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    Rail services in Wilhelmshaven

    Over the Easter and May Day holiday 2014, EUROGATE Container Terminal Wilhelmshaven handled several off-schedule port calls by container liners. This was an opportunity for the rail forwarding services at the Rail Terminal Wilhelmshaven to prove their potential.

    Time off during Easter week or over the long May Day weekend? For Axel Ahlers, responsible at EUROGATE Container Terminal Wilhelmshaven for land-side handling, no chance. In total, the gate manager and his team handled nine container trains within a short time frame. “This is the first time we’ve seen so much concentrated traffic. It all went smoothly,” Ahlers said, summing up.

    The reason for the increased volume of traffic was several off-schedule port calls by Maersk Line ships that due to the tight time windows over the holidays availed themselves of the modern handling facilities in Wilhelmshaven. The largest vessel was the “Edith Maersk”, which with a stowage capacity of 15,500 TEUs belongs to the class of ULCSs (Ultra Large Container Ships). But a number of other ships operating on the Asia and South America routes also unloaded and loaded off-schedule at the EUROGATE Container Terminal Wilhelmshaven. This resulted in a correspondingly high volume of cargo, which is the most important prerequisite for deploying container trains. Container freight trains are generally a highly efficient and eco-friendly way of linking ports to the hinterland, with a single train carrying up to 100 20-foot standard containers. The greater the transport distance, the greater the cost benefit compared to trucks, which can transport a maximum of two TEUs.

    EUROGATE Container Terminal Wilhelmshaven is ideally equipped for handling freight trains. The intermodal “Rail Terminal Wilhelmshaven” handling facility is directly linked to the quayside handling facilities and has six rail tracks. Three overhead travelling gantry cranes are available for loading and unloading. A 16-track marshalling yard guarantees fast and easy train configuration and shunting. Thanks to the double-track upgrade of the railway between Wilhelmshaven and Oldenburg, Germany’s only deep-water port is optimally connected to the German and European rail networks.


    “We had a mixture of export, import and empty containers to load and unload,” Ahlers reports. “Three trains were destined for the Czech Republic,” adds Hans Schulze, as EUROGATE’s General Manager Sales responsible among other things for sales and marketing of the container terminal in Wilhelmshaven. Three of the container trains were provided by DB Schenker. A number of private operators were also involved in organising the container transports.

    Handling container freight trains requires the intermodal rail terminal, rail operators and cargo handling company to closely interact. Arriving trains undergo an incoming check: terminal staff walk the length of the train with handhelds and record the incoming containers and wagons. Once the check is completed, the intermodal terminal unloads the trains. Transport between the intermodal rail terminal and the container terminal is done by straddle carriers. Conversely, the boxes to be loaded are collected from storage, loaded onto the carrying wagons and secured. Following a shipping inspection, the sea containers can depart for their final destination by rail.

    The physical handling processes are supported by high-performance IT systems that efficiently manage the flow of information between the various stakeholders. One system specially designed for rail-bound container traffic is for example Codis 2.0, a communication platform that has been in successful operation in Bremerhaven for a number of years and has now been upgraded for Wilhelmshaven. Codis can be accessed by operators, sales companies and terminals alike. Shipowners are linked to the terminal systems via electronic data interchange (Edifact).

     The interaction between physical processes and high-performance information technology is an important success factor for rail-bound hinterland transport in Wilhelmshaven – and a solution that also pays off over the holiday period. “From the time a train arrives until it departs again, we have a time window of up to six hours. That was ample,” sums up gate manager Ahlers, who together with his team is already looking forward to the next bigger handling challenges.