Aggravation of the situation in container traffic

Dear customers,

We have to inform you once again about the increasingly critical situation in seaport hinterland transport.

The pressure on our transport chains continues to increase dramatically. The reasons for this are interdependent to some extent; however, considered all together they result in a critical situation which causes us concern.

For a long time now, globally disrupted transport chains have led to big delays and constant postponements of your container transports, associated with a significant increase in the resources needed to process them. This is increasingly affecting all three transport modes, barge, rail and truck.

Barge delays due to long waiting times at many seaport terminals and continual changing of the Cargo Opening / Closing Times within which assignments can be delivered, lead to continual re-bookings and backlogs in our terminals. This affects quality and reliability, but especially massively reduces the capacity of our terminals and our barge capacity. Due to this situation our personnel – like yours – have been working at their limits for months now.

The shortage of available barge tonnage has been growing even more acute for some weeks now. The Ukraine crisis has triggered an enormous capacity demand for the transport of coal to power stations. In addition, barge capacities are redirecting to the Danube to evacuate grain from the Ukraine. The situation is aggravated by the present phase of summer weather without any substantial rainfall, so that the Kaub Gauge on the Rhine has already gone below the 80 cm Low Water mark. Urgently needed additional tonnage is not available, and the extreme demand in the coal/agricultural sector has given rise to a price situation that is unprecedented in barge transport.

So far as the limited possibilities allow, we are working on maintaining our transport capacities by increasing the use of pushed barge units and increasing the number of departures on the Lower Rhine, with carriage by truck from the Middle Rhine upwards.

For some weeks now, there have also unfortunately been hindrances in rail transport caused by repair and construction sites, line closures, and the disruptions in the seaports. In some cases trains are not processed, booked time windows are not adhered to by the seaport terminals, or are changed at short notice or cancelled altogether, resulting in train cancellations and overbookings. More disruptions have to be expected as a result of the newly-introduced compulsory prioritisation of trains for energy supply on the rail network. Here, too, we are already securing additional capacities by the use of bypass trains, so as to be able to continue to transport your containers.

Road transport by truck is not able to cope completely with the enormous demand for substitute transports. For a long time now there has been a significant shortage of truck drivers. The current warning strikes in Hamburg and Bremerhaven are leading to massive handling problems at the container terminals. The impact of backlogs in trucking and rail will continue to be felt for some time. We will increase our use of direct trucking both in the northern and the western ports, as far as this is possible, in order to maintain a degree of transport capacity.

In practical terms, the simultaneous appearance of these various disruptions leads to massively reduced capacities of all transport modes, impracticability of barge and rail schedules or planned trucking times. At the same time tailbacks, additional container manoeuvres and long processing times are blocking our terminals, so that in some cases we are having to react with acceptance stops. It is to be feared that the situation will get even worse. There will be regional differences, but all locations and transport units have the same problem.

We assure you that we are continuing to work flat out to do everything possible, in the context of the limited possibilities, to keep our trimodal logistics system going in this part of Europe for you as customers. This effort is supported to the fullest extent by the outstanding performance of our employees, whether Customer Service, operative units, truck drivers, captains or train drivers, who have to go to their limits for you every day.

It is clear to us that this situation is very unpleasant for you, too. Precisely for this reason, we see it as our duty to inform you about causes and effects, and make you aware in good time of the possible need for further changes.

As always in difficult phases, we can only succeed together. For this reason we would appreciate it if you could place your orders with us in as complete a form as possible, and without making further changes. In this situation, every change may lead to additional costs, even at short notice.

Kind regards

Frank Hirsch

CEO HCL-Logistics GmbH

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