Dry Ports and Intermodal Transport Linkages

14 June 2010-Dhaka, Bangladesh - Container yard in Dhaka railway station:  The number of containers handled by ports in the Asia-Pacific region increased by 14.3% in 2007, to 257 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU). This compares with the increase of world container port handling during the same period of 11.6%, to 478 million TEU. Since 2001, the world’s top five container ports have been in Asia. In 2007, among the world's top-25 container ports in terms of throughput, 17 were in Asia. The Asian economies handling the most container traffic were: China; Singapore; Hong Kong, China; Japan; and the Republic of Korea. (UNESCAP 2009) Photo Credit: Kibae Park/Sipa Press

While the economies of ESCAP Member States are still reliant on exports to developed countries, intra-Asia trade is playing an increasingly important role in the region’s overall exchanges. In this context, for the region to keep its economic vitality, it is important that a collaborative vision leads to the establishment of an efficient region-wide transport and logistics system that match new intra-regional trade flows.

Recognizing this urgent need, the Ministerial Conference on Transport held in the Republic of Korea in November 2006 noted that the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway networks constituted two important building blocks for the realization of the vision of an international integrated intermodal transport and logistics system which the ESCAP region needs to serve new trade patterns. In the ministerial declaration that emanated from the Conference, Ministers resolved to develop policies along a number of guiding principles which included giving priority to investment in the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway networks, including intermodal interfaces, and promoting the development of economic and logistics activities at intermodal interfaces.

Reaping the benefits of intermodalism requires that these intermodal interfaces such as dry ports or inland container depots be planned carefully to serve as efficient cross-over points where freight can switch modes without delays or damage.

Recognizing the value of intermodal facilities in extending the reach of the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway Networks as well as facilitating their integration with other transport modes, the 66th Commission session requested the ESCAP secretariat to work towards the development of an Intergovernmental Agreement on Dry Ports. Acting on this mandate, the ESCAP secretariat initiated the negotiation process for the Agreement through a regional meeting in Bangkok in November 2010, at which institutional, regulatory, technical and operational issues relating to the development of dry ports were discussed. Subsequently, the ESCAP secretariat prepared a working draft of the Agreement which was reviewed and refined through a series of subregional meetings. The final text of the Agreement was adopted by the 69th Commission Session on 1 May 2013 and was opened for signature in Bangkok on 7 November 2013. On that day, 14 Member States signed the Agreement, including one that became a party to it through ratification.

The Agreement is only part of the efforts developed by ESCAP to push the development of intermodal facilities, including dry ports, to the top of the region’s transport agenda. In conjunction with the Agreement, through studies and seminars, ESCAP is also implementing capacity-building activities to assist countries in establishing and operating dry ports as part of a region-wide effort to develop an efficient logistics industry.