Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

LoLo or Ro-Ro: A Strategic choice

Written by Francis Mateo, BARCELONA on Thursday, May 22nd 2014 à 15:28 | Read 6930 times



Julio Martínez Alarcón has coordinated a comparative study of Ro-Ro (roll on/roll off) and LoLo (lift on/lift off) operating systems. The exhaustive study was carried out for FEPORTS (Port Institute for Studies and Cooperation in the Valencian Region). The report was produced with the support of the European Community as part of the Terconmed project.

Julio Martínez Alarcón, coordinator of the comparative study of Ro-Ro & LoLo operating systems (photo Feports)
Julio Martínez Alarcón, coordinator of the comparative study of Ro-Ro & LoLo operating systems (photo Feports)
SPAIN. What are the key advantages of the LoLo system in comparison to Ro-Ro?

Julio Martínez Alarcón: According to the comparative study of operating systems that I coordinated (1), the advantages of the LoLo method are both economic and ecological. Overall, it is generally a less expensive system, but only if it is included in a logistics chain that integrates rail transport and concerns high-volume cargo. It is a more sustainable transport method than Ro-Ro, especially as it is combined with rail transport. Limited CO2 emissions are therefore guaranteed. The LoLo system also offers a higher load capacity and promotes rail freight development policies.

And the advantages of Ro-Ro?
The main appeal concerns transportation time: LoLo is generally much slower than Ro-Ro, which gives the latter system an undeniable comparable advantage in cases where high-value added products are transported... All the more so as specialised shipping companies are investing in faster, more reliable ships, which increases the gap between these operations in favour of Ro-Ro. In terms of transport plans, a less sophisticated logistics chain is required for Ro-Ro operations. In other words, Ro-Ro simplifies the organisation of transport.

Two solutions adapted to short sea shipping (photo F.Matéo)
Two solutions adapted to short sea shipping (photo F.Matéo)

Ro-Ro transport services are better adapted for speed

What do these two options mean for the final customer?
The customers, that is to say the shippers, want their products to reach the destination in the shortest time possible while keeping costs to a minimum. As a result, the choice of container transport on Ro-Ro or LoLo vessels is always made on a case by case basis. If the shipper opts for faster delivery and accepts the higher costs, Ro-Ro transport will be better suited to this, whereas if time is not a limiting factor, the customer may lean towards the LoLo system to keep transport costs low.

What prospects for development are there?
The LoLo system could gain a competitive advantage in the future because of its more ecological characteristics as it corresponds perfectly to the “Green Corridors” promoted by the European Commission. It also appears to be better adapted to potential long-term logistics strategies. Everything depends on the evolution of the regulations concerning short sea shipping as most LoLo and Ro-Ro container transport services lie within this sector. There are still improvements that could be made in customs and documentary procedures in particular, to facilitate the implementation of multi-modal solutions at the heart of the European Union.
(1) “Étude comparative des systèmes d'exploitation Ro-Ro et Lo-Lo” (A comparative study of Ro-Ro and LoLo operating systems) is available in Spanish and French on this website: For a free paper copy of this publication, send an email to:  

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