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Shortsea shipping

Short sea ship

Short sea ship

The origins or destinations of half of the traffic at the Port of Bilbao are to be found at other European ports, the majority of which are in the Atlantic Arc. Bilbao’s long experience in such traffic makes it a reference for Short Sea Shipping, with companies offering this type of service for more than one hundred years and long-established lines, some of which have been operating continuously for thirty or even forty years.

Since 2001, the European Commission, with different studies and programmes has been investing in the promotion of this type of maritime traffic, given the advantages it implies with respect to traditional shipment of goods by road. Economic and environmental factors can be added to the frontier the Pyrenees suppose for the shipment of goods to Europe: the standstill of the Biriatou pass, road congestion with the subsequent delay in the arrival of goods, high motorway tolls that can reach 18,000 euros per year for haulage contractors, and the extremely high environmental impact that road traffic represents, are some of the factors that have led the European Union to promote the combination of transportation means.

Short distance sea traffic can be carried out with traditional lift on lift off (Lo-Lo) loading, in which goods are loaded using cranes, or with the roll on roll off (Ro-Ro) system, in which the goods are introduced in the vessel using tractor heads or lorries. This second method implies that the port must have ramps allowing for goods access to the vessel.

Evidently, to guarantee a satisfactory shipment, optimum delivery times and lower costs than the land alternative, a series of requirements must be fulfilled regarding the technical characteristics of the out going port. The Port of Bilbao, given its strategic location, traffic volume and excellent communications network, satisfies all the suitable characteristics for this type of traffic. In the same way, its new port infrastructures include suitable docks and draughts, with specific customs and administration facilities. Moreover, the equipment includes special portainer and double lane Ro-Ro ramps for maritime services that guarantee a minimum of one departure a week for Lo-Lo and two for Ro-Ro, thus fulfilling, excellently, the European requirements to guarantee the viability of a SSS lines.

For all of these reasons, the Port of Bilbao constitutes the optimum enclave for short distance maritime traffic, particularly that to or from the countries in the Atlantic Arc, in which Bilbao has been a pioneer with Lo-Lo traffic. With Short Sea Shipping currently representing more than half of its total traffic, and the volume moved in the Atlantic Arc standing at 14.5 million tonnes, the Port Authorities have invested 35.57 million euros for the building of specific port infrastructure for Ro-Ro traffic to further increase our SSS traffic quota, guaranteeing an optimum communications system that ensures a totally smooth flow in both departures and arrivals of goods.

According to statistics, 45% of traffic of general cargo comes from or goes to European countries. To channel these 17 million tonnes into maritime traffic would imply a reduction in road traffic of 836,000 lorries. This is one our fundamental traffics.