European Gateway Services (EGS) is marking its 10th anniversary. As a transport product of Hutchison Ports ECT Rotterdam, it offers customers an extensive network for European hinterland transport. By means of frequent rail and barge services, Rotterdam and Antwerp are directly connected with destinations in the Benelux, Germany and Austria. Based on this solid foundation, EGS aims to further distinguish itself in the market in the coming years, mainly through its service provision.
EGS currently maintains rail and barge connections to and from twelve different destinations.
Both the ECT Delta and the ECT Euromax as well as the other deepsea terminals at Rotterdam’s Maasvlakte and the terminals in Antwerp serve as the respective starting points and end points. In this way, EGS offers customers a comprehensive network; more and more parties are growing aware of the advantages this presents. Approximately 80 percent of customers book several destinations within the EGS network. Among other things, they are drawn in by the high frequencies and the proven reliability of the service. The on-time performance exceeds 90 percent.
EGS has worked hard for ten years to achieve this. In the initial phase, the main focus was on creating the largest possible network. Gradually, that attention has shifted more and more towards further boosting the quality and reliability of the service provision and less towards expansion. Now, EGS is investing in connections that it can wholly or partially control itself. In this way, it can truly distinguish itself for the customer. It does this in cooperation with several loyal transport partners who carry out the actual transport for EGS.
The strength of the network plays a central role in the services EGS provides to customers. General Manager EGS, Paul Zoeter: “In addition to Rotterdam, Hutchison Ports Venlo, Hutchison Ports Duisburg and Hutchison Ports Belgium (Willebroek) constitute important parts of our organisation and our transport product as well. The inland terminals themselves also offer EGS as part of their portfolio.” At each of the three inland terminals, EGS has own teams for customer service and the transport planning of trains and barges arriving from and bound for Rotterdam and Antwerp. Local customers consequently have their own point of contact. From Rotterdam, a fourth team focuses on the customer service for and transport planning of the EGS trains to and from Southern Germany and Austria. Even more so than is currently already the case, the aim is to have customers find their way to local customer service teams for bookings throughout the entire network. Zoeter: “We are working towards a real one-stop-shop for customers.”
‘‘We are working towards a real one-stop-shop for customers’
From this network philosophy, EGS also continuously looks for opportunities to create synergy for the customer. For example by unloading trains arriving from Rotterdam at Hutchison Ports Venlo and then dispatching them to Hutchison Ports Duisburg with empty containers. This offers customers the most effective manner for repositioning their empties. In this way, network manager Sander Joosten consistently works to ensure that optimum use is made of the network. "Our goal is to execute all transport demands in the best possible manner.”
EGS did not need to start from scratch in 2010. In 1982, ECT had already initiated a rail connection from Rotterdam to Venlo and had also opened its own inland terminal there. Later, similar initiatives would follow in Duisburg and Willebroek. By bringing together these already existing hinterland activities, EGS was able to make a dynamic start in 2010, not only appealing to shipping lines but also to logistics service providers and shippers as new customer groups.
An important milestone in ten years of EGS was the expansion to Southern Germany and Austria in 2012. Regions that had traditionally always opted for the rail route via the North German ports for their overseas transport. EGS has invested heavily in the promotion of alternative rail connections via Rotterdam. Through perseverance, it has actually succeeded in this. Both for import and export, a broad customer base has been built up in Southern Germany and Austria. Commercial Executive Marilyne van Hoey Smith: “By being persistent, EGS has managed to build up market share in Southern Germany. There, we are a serious market party for shipping lines and logistics service providers. The route has been firmly put on the map. The fact that Rotterdam constitutes the first and last European port of call for many deepsea shipping lines is truly a major advantage.” EGS is now also expanding to the north of Germany. “We do not have direct connections to Northern Germany, although many major logistics service providers and shipping lines have their headquarters here. This is where the decisions about the large ‘consignments’ are often made. The time has now come for us to reinforce our name there as well.”
With a stable network that is as solid as a rock in 2020, EGS now wants to focus even more on the service provision to customers. The aim is to offer Service with a capital S. The foundation for this is the further roll-out of internal IT systems for advanced planning, digital data exchange and the ability to exactly track cargo throughout the network. Customers too are receiving more and more options to exercise control by means of an online customer portal. EGS wants to do more for that customer in a practical sense as well. By arranging customs documentation (T1), offering direct trucking, organising reefer transport, weighing containers, etc., customers are offered an increasing range of options. Zoeter: “We really want to distinguish ourselves in terms of service provision. The customer has to experience EGS as a frontrunner when it comes to service.”
‘We want to distinguish ourselves in terms of service provision. The customer must experience EGS as a frontrunner regarding service’
EGS remains committed to synchromodal transport as well in this respect. In this logistics concept that was introduced by ECT ten years ago, flexibility in terms of time, mode of transport and/or route constitutes the starting point for an optimal organisation of transport. Zoeter: “Synchromodal transport is not a goal in itself for EGS, but an additional service for delivering optimal transport solutions.” In practice, this for example takes place through agreements with customers that give EGS freedom of choice regarding the modality - train or inland barge - on the connections to Venlo and Duisburg. From and to Southern Germany and Austria, EGS is implementing the concept through flexibility in routes. If the train is full at one of the four destinations - Kornwestheim (Stuttgart), Nuremberg, Munich, Linz - the customer is offered the option to transport their cargo through one of the three other locations.
“Over the last ten years, we have truly become a better hinterland operator,” conclude Zoeter and Van Hoey Smith, who have both helped build EGS from the very beginning. “EGS is positioned in the market as a strong ECT brand. Within this, we are continuously working on further improving our service provision.”