An ingenious hub where different modes of transportation meet
The metamorphosis of 120 hectares
Boat transport on the river Meuse. As early as the 10th century, this was already the main route by which the people of the Liège area exchanged goods with surrounding countries. The goods came from far and wide: there were French wines, Oriental spices, Byzantine fabrics, and much, much more. Since then, the Meuse has remained the backbone of the region’s economy.
Now, more than 1000 years later, the Port of Liège is the third-largest inland port in Europe. Inland ports greatly improve the flow of imports and exports. They relieve seaports of the burden of sorting all of those containers, which can be time-consuming. With tons and tons of goods passing through, the Port of Liège keeps on growing. To make sure this amazing web of traffic will continue to run smoothly, an impressive area of 120 hectares is currently being transformed into a new platform dubbed ‘Liège Trilogiport’.
The power of three
With three modes of transport (the road, waterways, and railways), three cross-border markets (The Netherlands, Germany, and France) and access to sea by way of three ports (Rotterdam, Antwerp and Dunkerque), 'Trilogiport' is an apt name, as it stands for the power of three.
The aim is for Trilogiport to become a 'logistic village' at the heart of Europe: a vibrant distribution center where ships, trains, and trucks will soon work together seamlessly to distribute 200,000 giant containers a year. Trilogiport will eventually generate over 2000 new jobs in the region.
Furthermore, Trilogiport will have another positive effect on its surroundings. According to Francois Crutzen, project manager at Eloy, "This distribution center will benefit from the new multimodal platform to reduce its carbon footprint thanks to river transport, thus avoiding the road transport which is currently being relied on."
“This distribution center will reduce its carbon footprint thanks to river transport.”
Heart and soul
After the Minister of Planning had given green light to the project in 2011, the parties involved had a big issue to solve. How should they tackle the tremendous challenge of turning 120 hectares into an ingenious hub of multimodal transportation?
Indeed, the project is huge. “The cost of the Trilogiport project totals around 45 million euros,” says David Hick, project manager at Eloy, a family-run business that has been in existence for more than 50 years. Eloy is currently putting their heart and soul into Trilogiport. Based in Sprimont, near Liège, the Eloy staff is familiar with the region. And with more than 300 employees with wide-ranging specialties, from water treatment to civil engineering, the company will know exactly what to do with this sizeable piece of land.
It all starts digitally. “We can visualize the entire project in 3D. It is sent directly to the excavators and bulldozers in that form, so the operators can immediately execute the plans as intended,” says David Hick, project manager at Eloy. “We are much faster than we were in the olden days.”
“We work at a precision of 2 to 3 millimeters.”
Of course, speed plays an important role at all stages of this entire venture – as does accuracy. All this labor is carefully orchestrated by software which has been programmed to include every last detail of the project. "The geopositioning software we use, allows us to work at a precision of 2 to 3 millimeters,” says Thierry Colson, surveyor at Eloy. “That is necessary in a project of this kind."
“We installed these GPS systems on our machines five years ago for the first time and it has changed a great deal for the company,” says David Hick. He explains that the company works more independently now: for instance, it is no longer necessary to check the levels with a laser system. “Our performance has improved since we updated our methods,” he concludes.
And so, Eloy is making an important contribution to this massive new inland port which will handle impressive amounts of cargo. Ultimately, the port will increase sustainability and generate a great many jobs. Hopefully, Liège will also reap the benefits of its port for at least another 1000 years to come.