Konings, JW (2006). Hub-and-spoke networks in container-on-barge transport. Transportation research record, 2006(1963), 23-32.
Container-on-barge (COB) transport has developed successfully in Europe during the past two decades, but this transport business has been focused primarily on maritime container flows and therefore developed as a typical hinterland transport system. This paper postulates that increasing the market share of COB transport, and in particular opening up new geographical markets, would require transport services in addition to the existing line and point-to-point barge services. The central question is whether hub-and-spoke (H-S) services could be a fruitful tool in improving the performance of COB transport and so in gaining market share. The typical cost, service, and geographical characteristics of H-S networks are discussed and illustrated with examples from the airline industry, which has a rich history in H-S research and applications. These general features of H-S networks are used as a framework to explore the feasibility of H-S networks in COB transport. The conditions and implications of operating these networks in barge transport are discussed. The discussion indicates that an H-S network can result in efficient barge services, because it can make a vessel most productive through optimized sailing schedules and more efficient use of vessel capacity in case of differences in waterway dimensions. A major precondition, however, is a cheap, fast, and reliable exchange of containers in the hub terminal.