On a ro-ro roll

Established by international transport organisations in 1994 with the goal of meeting demand for an alternative mode of transport to land routes, Turkey based UN Ro-Ro Isletmeleri AS has become one of the fastest growing freight ro-ro operators in the world. Not content with its successes over the last two decades, UN Ro-Ro completed a five-year 260 million euro investment in its 12 vessel fleet in 2014; a strategic development that has resulted in the company having extra capacity to meet a 60 per cent increase in truck transportations to Europe. This investment also means the company is fully prepared for Turkey’s foreign trade target of $1 trillion by 2023. Other notable developments for the organisation include a change in shareholders, with Kohlberg Kravis Robert’s (KKR) shares of the business being acquired in 2014 by two Turkish groups.

Indeed, 2014 was a milestone in UN-Ro Ro’s 21 year history, with the company implementing its long-term strategy of becoming an intermodal infrastructure provider. In line with its plans to strengthen lines with new train services and connections with European ports, the company acquired a 60 per cent share in the port of Trieste’s Samer Seaports terminal in Italy in December 2013. As the operators of this terminal, UN Ro-Ro has decided to invest in trains that connect Trieste with several European destinations with the goal of loading all units that are discharged from its ships onto the trains in the future.

Key to strengthening its expanding network is the company’s successful partnership with Rail Cargo Group; beginning in 2005, the two organisations work together to connect all lines and export destinations in Turkey with Europe wherever it is possible to help meet Turkey’s aim of bringing 25 per cent of the heavy goods road vehicles onto the railway. This development, either directly through railway utilisation or a combination with Ro-Ro, would result in an extra 30,000 trucks per year and 1000 additional block trains per year.

The first step in this partnership was established in November 2013 when the two companies launched the UN Rail Austria Shuttle, a joint sea-rail service, which connects Trieste with Wels. Implemented with the innovative semi-trailer handling unit (ISU), the shuttle service can transport non-craneable semi-trailers by rail and handle all common semi trailers with ease. With a delivery time of four days, the UN Rail Austria Shuttle is one of the quickest connections for those wanting to transport goods from Istanbul to Germany. The benefits of using UN Ro-Ro’s environmentally friendly UN Rail Austria Shuttle for customers include being able to load their cargo onto the train and pick it up at their final destination without any issues caused by driving restriction permits.

Despite a busy two years behind it, UN Ro-Ro has pressed forward with further investments in the new terminal and expansions, as Sedat Gümüsşoğlu, CEO UN RO-RO Isletmeleri A.S. highlights: “Over the last two years we have been transforming into an intermodal platform rather than a ro-ro operator; as such, our goals for 2015 were to improve our position in the market and increase our market share through expansion while also providing services to the Western side of Istanbul from the Port of Trieste. Now we are in the final quarter of 2015 I can say, aside from the new terminal, that we have reached all of our targets. For example, looking at the market share for truck cargo and the ro-ro market, we still have 65 per cent market share among the three ro-ro operators, while the two other ro-ro operators share the remainder of the market.

“We have also expanded our market share by adding new capacity to the current routes, with the France route’s capacity increased by 50 per cent; this new venture has proven itself successful as the route is currently operating with 80 to 85 per cent capacity. Meanwhile, although we were previously defining ourselves as a ro-ro operator serving the truck cargo market, we have also been introducing new products to our range over the last two years; these include tank containers and 45 feet high cube containers. These additional products have taken up roughly ten per cent of our current capacity since they were first introduced two years ago,” he adds.

In addition to these developments, UN Ro-Ro is introducing new train services and connecting several destinations in Europe from the Trieste terminal. So far more than 20 per cent of the semi-trailers the company is carrying are being transferred to its intermodal services between Luxembourg and Duisburg, as well as Salzburg and Wels of Austria. “When we began our intermodal transportation four years ago the number of semi trailers being transferred from our vessels was five per cent; in 2015 it is 20 per cent and we aim to increase this to 50 per cent of our cargo being transported via intermodal services from areas such as Germany and France. We would also like to have train connections from the Port of Toulon to inland France, most notably Paris, as we are seeing demand for this service from our customers,” says Sedat.

Although these lines are currently unavailable from the Port of Toulon, UN Ro-Ro is in discussions with local authorities, particularly the mayor of the region who is in support of this idea, as Sedat notes: “The mayor and chamber of commerce (CCIV) has agreed to support an investment and try to make Toulon a hub for some of the destinations on the intermodal service.”

Alongside these positive new developments are new challenges, as infrastructure intermodal service developments require improved infrastructure at the ports. “The infrastructure at the ports is not sufficient for these additional services, so we are now in contact with the Trieste Port Authority and some local authorities to improve the level of quality for trains and expand the parking area. I believe by the end of this year these projects will be agreed and these investments will take place during 2016.”

Focused on its long-term goal of becoming an intermodal infrastructure provider, UN Ro-Ro will continue to enhance its services with further lines and routes as well as investments in terminal and train facilities to make this goal a reality. “The total tracked cargo from Turkey to Europe is divided in two, with 50 per cent going to ro-ro operators and 50 per cent going to the land routes. With this in mind, our long-term plan is to be the biggest provider of tracked cargo and the biggest leading infrastructure operator; these aims will continue throughout 2016 and 2017 and will, in the long run, enable us to offer an intermodal cargo flow,” concludes Sedat.

UN Ro-Ro Isletmeleri AS
One of the fastest growing ro-ro operators in the world

Converting into an intermodal infrastructure provider

New shareholders in 2014