Modal shift from road haulage to short sea shipping: a systematic literature review and research directions

Zeeshan Raza, Martin Svanberg, Bart Wiegmans

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
66 Downloads (Pure)


Modal shift from road haulage to short sea shipping (SSS) has been advocated by authorities and researchers for more than two decades. This paper provides a review of literature on modal shift and pinpoints paths for future research on topics in six categories: (1) factors influencing SSS competitiveness, (2) the policy-oriented perspective, (3) environmental legislation, (4) SSS performance, (5) port characteristics, and (6) the multi-agent perspective. In particular, we propose first, in evaluating the performance of SSS versus road haulage in different trade corridors, three performance-related dimensions–the economic dimension (e.g. external costs), the environmental dimension, and the dimension of service quality–should be considered. Second, researchers should use rich, real-world, numerical data and operational research techniques to identify the relative importance of individual drivers and barriers for a modal shift from road haulage to SSS. Third proposed direction is related to assessing which groups of actors certain policies should target. In doing so, researchers should extend their policy-related focus beyond the European Union, which has long encompassed the major geopolitical scope of research on the modal shift. Fourth, to moderate the adverse impact of environmental legislation on SSS, strategic solutions need to be identified. Fifth, we also suggest that the influence of contingencies, particularly port strikes and cyberattacks, on SSS operations and approaches for managing them should be investigated. Sixth, the economic and financial advantages of coordination and alliance for each transport chain agent need to be evaluated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-406
Number of pages25
JournalTransport Reviews
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • freight transport
  • literature review
  • Modal shift
  • research directions
  • road haulage
  • short sea shipping (SSS)

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