The future of supply chains: Innovation and regulation for greener, more accessible freight transport

Ministers' Roundtable

Ministerial Event

18 May
16:30 to 18:00
MPA2, Level 0
  • lock_open Restricted participation

COVID-19 and measures related to the pandemic, such as lockdowns and border closures, have disrupted global supply chains. As such, they revealed the lack of resilience in freight transport networks: transit times have increased, schedule reliability has slipped, shipping costs have more than quadrupled and key transport nodes have become congested. Manufacturers suffer from delays in the delivery of commodities and intermediate goods, such as car parts and electronic components, whereas agriculture exporters and other shippers face difficulties in securing cargo space on vessels. Small and medium-sized enterprises are particularly vulnerable to insufficient access to freight transport options. 

Freight transport companies have become highly consolidated and integrated. Shipping strategies have been based on economies of scale via ever-larger ships, consolidation and intense collaboration, resulting in hub-and-spoke freight networks, critically dependent on a select group of mega-carriers and mega-ports capable of handling mega-vessels. Such networks are highly vulnerable, as problems in one hub port can quickly congest the whole network, with global repercussions. 

As the vulnerability of supply chains is exposed, risk diversification is becoming more important, for example, by diversifying supply chains and fostering competition. The core motivation of a freight transport system is the facilitation of external trade, not the provision of the greatest possible benefits to transport companies. This could imply in certain regions stimulating more direct connectivity via smaller ships and strengthening the capacities of smaller ports. 

Innovations such as digitalisation of logistics could facilitate more resilience, but could also hamper access to freight transport options. Defining the parameters of governance of digital logistics might be necessary to guarantee public benefits. In addition, how innovative technologies can be introduced in a sustainable manner is a key to achieving inclusive freight transport in rural and remote areas.

Future supply chains need to be greener, but there is still a long way to achieve this. Many freight transport sectors benefit from government support measures, but invest negligible amounts of their profits into greening their freight transport activities. A strategic reorientation of support measures could facilitate this green transition.

Suggested topics for discussion are listed as follows:

1. How can governments and transport companies ensure greater access of exporters and importers to a sufficient and diverse offering of freight transport? 

2. How can governments work together to strengthen transparency and competition in global freight transport?

3. How can governments and industry make sure that innovations and digitalisation initiatives in freight transport work to the benefit of all stakeholders? In particular, How can governments and industry benefit from innovations (e.g. artificial intelligence and machine learning) to resolve supply chain bottlenecks?

4. What policies and instruments can governments introduce to create the necessary incentives for freight transport companies to improve their environmental performance? Who should pay for the roll-out of alternative fuel infrastructure for freight transport?

The Summary Report for this Ministers' Roundtable is available to download here: 


Georges Gilkinet

Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Mobility


Omar Alghabra

Minister of Transport


Marius Skuodis

Minister of Transport and Communications


Graziella Marok-Wachter

Minister of Infrastructure and Justice


Eliana Banchik


Michelin in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay

Adil Karaismailoğlu

Minister of Transport and Infrastructure


Hildegarde Naughton

Minister of State at the Department of Transport


Diego Alberto Giuliano

Secretary of Transportation


Radu Dinescu


International Road Transport Union (IRU)

Lamia Kerdjoudj-Belkaid

Secretary General

Federation of European Private Port Companies and Terminals (FEPORT)

Clemens Först


Rail Freight Forward (RFF)

Carlos Maurer

Executive Vice President, Sectors & Decarbonisation