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India: A logistics powerhouse in the making?

Karla Gonzalez Carvajal's picture
Photo: Daniel Incandela/Flickr
The numbers are in: India now ranks 44th in the latest edition of the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index, a relatively high score compared to other countries at similar income levels. This number matters not just to the logistics sector, but to India’s economy as a whole. Indeed, logistics can directly impact the competitiveness of an entire market, as its ability to serve demand is inextricably linked to the efficiency, reliability and predictability of supply chains.

Broadly defined, logistics covers all aspects of trade, transport and commerce, starting from the completion of the manufacturing process all the way to delivery for consumption. To say that it is a complex business is an understatement.

First, there is always a delicate balance between the public arm, which provides the roads, railways and waterways, and lays down the rules and regulations, and the private sector, which has responsibility for carrying out logistics operations in a smooth and seamless manner. This fine interplay is further complicated by the globalization of manufacturing which—with many more ports of call in the logistic chain—is putting ever-increasing pressure on the sector. In addition, there are very practical challenges in integrating different modes of transport, in speeding up border crossings, and in dealing with trade protections–all of which impact external trade.

But as difficult as it might be, creating a well-functioning logistics sector is essential to any nation looking to compete in the global economy. India is a case in point. To fuel its global ambitions, the country has taken active steps to up its logistics game.

How can Indonesia achieve a more sustainable transport system?

Tomás Herrero Diez's picture
Photo: UN Women/Flickr
Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 17,500 islands, is the fourth most populous country in the world, with 261 million inhabitants, and the largest economy in Southeast Asia, with a nominal Gross Domestic Product of $933 billion.

Central government spending on transport increased by threefold between 2010-2016. This has enabled the country to extend its transport network capacity and improve access to some of the most remote areas across the archipelago.

The country has a road network of about 538,000 km, of which about 47,000 km are national roads, and 1,000 km are expressways. Heavy congestion and low traffic speeds translate into excessively long journey times. In fact, traveling a mere 100 km can take 2.5 to 4 hours. The country relies heavily on waterborne transport and has about 1,500 ports, with most facilities approaching their capacity limits, especially in Eastern Indonesia. Connectivity between ports and land infrastructure is limited or non-existent. The rail network is limited (6,500 km across the islands of Java and Sumatra) and poorly maintained. The country’s 39 international and 191 domestic airports mainly provide passenger services, and many are also reaching their capacity limits.

Three reasons why maritime transport must act on climate change

Nancy Vandycke's picture


For years, the transport sector has been looking at solutions to reduce its carbon footprint. A wide range of stakeholders has taken part in the public debate on transport and climate change, yet one mode has remained largely absent from the conversation: maritime transport.

Tackling emissions from the shipping industry is just as critical as it is for other modes of transport. First, international maritime transport accounts for the lion’s share of global freight transport: ships carry around 80% of the volume of all world trade and 70% of its value. In addition, although shipping is considered the most energy-efficient mode of transport, it still uses huge amounts of so-called bunker fuels, a byproduct of crude oil refining that takes a heavy toll on the environment.

Several key global players are now calling on the maritime sector to challenge the status quo and limit its climate impact. From our perspective, we see at least three major reasons that can explain why emissions from maritime transport are becoming a global priority.

Three factors that have made Singapore a global logistics hub

Yin Yin Lam's picture
Then vs. now: the Port of Singapore circa 1900 (left) and today (right). Photos: KITLV/Peter Garnhum

When it gained independence in 1965, Singapore was a low-income country with limited natural resources that lacked basic infrastructure, investment and jobs.

A few decades later, the picture couldn’t be more different. Singapore has become one of Asia’s wealthiest nations, due in large part to its emergence as the highest-performing logistics hub in the region (see World Bank Logistics Performance Index).

The numbers speak for themselves. Today, the small city-state is home to the world’s largest transshipment container port, linked to over 600 ports worldwide. Singapore Changi airport is voted the best internationally, and is served by about 6,800 weekly flights to 330 cities. Finally, the island nation’s trade value amounts to 3.5 times its GDP.

Singapore’s achievements did not happen by chance. They result from a combination of forward-looking public policy and extensive private sector engagement. This experience could provide some lessons to any developing country seeking to improve its logistics network. Let us look at three key factors of success.

What are some critical innovations for improving port-hinterland connectivity?

Bernard Aritua's picture
Photo credit: Hxdyl/Shutterstock
Imagine landing in the wee hours of the morning into Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata, India. As you leave the airport in a taxi, you find yourself stuck in heavy traffic and this at 4:00am in the morning! It does not take long to realize that you are sharing the roads with other early rising passengers riding in cars and buses, but also with a long queue of freight trucks, which seem to be the majority of vehicles along the road. Why are so many freight trucks winding through the city center? You soon learn from the taxi driver that some of the trucks are heading to, or coming from the famous ‘Barabazar’ market, but others are heading towards Kolkata port.

As your taxi leaves the line of trucks behind, you realize that you could be in any port-city in India or, for that matter, in China, USA or Europe. The types and number of trucks, and the freight carried may vary, but the challenges of port-generated traffic affecting the city hinterland is common. Of course, urban mobility solutions are multi-dimensional and usually include complementary strategies, investments and actors. However, the root cause of port-generated city traffic is simply a product of conventional port planning.

In Kolkata, the problem of port-generated traffic could get worse with the completion of the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor and National Waterway 1 (Jal Marg Vikas project). However, thanks to an innovative port-hinterland connectivity solution, supported by the World Bank, the ports of Kolkata and Haldia will dramatically increase their capacity while solving the issue of port-generated traffic. This is great news for the many truck drivers, who can often take a whole night just to get in queue to enter the port.