Interview with Lars Hoffmann

Listen to this interview with Lars Hoffmann, Vice President & Head of Business Unit Mediterranean, and hear him explain the background for the increased focus on DFDS’ intermodal services (combined rail-freight services).

New rail system in BU Med

You might have noticed that use of rail services as part of freight transport chain  intermodal transportation  is developing throughout DFDS. The Intermodal Department and Trieste terminal are well versed in this practice and are currently running about 56 round trips per week to many European destinations. 

To improve the shift from road to rail and ferry, BU Med has successfully implemented a new system called r2L-traileruse. It is devised by transport and logistics company and important customer for BU Med, VegaBefore going into what the new system can do, here is some context. 

Normally, only semitrailers that can be lifted by crane can be loaded onto trainswith a few exceptions. To overcome this, we use systems that use special equipment at the terminal and on the wagons. They ensure the loading of units which, due to their technical characteristics, cannot be loaded in the traditional way. 

Unfortunately, some units were still not compatible with our previous system, Nikrasa. This meant that some of our customers had to find other solutions to reach their desired destination. 

At the Logistics & Transportation Trade Show in Munich, Transport Logistics 2019, I was one of the first to be informed by VEGA about a new system that was being developed for units that could not be lifted by crane. 

New system, new benefits
It’s now a great pleasure to announce that, on 13 October 2020, the first Vega r2L-traileruse adapter was used on the Trieste – Bettembourg train. This allowed DFDS to load a FullSped frigo trailer that previously was unable to be loaded onto the train with the Nikrasa system. 

But these are not the only advantages of the new r2L-trailerus system from VEGAOther advantages: 

  • It is usable on DFDS current wagon sets. 
  • No extra equipment necessary in terminals. 
  • A wider range of units can be loaded onto the train other than by crane, for example glass trailers osilo trailers (pictured below). 
  • From mid-November 2020 it will also be possible to carry short silo trailers. 

The change of equipment is already complete, and we are offering six slots for trailers that cannot be lifted by crane for every Trieste – Bettembourg – Trieste train. 

Our intention is to offer this service on the Trieste – Cologne line in 2021. 

We are looking forward to welcoming back old customers who we were not able to satisfy and obviously new ones! 

Fuat Pamukcu, Vice President, BU Med Sales, says: “I look forward to developing more innovative intermodal solutions together with our new intermodal competence centre. 


DFDS tests rail solution in Klaipėda

Last week, Central Klaipėda Terminal made its first attempt to load a trailer onto flat-bed rail wagon ttest the rail service which will run in conjunction with our ferry activitiesDFDS Logistics provided the trailer, LTG (Lithuanian Railways) representatives provided loading equipment as well as the prepared wagon, and the KLASCO team organised the loading.  

Despite the longer loading time, all parties were satisfied with the result. LTG was happy to see the opportunities and areas for improvement during the test. They had ideas to take away, and promised to come back with more efficient improvements to help Klaipėda become a green port, as this service saves on both diesel and road miles. 

Second phase of testing with a real customer
The combination of ferry and rail services also has the potential to generate additional volumes for the business. As the first phase of testing was successful, we are happy that our customer DSV is going to be part of our second phase. DSV’s semi-trailer came from Karlshamn to Klaipėda, and it will be transported from the CKT terminal to the LTG Vilnius intermodal terminal.  

This is a great start for the development of a newservice and the wide range of services provided by DFDS. 

Special thanks to our colleagues from DFDS Logistics, who generously provided valuable equipment for the test. 

DFDS to establish Competence Center with primeRail

In joint venture with intermodal operator primeRail, DFDS Med will build an intermodal competence Centre in Cologne. Here are Peder Gellert and Lars Hoffmann at the day of the signing in Hamburg with Patrick Zilles (sitting), CEO of primeRail, and Kurt Pelster, Board Member in primeRail.

Today, a significant part of DFDS’ cargo transports between Turkey and Europe is managed from DFDS’ Mediterranean head office in Istanbul through intermodal solutions via Trieste.

In order to grow our intermodal solutions, we will, in addition to our existing set-up, establish a new Intermodal Competence Centre in the Cologne area where focus will be on developing competitive solutions.

DFDS will do this in a joint venture with rail operator primeRail that provides solutions to maximize mobility through innovative and cost-effective intermodal solutions.

Lars Hoffmann, Vice President and Head of DFDS’ Mediterranean unit, says” With our shared knowledge and expertise, we are confident that we will create a strong platform for developing even more efficient intermodal solutions. This will not only benefit our customers, but it will certainly also support the work to reduce our impact on the environment. ”

primeRail started successfully as an intermodal operator in 2019 and has already developed efficient digital solutions and will now immediately starts building the new DFDS Competence Center.

