities as well as warehouses for temporary storage of cargo is needed, requiring additional space which can be scarce. For the transshipment and handling operations and the movement of cargo around the terminal, equipment such as (gantry) cranes, straddle carriers or reach stackers is required. All in all, all these requirements involve extensive capital investments and again, enough space (Rodrigue and Notteboom, 2020).

Lastly, which is an important and very valuable feature, especially from a CT perspective, seaports must have good land access. For the growth and importance of a seaport and its purpose within Combined Transport, it is highly relevant to be connected to industrial complexes and the market. Therefore, it is essential that the port area is integrated into an efficient inland distribution system including inland waterway and rail and road transportation. Especially for ports in densely populated urban areas, the land access of ports can be hampered by congestion problems. In this case, it might be useful to expand the rail infrastructure to promote inland access and reduce truck congestion (Rodrigue and Notteboom, 2020).

Due to several reasons, seaports play a key role for the comprehensive and effective implementation of CT. On the one hand, seaport terminals handle a larger amount of freight than any other types of terminals combined (Rodrigue et al., 2017, 185). Hence, in order to achieve the greatest possible benefit from CT, it is essential to integrate seaports and the corresponding cargo flows into the CT supply chains. On the other hand, because seaport terminals function as maritime and land terminals at the same time and thus are a place of convergence for different transportation modes, as already mentioned above, and are, moreover, equipped with the required handling technologies, seaports offer great opportunities in terms of intermodal transport, especially regarding the transshipment of cargo between sea and rail transportation. In this regard, seaports can be regarded as “turntables within global supply chains and global transportation networks” which not only handle ships but act as logistic platforms for international trade and hinterland transportation (Rodrigue and Notteboom, 2020). Therefore, they play a significant role for the distribution of cargo both on the water and on land. Seaports with (large) container terminals are of particular importance, since containers are the most frequently used transport units in CT (SGKV, 2020).

Inland terminals—Definition and general characteristics

Next to seaports, inland terminals also play an essential role for the efficient application of CT. They can be described as transshipment facilities, where cargo units can be transferred between at least two different modes of transportation, which are not directly located on coastal sites but in the hinterland. Through existing transport infrastructure including roads, rail systems and inland waterways which are again embedded in higher-level European transport networks (e.g., TEN-T network and Rail Freight Corridor), inland terminals are connected to seaports and, therefore, represent important nodes within the multi-link transport chains of CT. Some inland terminals are even directly located on the area of a seaport (SGKV, 2020).

In the previous section, seaports have primarily been defined by the fact that they can serve deep-sea ships due to their beneficial geographical location in coastal sites or other locations that allow for the navigation of deep-sea vessels, for example, along a river, in a delta, or in an estuary. In contrast, the definition of inland terminals used within the scope of this e-book includes all terminals that do not serve deep-sea waterways, i.e., inland terminals as well as inland ports.

In this context, following the recommendations of the UNECE, inland (freight) terminals are defined as any facilities that neither represent a seaport nor an airport and which are operated on a common-user basis and are dedicated to transshipment and dispatch of internationally traded cargo (UNECE, 1998). Regarding the definition of inland ports, one must somewhat be cautious as this term can be used to describe two conceptually different facilities. However, both are included in the wider definition of inland terminals used here. On the one hand, the term can simply describe a port that is located inland and is accessible by barges via inland waterways such as rivers, canals, or lakes but does not serve deep-sea vessels. The latter distinguishes it from a seaport. On the other hand, inland ports are often also referred to as dry ports. Inland ports in terms of dry ports can be described as merging points of various transport modes—road, rail, air but not necessarily inland waterways. Their key characteristic is that they are directly connected to a seaport. They are deeply involved in the transshipment of cargo that comes from the seaport and its distribution to inland destinations, i.e., the seaport’s hinterland services. Both facility types usually provide several logistic and distribution services like freight forwarding, consolidation, temporary storage, customs clearance, and transshipment activities (Notteboom et al., 2021).

