Irish Exporters Association Export Webinar Series; ‘The Race towards a Green Supply Chain’


At last week’s Irish Exporters Association (IEA) Export Webinar Series, the reduction of the carbon footprint in the transport, logistics and warehousing sectors was the topic presented and discussed. Under the title of ‘The Race towards a Green Supply Chain’ presentations were made by:

  • Howard Knott, Logistics Consultant, Irish Exporters Association
  • Maeve Morrissey, SME Programme Executive, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI)
  • Kasia Steyn, Freight Services Executive, Irish Rail
  • Chaired by Simon McKeever, CEO, IEA
  • The series is supported by Rhenus Logistics, Irish Rail/Rosslare Europort and Fleet Transport

Upon introducing the webinar, Simon McKeever, IEA Chief Executive, pointed out that despite the constraints imposed by the COVID-19 lockdown, the Association is operating a full range of services for its Exporting members. These include Training Courses, Consular and Export Documentation Services as well as an extended Webinar series. The effects of COVID-19 in Ireland and in its export markets are key themes, and the Association is drawing heavily on Government Agencies ensuring accuracy and real value in the output.

In the course of his presentation Howard Knott described the transport modes that are available to shippers, their present environmental and cost performance and how each mode is seeking to address the objectives of the European and Global proposals to address the Worldwide climate emergency. What has become clear is that there is a very rapid evolution in the way in which Supply Chains operate and this is led by consumer and corporate social responsibility demands for greener supply chains and by technical change in the way in which each mode operates. He finished with stressing the key role that the evolution of low-carbon and cheap electrical generation will play towards the development of electric vehicles and the use of hydrogen power.

Maeve Morrissey spoke of the need for all actors in society to embrace the need for pollution reduction and to benefit from the reduction in energy waste. She introduced the recently launched SEAI Energy Academy which comprises of series of on-line modules, each dealing with different users of energy and all making up a programme. Of specific interest will be the modules, to be introduced in July 2020, on energy efficient driving and on low-emission logistics. The Academy is at:

Kasia Steyn’s presentation sought to underline the steps that Irish Rail is taking to develop its rail freight business and to demonstrate its low emission credentials. She spoke about the much anticipated longer and faster freight trains planned for routes to and from Irish ports.

The Webinar concluded with a lively discussion on the issues raised during the presentations. Of concern was the likely effects on the “greening” effort of the recent precipitous fall in fossil fuel prices but the speaker panel all agreed that the momentum of change towards greening supply chains was now such that they could not easily be derailed.

Report from Kasia Steyn, Freight Services Executive, Irish Rail

Presentation on ‘Towards the greener Future; Why choose Rail?

“Transport system is highly fossil fuel dependent, which cause significant emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and air pollutants. Over 20 % of Ireland’s Greenhouse gases emissions are from the transport sector and still increasing.

Rail Freight is one of the solutions to achieving the lower Carbon footprint. One can ask why? Here are a few facts:

  • Irish Rail operates every day service of 18 wagons between Ballina and Dublin Port
  • We also carry mineral ore between Navan and Dublin Port, the service consist of three return trains running daily with 12 wagons per each train
  • Timber from the West of Ireland gets delivered to Waterford Port a few times during the week, each service pulls 12 wagons of timber.

All of the above volume of traffic saves tonnes of CO2 emissions as only 1 locomotive can pull up to 18 wagons (intermodal service), where each wagon carries an equivalent of a truck load .

Rail Freight is very efficient for transport of higvolume consigments, it is also fuel and energy efficient, only one locomotive is needed to pull 18 wagons (saving minimum of 18 truck loads from the nation’s roads with just one train service). Rail is faster, especially over longer distances and more reliable as rail works on schedules and very rarely gets distrubted by weather or traffic as opposed to the road freight. Our staff working on the frontline are ensuring that rail freight services continue to operate fully during the current COVID-19 crisis supporting vital supply lines. It also requires only 1-2 drivers per train – depending on a distance. Using rail will naturally lower congestion on roads and with that it will lower CO2 emmisions.

It is also safer than road, especially when you consider carriage of Dangerous Goods. Chances of an accident on the line are minimal comparing to roads, hence it’s safer to transport chemicals, waste, bio mass, alcohol etc. by rail. Carriage of Dangerous Goods by rail is minimising the risk of contaminations resulting from road accidents.

Irish Rail on average pulls 12,000 wagons carrying IWT containers / portable tanks each year between Ballina and Dublin Port terminal, including, 3,500 full tanks / containers carrying dangerous goods (32% of overall traffic). To break it down further: 

  • 75% of dangerous goods are exports from Ballina, County Mayo to Dublin Port
  • 25% are transiting via North Wall for delivery by rail to Ballina.

Worth noting is the fact that each train on average reduces carbon emissions by 75% when compared to the road equivalent.

CO2 emissions for rail freight could be even up to 90% less than that for road freight with the new longer trains under trial. We have recently tested longer 21 wagon trains on our multimodal service and we hope to have receive a positive report soon. 

The multimodal rail services between Ballina and the Port of Waterford has operated approximately 2,500 trains up to 2016. This means the displacement of over 40,000 long-distance truck movements of about 15 million truck kilometres (since its introduction in 2005).

Iarnród Éireann’s key strategy for freight is to organically grow the business by focusing on accounts with long term carriage prospects, regular and frequent traffic with bigger volume.

At the Q&A session that followed, the following was asked: “How do rail freight transport rates compare to that of road transport?” The reply was: “They are similar but not necessarily competitive if I can put it this way, we would welcome incentive from the Government to enable us build on rail freight in Ireland, making it price competitive especially since it lowers the carbon footprint and there is an interest in more connections.”

Glenn Carr General Manager Rail Freight & Rosslare Europort emphasised that all systems within Irish Rail are continuing, despite the pandemic: “During these very challenging times , I want to assure all our current and potential customers that we continue to fully operate all rail freight services through the dedication of our frontline staff working in conjunction with our customers and keeping supply lines open “

For further information on rail freight opportunities for your business please contact Kasia Steyn at