Mr Esber Horasan, Head of Intermodal Division of Ekol Logistics and one of the architects of trailer train project which had deep impacts on Turkey-Europe route, accepted our request for interview.
Wellcome Mr Horasan. Could we start with how you started dealing with railways?
Sure. It was 2003 when I dealed with a project transport with train from Russia to Almaty, Kazakhstan. Since that time, I prefered working in railway business. I also have been a member of board of Railway Transportation Association for two periods, first to represent Reysas, and now Ekol Logistics.Tabii.
There was a post about your transport in Rail Turkey named as RoRo+Rola. What’s the correct name?
We, as Ekol Logistics, have been shipping our trucks and containers between Haydarpasa and Trieste with our own RoRo vessels. Then we load our loads to North Europe, the semi-trailers or containers, onto our block trains, and ship to our terminals at Cologne and Ludwigshafen. That’s the point our system differs from Rola trains. Our trains are, in principle, have no difference from container trains, thus we called them intermodal train.
How did this idea appear?
We have been using RoRo from the beginning. The first train from Trieste was added in 2008. Looking for a service less dependent on man, sustainable and more trustful was the main trigger. Demands of clients, investment costs, increasing fuel costs, global crisis. All these helped this idea to develop.
How did you come up with the big step at the beginning of this year (2013)?
Unfortunately, impacts of railway solution were limited due to long lasting global crisis. Innovations were necessary. We focused on shipping 45’pwHC containers with RoRo, which is being done by RoRo vessels in Europe. But we couldn’t get the support of current service. And we ended up with our own RoRo service. This, of course, attracts clients who are looking for sustainable, trustful, short transit times. Therefore, being prefered by automotive industry, running with JIT, is not suprising.
A very huge investment. Were you anxious?
Honestly, man concerns less when investment is big. Such investments do not start before being considered in all aspects. We did not think that we are taking a risk, but we did believe in this. So I should say, there were more excitement than anxiety.
Names of the RoRo vessels are interesting?
That was one of the most cheerful part. Paqize, Hatche and Qezban. Not common names for maritime. We called them “Golden Girls”. That is cheery since everyone keeps their eyes on them nowadays.
How does the system run now?
By now, we are orginizing three departures from Haydarpasa (Monday-Wednesday-Friday) and three from Trieste (Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday) with 3 RoRo vessels. That means, a truck loaded may get on the Monday service. On Thursday it’ll be loaded onto train on Thursday, and will arrive to Germany on Friday. Not all, but some may even be delivered on Friday to consignees. At worst case, truck will be at delivery point by Monday. That is a 5-days transit time which enables the delivery within the same week.
What advantages compared with trucks?
Of course it’s not possible to give 3-days transit times by trucks. But there are no problems like weekend restrictions, border crossings etc. And we are able to continue the same performance during winter. In terms of costing, especially there’s an advantage for containers which can be loaded double-deck on RoRo. Of course it’s not truck/2 due to additional handling costs. We decided not to keep this advantage as profit but to share especially with Turkish exportes and increase our market share. Environmental aspects are the most essential thing. Only during 2000 of 7000km we use trucks, and decrease the carbon emissions far below.
What volume are we talking about?
We carry 1250 units/week by our RoRos. 1100 of them are loaded onto trains. 17 full trains depart every week in both directions. And we plan to reach to 20 by the end of this year.
Is whole traffic to Cologne?
Not only Cologne. We have trains with destination to Ludwigshafen and Ostrava. Ostrava is for East Europe.
Will you extend the system?
Of course we would like to. We plan to do this by new terminal-to-terminal connections. Not all as full trains, but with regular tariff. One is already running from Cologne to Malmo, for destinations in Scandinavia. We’d like to do as with block trains in the future.
Another company has started a similar system. More others are working on similar ones. Is trailer trains our future?
As you know, everybody has started to focus on railway transportation. Especially because of environmental aspects. Most of the people understand trains from “intermodal”. I believe not only the trailer trains, but all forms of intermodal transport connected with railway is our future.
We thank you a lot Mr Horasan. Hope to meet again for your new projects.
Cover Photo: Ekol Logistics ©
Interview: Onur Uysal