Peder Gellert and Patrick Zilles

New intermodal connection from Istanbul to Cologne

Our terminal in Trieste will ensure that our customers’ goods have a smooth transition between train and ferry

Our cooperation with transport company Ekol is turning out to be very good for our customer service. As a result of our agreement with Ekol on transport of trailers in the Mediterranean, DFDS can now provide a direct connection between the Istanbul region in Turkey and Cologne in Germany. Ekol will continue to use this connection, thus providing the volumes to make the start-up phase smooth.

Giancarlo De Marco Telese, Intermodal Operations Manager, says: “This became possible when the connection between Trieste and Cologne shifted from ‘Ekol only’ to ‘open’ for all customers of DFDS and Kombiverkehr (the railway partner in the project). With this, customers can reach northern Germany quickly. It is easier for our customers to plan transport as they only communicate with DFDS, and it reduces the lead time compared to alternative solutions. The train runs eight round trips per week with a weekly capacity of 512 units, and it only takes 20 hours to go between Cologne and the DFDS Trieste terminal in Italy.”

Together with Munich and Ludwigshafen, Cologne is the third direct connection with Germany, proving that intermodal transportation is a lively market as more and more customers realise the added value of moving unaccompanied units by rail.

Trieste – the gateway for Turkey to Europe

Jens Peder Nielsen, Managing Director of our terminal in Trieste. Here seen in front of Ephesus Seaways

A little over a year ago, Jens Peder Nielsen started as Managing Director of our terminal in Trieste, Italy. Since then, optimisation of the terminal has been a high priority. In March and June, our colleagues in Trieste welcomed Ephesus and Troy fresh from the Jinling Shipyard in China. There have also been several completed and ongoing developments in this thriving terminal.

Access to free trade flow and excellent infrastructure 
The Port of Trieste operates under free port regulations. This means it is outside the customs area and is a free-trade zone where goods may be unloaded, stored and shipped without payment of customs duties and with significantly reduced customs procedures. Additionally, in most European countries there is a limited number of annual transit permits provided to Turkish transport and logistics operators. However, the free port status provides access to a free trade flow without limitation of permits, making Trieste a very attractive terminal.

Jens Peder says: “The terminal also offers great intermodal solutions as the Port of Trieste has one of the best infrastructures in Italy when it comes to rail connections, a business segment with a lot of potential and already in growth. We are therefore very happy to see Emil Hausgaard joining the team in Trieste to work on intermodal connections between the Mediterranean and northern Europe as well as optimising shipping and intermodal schedules.”

Optimisation comes in many different shapes and forms
The terminal was recently visited by Sam De Wilde, MD in Ghent and head of the Terminal Excellence Project. They discussed the operations practices at the terminal and shared experiences from other terminals. The options were also evaluated for a new automatic gate system, like the one in Ghent.

Terminal layout and facilities
“During the visit, we also examined the capacity optimisation with regard to the terminal layout. As a concrete example, we realised that our parking slots at the terminal were rather wide. Instead of the 3.5-metre standard width at other terminals, they were four metres wide which meant that a lot of capacity could be created without expanding the terminal area,” says Jens Peder.

“Earlier this year we replaced the old lighting at the terminal with LED, reducing the energy consumption and maintenance costs and prolonging the lifespan significantly. The switch to LED will reduce the electricity consumption cost by EUR 50,000 per year and have a two-year payback period.

“At the end of the year, we will also have installed a new CCTV system at the terminal. With the old system, we were bound to have several guards patrol the terminal every day and night which is very costly. The new CCTV will allow 24/7 surveillance, with guards observing from the control room and ready to respond at any time. This is also something that the government is very happy to see as illegal immigrants often try to cross the border.

“During September we will launch the correct mooring facilities to accommodate our mega freight ferries, Troy and Ephesus. This means that all three ramps will be utilised during loading and unloading operations. We will of course share this story when it is ready.”

DFDS and partners increase services between Luxembourg and Trieste

DFDS is strengthening its fruitful collaboration with Mars Logistics and CFL Intermodal by taking over the contract to increase rail services between Bettembourg in Luxembourg and Trieste, going from nine to 12 round trips per week by Q4 2019. This will allow for a reduction in costs and an improvement in management, with very much a DFDS-style, customer-oriented approach, with smooth operations of this essential solution for Mars and our customers as a result.

With the increased need for intermodal logistics solutions throughout Europe, the intermodal hub of Luxembourg is a vital rail connection to Ghent and Zeebrugge, where ferries connect to the UK and Scandinavia. It also has important connections to Lyon, Le Boulou and Barcelona. Trieste of course connects to Turkey, completing the excellent Europe – Turkey intermodal service we offer to customers. Managing the train and increasing the circulation will also help to improve the integration between northern and southern DFDS business units as DFDS owns the whole Scandinavia – Turkey connection.

“This partnership will increase the attractiveness of our intermodal services, further connecting Europe by sea, road and rail. Even for those customers who do not own intermodal transport units which will be transported by using the DFDS-leased NiKRASA platforms,” says Giancarlo De Marco Telese, Intermodal Operations Manager, Trieste.

