Maritime Connectivity Study report

Since spring of 2020 I have been working on the Maritime Connectivity Study for the World Bank. The final report of this study has just been finished.

In my view the most important contribution of this work was the development of Port and Shipping data framework with the purpose of providing a tool for country- and port-level benchmarking. We considered data strategic value and took into account the key performance indicators that are relevant in the context of collecting port and maritime data.

The data framework is developed at two levels. At the country level of the framework, the high level indicators are included. They describe the country-level data in the five areas: connectivity and accessibility, shipping cost, efficiency, environmental impacts, and regulatory environment. At the port level, the framework contains indicators in the same five areas as the country-level framework, but at a more detailed port level.

We validated the framework by applying for benchmarking of three of the Southern Cone countries: Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The results of this study will help the Infrastructure Chief Economist’s Office (INFCE) with their InfraSAPs country diagnoses to understand the needs for infrastructure interventions.

Volvo guide to longer and heavier vehicles

Volvo has published a blog piece on longer and heavier vehicles called “Longer and heavier vehicles: The ultimate guide”. It gives a nice summary of the benefits that the introduction of higher capacity transport could bring to the road transport. The facts outlined in this blog post are in line with the conclusions that came from a research that we worked on at the ITF/OECD.

Some of the most prominent benefits include reduction of carbon emissions by 15-40%, reduction of requirements of drivers, safety benefits and limited impacts on the road infrastructure.

Learning Python for data science

To add to my PHP and C programming skills, I have lately been following Python training. The language has extensive applications for data processing, analysis and visualisation.

Something that I am particularly interested in is the ability to efficiently process larger data volumes, e.g. 40-50 gigabytes, which I lately have started needing in my research work.

Excited to get my first certificate on Python fundamentals from Dataquest:

Economic benefits of cycling

Image source:

Transport for London has recently published a study on the economic benefits of walking and cycling. Although the results are not surprising, it is an important data point and a good argument for those of us who are cycling enthusiasts, care about the livability of cities, and hope to improve the situation.

The TfL research shows that retail businesses are benefiting from increased walking and cycling traffic. Improving street design to accommodate better those road users can increase retail spend by up to 30%. As a result, businesses on those streets are able to generate higher revenues.

“People walking and cycling visit high streets more frequently and spend more money there compared to people in cars”. And if you think about it, it is logical – cars are expensive to buy and maintain, and almost impossible to park in a city. It means that car drivers (doing the same jobs) have less disposable income to spend on shopping, and additionally, it is a big effort to find a spot to park the car near a shopping street.

Data show that people who walk to the high street spending up to 40% more than people who drive. And bike parking delivers 5 times more retail spend per square meter than car parking.

Businesses tend to overestimate their customers car use. I have seen this in Brussels, in local council discussions over the renovations of place Jourdan. And this research confirms the same: while businesses in Lea Bridge road think that 63% of their customers come by car, the actual percentage is only 20%. There is aso higher walking and public transport use than businesses think.

Politicians of other cities may be inspired by these conclusions.

Current macroeconomic situation

Colleagues from the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Antwerp have made three very nice videos that explain the current macroeconomic situation (in Dutch). They are giving a very structured and correct explanation of what is happening and why. Even if you know all these things, worth to watch to remind you the basic principles.

1) Current monetary policy of the ECB

2) Fiscal and monetary policy in the corona crisis

3) Inflation or deflation in the corona times

eHighway celebrates a year in operation

In May 2019 Siemens started a field test of the eHighway system on a strech of A5 highway in Germany. It is now exactly a year since it started its operation. In my view it is one of the most promising technologies for decarbonising road freight transport on large scale in countries with developed road infrastructure.

Here is a nice video showing the eHighway system in operation:

Don’t use your phone while sailing

Photo: Premar Mediterranee

We usually hear that it is dangerous to use mobile phone while driving a car. Most countries even have laws forbidding their use while at the steering wheel.

It turns out that this can be a dangerous activity while at sea too. While doing research on maritime statistics I stumbled on a report of this accident.

In October 2018, a Tunisian ferry Ulysse collided in good weather with the container ship CSL Virginia in the Mediterranean Sea. The ship officer on watch had apparently been distracted by a mobile phone.

Belgium wants to implement road tax on tires

Modern cars are using less and less fuel, and there is a growing proportion of electric cars on the road. This results in lower fuel excise incomes that the government is collecting. Therefore, according to it is considered to implement a tax on tires.

In a way this reasoning makes sense – if you drive more, or use a heavier vehicle, you will be taxed more.

The other side of the coin, of course is the safety. This seems like a recipe for disaster, because it encourages to use tires longer, maybe even after tire tread depth is below the legal limit. Not buying winter tires will also be considered.

Tires can be a relatively large purchase, therefore a reasonable tire buyer will very likely decide to take a trip and buy them abroad.

IKEA without parking?

An furniture store without parking would seem a rather unusual sight, but there indeed is one planned like that – IKEA’s city-centre Vienna Westbahnhof store.

It is currently under construction and aims to address the “radically changed customer and mobility behaviours”. This could be because the costumers are less and less eager to tackle the delivery of purchased furniture themselves, and mostly rely on the delivery service.

According to IKEA “around two thirds of Viennese people living in the inner city districts of Vienna do not even have a car any more. They come by public transport, walk, ride bicycles or take a scooter. IKEA Vienna Westbahnhof serves all these changed behaviours.”

In my view it is because people living in the capital cities of Europe who do not own a car have a higher level of disposable income (a car is a substantial cost). This allows those customers spend more money on other things like home improvement, and IKEA sees it.

New night train from Brussels to Vienna

This month a new train service has been launched between Brussels and Vienna. This is an opportunity that I have been waiting for a while, and I really hope they do not cancel it before I have a chance to take it.

Weekly train frequencies along the route:


UPDATE (17.02.2020): As a result of the successful launch and high demand for the train service, the frequency of the train will be increased at least to three times a week from December 2020.