UB cuts carbon emissions with shift to canal transport
United Biscuits (UB) this week announced that it will use inland waterway shipping to transport goods in Northern Europe. Initially, up to 65% of the company’s biscuit products bound for the US and Canadian markets will travel via this environmentally friendly transport mode from an inland container terminal at Willebroek to the Port of Antwerp. UB cargo was loaded on to barges at Willebroek at the official launch of the inland waterway shipping initiative on Tuesday (4th October).
The waterways project follows a feasibility study carried out last year by the department of the Flemish Government responsible for all inland waterways in Flanders, which revealed a huge potential from an operational, financial and environmental perspective for this alternative mode of transport. Following the positive results of the study, the government decided to invest in infrastructure to upgrade and modify the waterways and barges so they were capable of transporting reefer containers.
Nico Van Puyenbroek, UB’s Logistics and Distribution Manager for Northern Europe, said it was a win win situation for UB: “Our products for the US and Canadian markets are mainly chocolate coated biscuits that must be stored and transported at a constant low temperature so reefer containers are the only option as they allow us to control the temperature and keep the products cool.
“The Government asked UB to launch a pilot project in January where we did trial runs with around 10 tonnes of product per container to test things like temperature control, timescales and lead times, and linkages between our logistical providers and the outcome was absolutely positive.
“There is no operational impact whatsoever, there’s potential for future cost savings and huge environmental benefits, which fits in perfectly with UB’s focus on sustainability and ongoing efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. Each container is saving 31% CO2 emissions versus road transport.”
The Flemish government hopes to make more food manufacturers aware of the benefits of transport by inland waterway shipping, and UB’s logistics partner Keuhne & Nagel and Schenker are working on behalf of the company to help get more shipping agents on board.
“At the moment we’re starting with three out of six shipping lines but by March 2012 we hope to have 80% of our exported goods for the US and Canadian markets being transported via barge,” said Van Puyenbroeck.
“We’re concentrating on outbound shipping initially but there may also be potential for inbound transportation as well further down the line.”