ROUEN, FRANCE — Socomac, the Soufflet Group subsidiary at the Port of Rouen, announced on Nov. 25 the completion of a new unloading facility Rouen, France. The investment of more than a million euros enables the company to receive and export grain, attaining 60% of its shipments by waterway. It is part of a general policy by France’s top private buyer of cereals, which puts the question of freight at the heart of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) process.

Socomac loads ocean-going ships heading for more than 60 countries. The site is supplied by road, rail and waterway from 15 French departments, the furthest being Haute-Marne.

For five years, Socomac has been pursuing a policy of increasing the proportion of its waterway transport, which was up from 36% in 2011 to 50% in 2014. The increase in river traffic has thus enabled it to save 773,720 kilos annual equivalent carbon dioxide, to which must be added the 1.3 million kilos equivalent carbon dioxide already saved in the last four years.

The new equipment has been installed so as to give a 25% increase in silo capacity and enable more barges to be handled. Other logistics projects are also aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions caused by freight. In particular, this is the case with the future silo being built on the quayside at the Port of La Rochelle.

A new port silo will be operational in 2017, on the quayside at Chef de Baie, the seaward end of the seaport of La Rochelle. Loading grain directly onto ships will result in reconsideration of the logistics chain, with much greater use of rail freight (from 12%-27%). Some of the Soufflet Group’s port facilities at La Pallice, La Rochelle, the only deep water port on France’s Atlantic coast, are actually about a kilometer from the sea. Until now, it has been necessary to use more than 50,000 truckloads a year to shuttle more than 15 million tonnes of cereals to the ships. The payoff is carbon dioxide figures that are naturally more favorable with the end of shuttling grain by lorry. Logistics progress and environmental benefits thus go hand in hand.

The share allocated to road, rail or waterway freight fluctuates as harvests dictate. Any CSR approach regarding transport and minimizing carbon dioxide emissions is thus bound each year to require strategic choices between all these means of transport. The Soufflet Group seeks to find a responsible balance between those options.