More intermodal connections are planned to be developed to provide an even better service and to help our customers reach their final destinations with ease.

First intermodal workshop in Istanbul

The first DFDS Intermodal Workshop on 25 February in Istanbul provided an overview and demonstrated the opportunities for rail freight within the DFDS network. Participants were sales and terminal managers from DFDS.

Giancarlo De Marco Telese, Intermodal Operations Manager at DFDS, opened the workshop with a presentation about the current situation of the European railway network, pointing out opportunities and limitations within the industry, and how to operate in this expanding business.

“The internalisation of railway activities into DFDS’ transport solutions, will give DFDS the opportunity to offer an even more efficient and reliable service to our customers, with greater control of the product and lower expenses,” says Giancarlo.

Angelo Aulicino, Operations & Business Development Director at Alpe Adria, explained the role of the Multimodal Transport Operator in the industry, and how the Port of Trieste is willing to expand the already excellent cooperation with DFDS.

“Alpe Adria worked together with DFDS in expanding the intermodal network from the Port of Trieste, and we will continue this fruitful collaboration during the new port developments, focusing on the Trieste railway infrastructure and the port logistics system (involving port hinterland),” says Angelo Aulicino.

The day ended with a visit on board Ephesus Seaways, where the group saw for themselves the ferry’s high capacity that no doubt will be an integral part of an intermodal solution for customers using the Pendik – Trieste route.

The workshop was also a great opportunity to say a proper goodbye to Nicola Lelli who, as Head of Intermodal at DFDS, strongly supported this event. During his work at DFDS, Nicola achieved a huge growth in intermodal traffic and is now ‘catching the train’ for a new professional challenge. We all wish him the best of luck.

The workshop had representatives from all around the DFDS network. From left to right: Yavuz Kuşçu, Austria Intermodal Manager; Reşit Alpan, Intermodal Sales Specialist; Cenk Altun, VP Finance; Marcus Braue, Branch Manager of North Sea South; Kemal Bozkurt, VP Operations; Jimmy Marole, Route Director; Juel Jens, Head of Strategic Sales; Selçuk Boztepe, SVP; Fuat Pamukçu, VP Sales and Marketing; Angelo Aulicino, Commercial Director  at Alpe Adria; Ralph Bosvelt, Operations Director; Dursun Arslan, Account Manager; Ayberk Eskin, Sales Manager; Nicola Lelli, former Head of Intermodal; Giovanni Battista Nelli, Intermodal Special Projects Specialist, and Giancarlo De Marco Telese, Intermodal Operations Manager.

New rail freight service between Turkey and Belgium

The first intermodal rail freight train from Genk arrives in Trieste

DFDS can now offer its customers an intermodal freight route between Turkey and Belgium and the first intermodal rail freight train from Genk arrived in Trieste on 20 January. The new route, between Genk and Trieste, will allow customers to better utilise the DFDS network, broadening the range of choices for connections between Turkey and northern Europe.

Taking a mere 28 hours between Genk and Trieste and adding (at full capacity) three weekly round trips of about 34 slots per train, this train is a welcome addition to the DFDS Trieste terminal as its intermodal terminal capacity is in great demand.

“This is another result of our efforts in the continued development of our intermodal cargo capabilities,” says Nicola Lelli, Head of Intermodal, adding that new routes are becoming available to allow for more efficient transport and thereby making inland transportation faster and more environmentally sustainable.

DFDS partnered with the European operators Lineas, LTE and InRail to make this new intermodal service available for our customers, with the main part of the slots taken over by H.Essers, a valued customer of DFDS.

DFDS offers new intermodal connection between Sweden and Turkey

By connecting the existing DFDS network in northern Europe with the new routes in southern Europe and the Mediterranean Sea, DFDS is capable of offering transportation of cargo from North to South and back.

All routes and terminals in this connection are in DFDS ownership and control. Through this set-up, DFDS ensures operational alignment, reducing the lead time compared to alternative solutions with at least 1 day.

The new intermodal connection offers shipping transportation on the Gothenburg – Ghent and Trieste – Pendik/Ambarli/Mersin routes. There will also be a stopover in Patras, Greece.

DFDS will use Bettembourg in Luxembourg as the continental hub for the intermodal connection and has a solid cooperation over railways with CFL. Trailers are shunted from Bettembourg to Ghent over road, a second option via rail is being developed.

The Sweden – Turkey intermodal connection is effective, and the first customers have already benefitted from the fast, new service.


The following intermodal connections are offered:

Gothenburg – Ghent – Trieste (transit time 4 days)

Gothenburg – Ghent – Trieste – Pendik (transit time 7 days)

Gothenburg – Ghent – Trieste – Ambarli (transit time 8 days)

Gothenburg – Ghent – Trieste – Mersin (transit time 9 days)

Gothenburg – Ghent – Trieste – Patras (transit time 5 days)


Transit times and schedules of shipping routes can be found here