Freight rail reports, projects and other news from outside North America


Container shipping M&A:

On March 17, Hapag-Lloyd acquired all shares of the Dutch container shipping company Nile Dutch Investments B.V. (NileDutch), a provider of container services from and to West Africa. The company is present in 85 locations across the world and has 16 own offices in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Singapore, China, Angola, Congo and Cameroon. With 10 liner services, around 35,000 20-foot equivalent units (TEU) of transport capacity and a container fleet of around 80,000 TEU, the company connects Europe, Asia and Latin America with West and South Africa. “The acquisition of NileDutch strengthens our position in West Africa and will be an excellent addition to our existing activities on the continent,” said Rolf Habben Jansen, CEO of Hapag-Lloyd. “Our combined customer base will benefit from a denser network from and to Africa as well as from a much higher frequency of sailings. We welcome the new colleagues from NileDutch and hope that together we can further develop our business in Africa in the years to come.”


Etihad Rail, Saudi railway enter 'strategic agreement’:

Etihad Rail, the developer and operator of the United Arab Emirates national railway network, announced on March 17 it had signed a strategic agreement with the Saudi Railway Company (SAR) that establises a framework for the exchange of services, training and knowledge transfer. Etihad Rail CEO Shadi Malak and SAR CEO Dr. Bashar Al Malik signed the pact during a virtual ceremony. The agreement focuses on four areas of cooperation: locomotives and wagons lease arrangements, spare parts purchase, special volunteer groups, and shared services initiatives. Said Etihad’s Malak: “Further expanding the close relationship between Etihad Rail and SAR through continuous cooperation, which will shape the future of the rail transport and logistics sector across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.” Added SAR’s Malak: “This is particularly pertinent for the rail sector, which offers a pivotal role in wider social and economic development.”


IMT, VTG enter long-term telematics partnership:

On March 16, Netherlands-based Intermodal Telematics BV (IMT) and Hamburg, Germany-based VTG AG announced they’d entered a long-term partnership to extend the digitization of VTG’s rail wagon fleet. The first step in this new arrangement: delivery of 15,000 of IMT’s CLT20-Ex main GPS units over the next 15 months, with the potential to “substantially expand that number over the coming years,” VTG officials said. The solar powered CLT20-Ex is designed to enable unlimited wireless data transfer, enabling optimal accuracy — an “ideal match for the high requirements in quality and safety that VTG sets in the field of telematics and information provision for its customers,” VTG officials said.


A National Rail Plan for India:

Yes, we have prepared a National Rail Plan for India, India Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal said March 10 in response to a question in Lok Sabha, or House of the People, the lower house of India's bicameral Parliament. National Rail Plan (NRP) for India–2030 is designed to create a “future ready” railway system by 2030, Goyal said. “The NRP is aimed to formulate strategies based on both operational capacities and commercial policy initiatives to increase modal share of the railways in freight to 45%,” he added. “The objective of the plan is to create capacity ahead of demand, which in turn would also cater to future growth in demand right up to 2050.” The draft plan is posted on the Indian Railways website and is “being circulated amongst stakeholders for comments/remarks,” Goyal said.

Ports of Auckland: COVID took toll on container volume in 2020's second half

During the last six months of 2020, COVID-related supply chain congestion took a bite out of the Ports of Auckland’s container volume. Twenty-foot equivalent units declined 12.4% and revenue dipped 7.3% compared with the same 2019 period, Chief Executive Tony Gibson announced on March 5. “There has been one big issue that has loomed large over this six-month period: Global supply chain congestion as a result of COVID-19, which has had flow on effects to our container terminal automation project and delays to shipping through our container terminal,” Gibson said. But officials of the New Zealand port are looking forward “with some optimism,” he added. For example: Automation implementation “is progressing well,” Gibson said. “Over 70 ships have now been through the automated yard with over 40,000 containers handled. We are looking forward to turning it fully on across the whole terminal later in 2021.” Port officials expect “the current issues” to be behind them in 2021’s second half, and that they’ll be able to “lift performance” in fiscal-year 2022.


AI-powered container terminal optimization:

On March 17, global port operator/management company International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), headquartered in Manila, Philippines, announced the implementation of an artificial-intelligence-powered operational optimization tool at its flagship terminal, the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT). The solution, YardSight, is part of a larger AI Solution Suite — AiCON, developed by Avlino, a New Jersey-based AI and digital transformation company, in partnership with IGO Solutions, a UK-based lsolutions provider for container terminals. YardSight performs capacity optimization, throughput management, and yard space maximization. Leveraging real-time and historical operational data from internal and external sources, the AI application adapts to the current state and responds back to users with intelligent work directives based on the transformative conditions. The terminal is “already seeing very encouraging signs” that the AI module can deliver “significant efficiencies to equipment utilization and truck turnaround time,” said MICT CEO and Executive Director Anders Dommestrup. “The AiCON Solution Suite has ushered in a real paradigm shift on how we can better manage end-to-end container terminal operations,” he said.


A locomotive power pact and a new research lab:

Progress Rail, a Caterpillar company, has entered into an agreement with engineering, procurement and construction contractor Bodi International for the purchase of 16 EMD® SD70ACeLW locomotives. The units will be used to support operations on the Tavantolgoi-Gashuunsukhait Railway project, Progress Rail officials announced on March 15. Construction of the 250-kilometer railway is expected to be completed by 2022 and will be operated by Tavan Tolgoi Railway Co., owned by the Mongolian government. The new locomotives are designed to meet requirements of the 1520 mm gauge region and incorporate the latest industry technology, along with 16-cyclinder EMD® 710 Series engines, rated at 4,500 BHP (3,355 kW). The engines are compliant with the International Union of Railways and EU Stage IIIA emissions standards, said Progress Rail officials, who anticipate locomotive deliveries to begin in 2022. ... Meanwhile, LocoTech-Signal has opened a new research laboratory in Moscow to test the interlocking system (HMR9) developed by Italian company ECM S.p.A., a subsidiary of Progress Rail, for application in the Eurasia market. Creation of the laboratory aligns with LocoTech-Signal’s strategy to adapt ECM’s HMR9 computer based interlocking system to the conditions of the 1520 gauge, Progress Rail officials said on March 19. Customers will be able to implement Ctrl@Lock 400, a modern interlocking system based on ECM’s HMR-9 platform, for railway transportation projects. The new research site will focus on testing the interlocking logic software and station configurations developed by LocoTech-Signal on the core operating system of ECM’s HMR9. 


Stockholm Norvik Port wins construction prize:

Ports of Stockholm’s newly built Stockholm Norvik Port won the construction prize Årets Bygge 2021, the port announced on March 19. The annual prize is awarded by Swedish construction sector magazine Byggindustrin. The first completely new major freight port to be built in Sweden in decades, the Stockholm Norvik Port covers 44 hectares. It comprises a four-kilometer rail line, a rail yard, new roads, several bridges, a tunnel through a hillside, six major buildings, the port’s own water reservoir, and electrical power installations "of small city capacity," port officials said. As the award jury put it: “The overall winner of Årets Bygge 2021 is not a single construction — but several complex constructions in one. Roads, bridges and buildings have been connected together with a railway line, tunnel and a world class cargo terminal. The budget and time planning was impeccable, the collaboration of the 40 different contractors was impressive and the injury statistics were unbelievably exemplary."

International Dispatches: