Getting more freight off the road onto the sea

The Government is keen to switch more freight transport from road to sea. Transporting freight by sea is energy-efficient, causing relatively low greenhouse gas emissions.

This desire to increase the volume of freight transported by sea is confirmed in the National Transport Plan (NTP) for 2014-2023. Currently, around 90% of freight transport activities to and from abroad are by sea. The proportion of freight transported by sea within Norway is around 42%. Although freight transport internationally is predominantly by sea, transport by road is on the rise. This is true in particular for general cargo imports.

Nowadays, freight journeys by road over 500 km represent only a small proportion of the tonnage of goods transported. However, they account for almost 40% of the freight journeys by road. This shows that even switching a small volume of cargo from the longest road journeys to ship may make a major impact. Transport agencies believe that around 10-15% of current transport operations could be transferred from truck to ship or train.

Freight transport by sea is particularly suitable for transporting general cargo over distances exceeding 250 kilometres where a large volume and weight are involved and time is a less important factor. 

Increasing short sea shipping 

The Government states in the NTP that it wishes to focus more on sea transport and short sea shipping. With the aim of encouraging this, the Government wants to:

  • Devise measures which will boost the greater use of short sea shipping
  • Devise a subsidy scheme to provide state support for investing in designated ports
  • Devise a subsidy scheme for promoting cooperation between ports and the concentration of goods
  • Increase research into and analysis of maritime freight transport and combined transport solutions
  • Make maritime transport more competitive
  • Further develop the pilotage service as a forward-looking, cost-effective, user-friendly service, which will continue to carry out important environment- and safety-related social functions
  • Arrange good links between transport modes
  • Co-locate terminals for rail and maritime transport, where possible and as far as it is appropriate
  • Invest in a maritime infrastructure and ensure safety and navigability in the waters
  • Continue to give state support to the Short Sea Promotion Centre Norway.

Focusing on the ports 

The ports of Oslo, Kristiansand, Stavanger, Bergen and Tromsø have been assigned an especially important role in the task of developing efficient means of transporting people and goods. To ensure that even more goods are transported by sea, these ports need to be developed into national hubs for sea, road and rail. These ports must have sufficient space and receive substantial infrastructure investments to make them efficient and competitive.

The five designated ports are supplemented by numerous smaller ports in Norway. This often creates transport corridors where the flow of goods is fragmented and infrequent, which, in turn, is financially detrimental. Sensible cooperation solutions need to put in place to counter the situation where the ports are competing over goods instead of coming up with sensible, efficient cooperation solutions. The first suitable step is to help concentrate the flows of goods within the various regions. This allows strong ports to specialise in their type of goods and their particular function as a port within their region.

If this move to switch more freight transport from road to sea is to be successful, it must be possible to transport the cargo as seamlessly as possible to the final destination. In this case, efficient links need to be established between the ports and the surrounding road network. Several initiatives have been promoted to encourage combined transport solutions and switching freight from road to sea.

  • Larvik: Crossroads between National Road 40 and County Road 303
  • Tromsø: National road to the Breivik Terminal is being repaired.
  • Kristiansand: Repairs to the link to the Vestre Port – E39 Gartnerløkka-Breimyr crossroads.
  • Egersund: Bridge reinforcement on National Road 502.
  • Stavanger: National Road 509 Sømmevågen – Risavika Nord.

Better fairways

Better fairways are needed to improve conditions for freight transported by sea. As vessels continue to increase in size, becoming both longer and deeper, so do the demands for room to manoeuvre. In addition, several ports have seen a high rise in traffic, especially those involved with the petroleum industry.

Measures have been proposed for travelling both in the shipping lane along the coast and in the approach to the trunk network ports. The repairs will increase safety, improve navigability in narrow waters and reduce the sailing distance. The Stad Ship Tunnel will be an important fairway project for both coastal shipping and for industry on Norway’s western coast. This project will be able to start in the last six-year period.

The Government also wants to continue with Short Sea Promotion Centre Norway (SPC Norway), which is part of a network of similar centres in other European countries. This centre will work on switching freight transport from road to sea, mainly by spreading information and building relations.

Key facts  

Short sea shipping includes both transport between Norwegian ports and transport between Norwegian and European ports.

The short sea shipping fleet transports every kind of cargo. This fleet comprises dry-cargo ships, gas tankers, bulk vessels, tankers, chemical vessels, passenger ships, container vessels, ro/ro ships, and reefers/refrigerated ships.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs is using a commodity flow analysis, which will provide answers as to what the freight distribution is like between the various modes of transport (road, rail and sea), This task will be completed in 2015.

National Transport Plan 2014-2023:

Section 7.5 Main priorities for the sea

Section 10.3.1 Switching freight from road to sea and rail

Section 10.6 More freight transport by sea

Section 10.8.3 Maritime transport