The purchase, representing an investment of €3m, follows a 55% expansion in P&O Ferrymasters’ intermodal services since 2002. The 45 ft pallet-wide containers offer up to 10 cubic metres more space than existing boxes, and the company will switch 70% of its capacity to them, meaning that the average age of its fleet will fall to less than three years old.
The new high-cube boxes will be used on European intermodal routes stretching from northern Europe (including the UK) to Spain, the southern tip of Italy and into Greece and Turkey. They include the latest in ‘load lock’ technology, which provides a versatile locking configuration to secure a wider range of consignments than conventional trailers.
P&O Ferrymasters has seen an average annual increase in intermodal shipments of around 8% and expects to register 60,000 rail freight movements in 2006 (equating to 135,000 teu), compared with 36,372 four years ago. Bart Verbeke, director of the company’s intermodal services, predicted a 15% growth in the service as a result of the new containers.
“Ten years ago, intermodal activity was a negligible percentage of our business. It now represents around 15% and is growing exponentially year-on-year. I see it breaking through the 20% a year mark by 2007,” he added.