testata inforMARE

20 ottobre 2020 Il quotidiano on-line per gli operatori e gli utenti del trasporto 02:28 GMT+2

9. A European Landbridge and "Pendulum Routes"

Very recently, in the wake of the experience and the effects of the North-American landbridge described above, a similar proposal has been launched - at least on an exploratory level - for a landbridge or "dry channel" in Europe between the Mediterranean and the north of the continent (with as a possible final point of reference the Rotterdam (Venlo)-Antwerp area).

The argument in favour is based on the fact that there are already daily shuttle services for container transport by rail between Rotterdam and Milan. Therefore, it would seem both natural and feasible to extend such services to nearby Italian port areas, such as Liguria.

Above all, the idea is underpinned by three considerations:

  1. a route from Singapore to New York via the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and a landbridge connecting these two areas of traffic would mean - at the most - half a day's extra travelling time compared to the route from Singapore to New York via Los Angeles and the North-American landbridge;
  2. the land-based leg from the Mediterranean to Northern Europe would be much shorter than that between Los Angeles and New York. And since the cost of land transport is always considerably greater than that of sea transport, the overall result would be a substantial and undoubted saving;
  3. The port of New York would regain the competitive position in relation to Los Angeles-Long Beach which it lost with the advent of the North-American landbridge and Post-Panamax technology.

The upshot of this hypothesis is the emergence of the "pendulum routes" Singapore (the East)-Mediterranean, and Northern Europe-North America (Atlantic) - routes which have played a major role in the economic history of shipping and would regain a competitive capacity of extreme interest. This appears to be highly significant for the position both of Europe and of the Mediterranean basin in the international traffic economy.

However, careful examination of the concept of the "pendulum routes" and the associated Mediterranean-Northern Europe link leads to at least two further considerations:

  1. as was stated and written at the time of the introduction of "Round-the-World" services by the first container transport companies, global circumnavigation itineraries may be composed of (long) sea legs and (short) land-based legs. It was precisely in relation to the above factors that the idea of the landbridge was discussed in real terms;
  2. the "pendulum routes" Singapore (the East)-Mediterranean, and Northern Europe-North America (Atlantic) are more than a mere alternative to the traffic connection from Singapore (the East) to New York via Los Angeles; rather, they constitute possible alternatives to "Round-the-World" services by sea. It is perhaps this second consideration which offers the most significant prospects for the proposed pendulum routes.

Similarly, it is precisely in this context that the role and function of certain ventures emerge clearly - those of Gioia Tauro, Cagliari, Malta or (within certain limits) the port of Naples, as strategic points located in proximity to the direct crossing of the Mediterranean between Suez and Gibraltar. And the fact that these ventures originated in Italian maritime regions is laudable. While the fact that it was others who were responsible for the establishment of the transhipment centre in Malta should be interpreted as a missed opportunity from the Italian point of view.


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