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Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice
Increasingly, the debate on freight transport and logistics involves the challenge of sustainable development. Key objectives of sustainable or “green” freight logistics systems are the mitigation of negative environmental and human health effects of distribution operations and the realization of a major modal shift in transport preferences, while at the same time achieving internal generalized cost efficiency and quality of services. Pursuing these goals requires the introduction of a range of measures. These measures call for private and public actors to take up various initiatives and adopt policies. Usually, it is more effective to combine different actions into an integrated package of measures than to introduce single instruments in isolation.
This article explores the nexus between sustainability and port hinterland container logistics. In particular, the methodology and results of an empirical analysis based on applications of a network programming tool called the “interport model” are presented and discussed. The model enables an examination of all possible effects on inland container flows and their associated internal and external costs due to public and private initiatives in the field of port hinterland container logistics. The empirical analysis aims to evaluate the impact of a set of simultaneous policy options and operational measures on the competitiveness and sustainability of hinterland multimodal distribution of import and export containers handled at the seaports of the Campania region located in Southern Italy. The loading units can transit through the dry port facilities (the so called “interports”) located in the same region and/or through extra regional railway terminals, before reaching their ultimate inland destinations or the seaports. The integrated package of measures simulated by means of the model includes: (i) infrastructure policy, (ii) improvements of rail services, (iii) regulatory changes in terms of customs authorizations and procedures, (iv) removal of technical and legal barriers to fair and non-discriminatory competition in the market of rail traction between regional seaports and interports, (v) new business models integrating container logistics operations between seaports and interports, and (vi) social marginal cost charging of transport operations. Once this package of instruments is introduced, higher private and social cost efficiency of port hinterland container distribution through the investigated regional logistics system can be achieved. For instance, it has been estimated an annual saving of the order of about 12,660 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions from transport corresponding to an external cost reduction of 0.27 million euros from the observed real life situation, whereas the estimated saving in terms of air pollution (CO, NOx, PM, SO2, VOC) from transport is approximately 220 tonnes per year corresponding to an external benefit of 1.31 million euros.
The most immediate priority appears to be the customs and intermodal logistics integration of seaports and interports by means of full implementation of the “extended gateway” concept as a way to increase the rail share of modal split and improve the overall cost efficiency of the system. In addition, the simultaneous introduction of a social marginal cost charging policy can contribute to make the regional interports a viable solution to expand the hinterland reach of the regional seaport cluster.