Transport of raw materials and glass products 

Transport by ship or train causes less emissions of CO2, NO, SOx and dust than transport by truck and also helps to reduce road congestion. An increasing amount of our raw materials is transported by ship and train.

Fig.16. Breakdown of raw materials transport.

72% of all raw materials is transported by ship or train, taking about 54,500 trucks per year off the road.


This represents a distance of about 650 km if the trucks were to be lined up one behind the other. We intend to continue expanding our combined rail and road transport.

However, we still rely mainly on road transport for the finished products because our customers are scattered so widely over many countries. Nevertheless efforts are being made to increase the use of alternatives. We have substantially increased the use made of combined train and truck transport (in practice the first and last miles are done by road while the largest part of the journey is done with the truck on the train).


In 2016, about 88,000 tonnes of finished glass products were transported in such a way, taking about 4,400 trucks per year off the road.


Sand and sodium carbonate take the train to Boussois


In 2016, Boussois float plant (France) received around 150,000 tonnes of sand from Maubeuge station, which is situated less than 10 km away. Similarly, about 50,000 tonnes of sodium carbonate were delivered to the plant on the same year. This represents a daily traffic of 18 trucks!


Prompted by economic and environmental concerns, the plant renovated a disused railway line and installed an automatic unloading system using trains in the heart of the site itself. This initiative has been operating since 2014 and was rewarded with the Environmental Performance Trophy at the Environord trade fair in Lille!


The environmental benefit of this year was 3,000 tonnes of CO2  avoided and more than 3,600 trucks taken off the road. And for the upcoming years, the plant hopes to increase these environmental gains to 700 tonnes of CO2 avoided and more than 6000 trucks off the road and the site!


Video (in French) about the Boussois project


Multimodal transport: “Green Line” to transport glass products across Europe


Multimodal transport involves transporting goods under a single contract but combining at least two different modes of transport. For instance shipping (by sea or inland waterway) and/or rail and/or road.

It combines road-rail freight transport with the shortest feasible distance by road and the majority of the journey by rail. Reducing the distance travelled by road benefits the environment as the vast majority of road freight is diesel powered and so relies on burning oil products.  By contrast, rail transport in Europe is powered by electricity, and in most countries the electricity produced includes nuclear, hydroelectric or natural gas power stations. These sources emit much less CO2 per unit of energy than coal or oil-fired power stations, and the ratio of renewable energy in the mix (wind, geothermal and solar energy) is increasing constantly. 


In addition to the energy saved by the shift from diesel engines to electric traction, much less energy is needed to move a steel wheel along a steel rail than moving a truck tire on the road. This means that a block train carrying a load of up to 1200 tonnes requires much less energy per payload-tonne than a series of 40 heavy goods vehicles carrying 30 tonnes each.


AGC Glass Europe started to use this mode of transport between its Moustier and Cuneo sites in 2009 and has constantly expanded it since then. AGC and Lannutti, the European leader in logistics management for raw glass, signed an agreement in 2010 setting up Green Line Advanced Systems and Services, a joint venture for combined road-rail transport of glass throughout Europe. Green Line is so far the only European organisation for transport of glass using the road/rail system on behalf of different flat glass makers.


The introduction of this green initiative presented a challenge for the AGC logistics team, as a special trailer had to be designed that could be easily carried on a train. The design also had to avoid glass breakages not only during transport but also during transhipment from road to train. The terminals used by Green Line have a transhipment mechanism capable of lifting a 40-tonne trailer on and off the train.


The network has now been expanded to different rail routes across the EU, ensuring safer and greener glass transport: from Belgium to the Czech Republic or Italy, Spain or even as far as Turkey.  This is only the beginning, as possibilities for new routes are being studied.


Our 5 main areas of logistics effort 

After 2013, we further focused our logistics efforts on five main areas:


1: Reduce the weight of inloader trucks

To increase the weight of glass per shipment, at the end of 2011 we introduced lighter inloader trucks that make it possible to load an additional 2.5T of glass compared to the conventional inloaders.


2: Work hand-in-hand with our contractors to improve logistics

With the help of our haulage contractor, in 2008 we completed development of a special platform in Belgium for loading the trailers directly onto trains to Italy. This platform was extended in 2009 to the Czech Republic. This avoided trucks on the road, with a consequently large reduction in CO2 emissions and traffic congestion.


3: Develop a new type of support allowing more transport flexibility 

We have developed a stillage that makes possible to put automotive pallets on stillages for large-dimension glass. After delivery of large-dimension glass, the stillage can bring back finished automotive glass products, minimising the return trips.


4: Develop new logistic solutions such as the foldable Glasstainer for carrying large-dimension glass by barge and short sea shipping

In 2011, we started to use the Glasstainer solution for some of our shipments. This project was, in part, financially supported by the European Commission under the Marco Polo II programme. 

The Glasstainer is a 20 ft container patented by AGC Glass Europe to transport the large-dimension glass (jumbo glass) by sea. The Glasstainer is foldable, which allows to optimize the return of empty containers.This new container transports jumbo glass sheets from factories in northern Europe to various European markets using a new short sea shipping logistic concept. 

This project can save up to 19,000 tonnes of CO2 over a period of 5 years which represents a reduction of 68% in CO2 emissions that would be otherwise emitted by the trucks if the Glasstainer project was not implemented. This is 6,200 trucks off the road for that period.


5: Develop break-bulk cargo logistic solutions, using a chartered multipurpose vessel for DLF glass for long distance shipping

In 2012, AGC Glass Europe further used the new ways of transporting the glass DLF dimensions overseas (DLF glass stands for “Découpe à Largeur de Fabrication” and the dimensions of this are 3.2 m x 2.2 m) 
We shipped DLF glass in end-caps overseas as break bulk cargo, using a chartered multipurpose vessel. This solution has many advantages: 

  • very high volumes can be shipped in one lot in a stable/secure packaging
  • high flexibility for large shipments (size of vessel, choice of ports, period of shipment)

The system was significantly extended in 2013 on the Black Sea for our shipments to Asia.

Up to 3,500 tonnes of DLF glass can be shipped at once as break bulk cargo.