Combining & connecting green logistics expertise in Brussels

06 December 2022 - Published by Deirdre Buist
As the last phase of the SURFLOGH project approaches, the need for status checks, pilot progress and activity updates increases. This time the partners met up in Brussels, where the gathering also formed an appropriate preamble to the POLIS 2023 Conference, held in the Belgian and EU capital from 30th November - 1st December. Combining these events provided our ‘smart logistics strivers’ with an excellent opportunity to also connect with other cities and regions showcasing transport achievements to a large audience of mobility experts, stakeholders and decision-makers.

Besides the required time slot dedicated to project management issues, the latest partner meeting had a packed programme, including an interactive exchange spurred by the latest research on the potential of drone deliveries carried out by Jonathan Cowie from Napier University TRI. Our colleagues from Mechelen also invited a series of inspiring speakers to share interesting mobility insights, with relevant knowledge and experience on supply chain orchestration, Green Deal low-emissions logistics and running a cycle logistics company on a mission in this  challenging, historical city centre.


SURFLOGH partners exchanging logistics expertise in Brussels, November 2023 

Supply chain orchestration

Bart Van Nieuwenhuyse, co-founder of Tri-Vizor introduced the ‘world’s first cross supply chain orchestration company’. Their core business is orchestrating collaboration to exchange knowledge and practice on future-proof urban logistics by setting up horizontal cooperations – at different stages in the supply chain (not exclusively urban logistics). This can involve bundling freight flows, clustering, sharing capacities and combining resources (including human resources). According to Bart, traditional logistics providers find the idea of carpooling cargo a bit threatening but according to a study from World Economic Forum, the transport system is under pressure. A More sustainable system could be achieved through:

  • Pricing policy – smart and fair road pricing system
  • Efficiency – vertical and horizontal collaboration
  • Smart logistics – design for logistics
  • Multimodality – co-modality- synchro modality
  • Innovation – adding extra capacity through a new transport mode

The CULT collaborative 

Bart shared a presentation on the   CULT project -  Collaborative Urban Logistics & Transport  - explaining the context, implementation and challenges of this  community of companies that share a common vision on how sustainable city logistics can be made efficient through the smart consolidation of volume. There was great recognition amongst the partners since the CULT challenges and ambitions align closely with those of SURFLOGH.

Designing a smart eco-system

Ultimately, the focus is on redesigning the supply chain to optimize efficiency with full awareness for climate change and the livability of our cities.  “The consolidation of different players in last mile deliveries is difficult. Some single players are not seen as ‘neutral’,” said Bart. “We need to increase capacity in a smart way, thinking in terms of an eco-system and investing in community building. The CULT approach. The implementation of this plug and play system differs according to location, but the framework is a multilateral contract  based on standardization, connectivity, scalability, stakeholder involvement. CULT focusses on the collaboration aspects, not the operational.”

Brussels Mobility

On the eve of the Polis Conference 2022, the SURFLOGH partners were also treated to a preview of the Cairgo Bike presentation developed by Charlotte de Broux for this important annual transport event.  Brussels Mobility (Bruxelles Mobilité)  is the administration of the Brussels-Capital Region responsible for equipment, infrastructure and mobility issues. The organization’s primary challenge is to facilitate economic development – and the growing need for mobility solutions – while improving quality of life and sustainable development in the city. Brussels Mobility focuses on Green Deal low emission logistics strategy (not zero),  working within the framework of a shifting economy.


Cairgo Bike initiative meets Urbike in Brussels

Cairgo Bike 

With the Cairgo Bike project, for example, more awareness is being raised for cargo bikes as a credible mobility and logistics alternative. Cairgo Bike is a project in the context of the targets and campaigns of the regional mobility plan “Good Move”, which includes a bike-friendly, traffic-calming approach. Like the Brussels Region itself, the project is aiming for a different economy and a better quality of life for residents.

The public service authority has developed many support initiatives, grants etc. to improve air quality -  targeting the frontrunners in Brussels’ business community and showing what’s possible to reduce CO2 emissions. Currently 50 – 60 companies are engaged and committed to providing a measurable and doable result for 2025.  The impending date mobilizes direct action.

Policy & business models

“Public policy can stimulate adaptation to, for instance, changed zoning and accelerates the process,” said Charlotte. “But this can also impact business viability, pushing some towards a tipping point in terms of operating constraints and business models. We can improve the models with consolidation and efficiency. Our ambition is not only to create cleaner vehicles but also to reduce the number of vehicles – thus improving air quality and creating more  livable space.”

Urbike Cycle Logistics

 Last in the Flemish line up of pre-POLIS presentations was Renaud Sarrazin. He’s founder of Urbike,  a cycle logistics company on a mission to support the shift to deliveries by cargo bike.  According to Renaud there are two key factors determining the performance of last mile deliveries:

  • Density (loading capacity, urban hubs)
  • Efficiency (load breaks transshipments, standardization, transportation parking )

Urbike uses  BicyLift | FlexiModal , an innovative bike trailer designed for cycle logistics and extremely compatible with standard pallets, roll containers, insulated containers etc. – meaning load and go!

Professional service, solid expertise

“We want to improve the distribution models and functional use of space using the existing infrastructure and professionalize the cycle logistics sector by enhancing the occupation of bike courier,“ Renaud said. “Besides focusing on information and digitalization, our approach is a combination of services and solid expertise in urban logistics including delivery, consultancy, equipment lease, sales and repairs, and training.


Renaud Sarrazin demonstrates the Bicylift at the Urbike cycle logisitcs hub

Following the Urbike story, the SURFLOGH partners were invited to a guided tour of their delivery hub nearby. In rush-hour Brussels, the energetic hustle and bustle of this cargo bike hub was tangible as the fleet was loaded and delivery heroes took to the dark, wet streets.   

What’s next?

On the journey home, tired but inspired, we mulled over some of the latest green logistic opportunities that had been discussed during the day:

  • Drone deliveries for special situations and in isolated or difficult to access areas.
  • Connecting cargo-bike deliveries with waterways.
  • Sustainable solutions for the construction industry.

The SURFLOGH project may be entering its last phase but there are more than enough smart and sustainable ideas to further this cooperation in the future! What’s next?