Based on the number of different modes of transportation served, inland terminals can be basically distinguished into two types. CT Inland terminals can be either categorized as bimodal or trimodal. While bimodal terminals can tranship loading units between two transportation modes, trimodal can handle cargo between three modes of transport. Regarding bimodal inland terminals and in correspondence with our previous definition of inland terminals, there are two possibilities: (1) terminals that switch cargo between road and rail transportation and (2) terminals that transfer cargo between road vehicles and inland vessels. Accordingly, trimodal terminals serve all three modes of transportation, namely rail, road, and inland waterway transport. Depending on the type and number of transport modes served, the terminal’s handling equipment and infrastructural design differ and have to be adapted to the local requirements (SGKV, 2020). 

Seaport and inland terminals in the BSR

The conducted Combined Transport Terminals Benchmark Analysis of the COMBINE project included a total of 150 CT terminals located in the BSR countries (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Sweden). The analysis as well as the corresponding data collection was carried out by project partners from the University of Gdansk. Thereby, all terminals were analyzed with respect to numerous variables and characteristics related to organizational, legal, and operational issues (Bielenia et al., 2020). However, in the following, we are solely making use of and present the observed data regarding two selected criteria: (1) spatial distribution of terminals within the BSR and (2) different types of terminals, namely seaport and inland terminals.

The terminals benchmark analysis reveals that the analyzed 150 CT terminals are unevenly distributed among the different BSR countries. Most of them are located in Germany (51), Sweden (32), and Poland (30). 12 and 7 of the analyzed CT terminals are in Denmark and Russia, respectively. The fewest CT terminals can be found in Estonia (2), Finland (4), and Latvia and Lithuania (both 6) (Bielenia et al., 2020).

Besides the uneven spatial distribution of the terminals across the BSR countries, Table 8.2 also shows that there are significant differences regarding the frequency of seaport and inland terminals. Among the 150 terminals, 69 have been categorized as seaport terminals while only 26 terminals are referred to as inland terminals illustrating that there are much more seaport terminals than inland terminals. However, it must be mentioned that not every terminal could be assigned to one of the two terminal types. As shown in Table 8.2, a total of eight terminals is labelled as “Both” and almost one third of the 150 terminals investigated (47) is referred to as “Others / n/a”.[2] The former is valid for terminals that fulfil the functional criteria for both seaport and inland terminals and thus cannot solely be assigned to one of the main types of terminals; the latter category encloses all facilities that neither fulfil the functions of a seaport terminal nor an inland terminal (e.g., storage sidings or other technical facilities) as well as terminals where data regarding the terminal type was not available.

[1] EU-INTERREG Combine project work package 3, Activity 3.1.

[2] The present classification of the terminals was based on the data used for the Combined Transport Terminals Benchmark Analysis of the COMBINE project (data provided by University of Gdansk).

Several insights can be derived from the above assigned Figure 8.1. At first, the visualization underlines the already mentioned uneven spatial distribution of terminals across the BSR. In the BSR part of Germany, Denmark as well as in southern Sweden, the terminal network is very dense in comparison to other areas of the BSR. The density of terminals is particularly low in the northern Baltic area (northern Sweden and Finland) and in the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) including the BSR part of Russia. Moreover, the visualization emphasizes that terminals are primarily located in or close to urban agglomerations. In Poland, terminals are mainly found in large cities such as Warsaw, Krakow, Gdansk, Wroclaw, Poznan, and Lodz. In Estonia and Latvia, the terminals are almost only concentrated on the capital cities Tallinn and Riga, respectively. Other large cities in the BSR like Hamburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm, or St Petersburg also show a clear concentration of terminals. Lastly, the map also highlights that the BSR is well-equipped with seaport terminals. Seaports can be found all along the coastline of the Baltic Sea, creating a good transportation network for maritime transport. In contrast, many BSR countries are lacking a dense network of inland terminals which are also of high importance for the efficient application of Combined Transport. As recommended in the Combined Transport Terminal Benchmark Analysis, to strengthen Combined Transport in the BSR, a stronger focus should be placed on inland terminals in the future (Bielenia et al., 2020).