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Improved Port/Ship Interface

European Union
Complete with results
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport mode
Waterborne icon
Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues
Transport sectors
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

To create effective alternatives to long-distance road freight traffic, the complete intermodal chain that uses waterborne transport as a major component must be competitive with road transport. Since cargo must be transferred between ships/barges and land transport modes (trucks or trains) at least twice, the efficiency of the port/ship interface is of vital importance to attaining such competitiveness. To encourage Short Sea Shipping (SSS) in an intermodal context, ports must become efficient and cost-effective logistic hubs where all available modes of transport can be effectively interconnected. To this end, port facilities, organisation procedures and communication systems must be optimised, and the logistical network of the hinterland infrastructure must be aligned with the port capacities and capabilities.


The objective of the IPSI project was to develop new concepts for efficient port/ship interfaces in order to make SSS the best choice for as large a share as possible of the total transport distance. The focus of the project was the cargo handling system, but new vessel designs were developed to improve cargo loading and unloading operations.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Commission; Directorate-General for Energy and Transport (DG TREN; formerly DG VII)
Type of funding
Public (EU)


The main outcome of the IPSI project was the development of new concepts for intermodal SSS terminals and vessels.

For terminals, IPSI focused on the cargo handling system. The proposed system is able to handle the most widely used cargo containment units (the ISO container, the cellular pallet-wide container, trailers and chassis, the swap-body, heavy duty cassettes). It uses Automatically Guided Vehicles (AGVs), assembled into sets of several carriages and designed to fit under the standard cargo cassettes on the market today. Trailers can be handled using tug-masters and trailer horses. Two designs have been developed for the terminal ramp system. The first is a fixed two-level land ramp to be used for differences between low and high water up to approximately 2 m. The second is a two-level link span to be used for greater variations (up to 4.3 m) between high and low water.

With regard to vessels, the project distinguished IPSI ships (for SSS) and IPSI barges (for inland navigation). IPSI ships are characterised by a mono-hull with two or three decks, full-width stern ramps, straight deck lanes separated by curbs, automatic lashing devices, and simultaneous access to main and weather deck by AGVs and tug-masters. A family of ships with standardised components has been considered. IPSI barges are characterised by full-width RoRo bow ramps, one or two decks, straight deck lanes separated by curbs, and the provision of securing or lashing devices.

Policy implications

The IPSI terminal concept would serve as an efficient hub in intermodal chains, particularly when served by IPSI vessels. The cost comparison of different transhipment systems (container terminals, IPSI terminals and RoRo terminals) indicates lower investments, lower costs per TEU and higher throughput for IPSI terminals. In particular, IPSI terminals need only a small staff. A detailed simulation model also showed that the IPSI system (terminal plus vessels) would give substantial time savings in comparison with current systems.

The IPSI results would support a shift in cargo transport to waterborne modes in the future integrated Trans-European Network. Benefits would accrue to both the industry and transport users. Investments will be required to adapt terminals and vessels to the IPSI concepts. It should be noted, however, that the terminal and vessel designs developed by the project are very flexible. IPSI terminals can accommodate conventional ferries and other RoRo vessels, and IPSI vessels may call at any port able to support a RoRo operation, because the only difference to conventional RoRo vessels is the steering and control system for the AGVs within the decks.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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