Design and management of D2D networks  

Cooperative Unitised Services

NECL Acciona

There are many difficulties associated with conventional multimodal transport services that hamper their wider application and usefulness.

  Integrated Multimodal Operations can be capital intensive, albeit efficient, and can incur large contingent liabilities through chartering and sub-contracting, all of which are tolerable in a buoyant market but carry considerable risk in a recession.
  Independently Functioning Multimodal Operations have low risk profiles, as each functioning element in a network acts independently of the others. They can, however, be unreliable in their deliveries and they depend on Freight Forwards and 4PLs to manage the marketing, door-to-door (D2D) pricing and multimodal issues.
•  Cooperative Unitised Services are proposed as a feasible alternative, as they would have the reliability and efficiency of Integrated Multimodal Operations and the low risk and adaptable profile of Independently Functioning Multimodal Operations.


The challenge in deploying Cooperative Unitised Services lies in the fact that they are not clearly defined and are not currently in use. In the conservative and capital intensive maritime industry, that should be sufficient reason to put them outside the remit of serious discussion. Nevertheless, in a study carried out in the European Project, PROPS, the subject of strategic alliances in the transport industry was examined in some depth[i]. It was found that cooperative networks of various types are widely used in the road haulage industry and that deployment of appropriate network structures is a key factor in their success. Furthermore, it was noted that an important factor in the phenomenal success of low cost airlines was their strategic alliances with regional airports, as well as accessing the un-tapped market of ‘ordinary’ people. These examples are not just encouraging; they indicate that the gap between Integrated Multimodal Operations and Independently Functioning Multimodal Operations can be filled with a networked structure based on strategic alliances between the different transport modes and operating under the aegis of a ‘Network Manager’.