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Intermodal transport: intermodal loading units (ILUs)

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Intermodal transport: intermodal loading units (ILUs)

The creation of the single market means that freight transport must be improved. Congestion caused by road freight, however, is a problem facing all the Member States to varying degrees. In this context, the European Union (EU) is encouraging sustainable transport, such as multimodal and intermodal transport operations involving road, rail, inland waterway and short sea shipping.


Proposal for a European Parliament and Council directive on intermodal loading units.



The proposed directive lays down essential requirements and provides for the adoption of harmonised standards with a view to making the use of new intermodal loading units (containers or swap bodies) more efficient and safer, and creating a European intermodal loading unit (freight-carrying unit for use in Europe).

The objective is to increase the competitiveness of intermodal freight transport by harmonising maintenance procedures for loading units, in particular containers and swap bodies, throughout the road, maritime, rail and inland waterway modes.

The majority of Member States have ratified the United Nation's International Convention for Safe Containers (CSC) adopted in1972. This Convention provides for the approval of containers and their periodic inspection. These procedures are not harmonised at Community level, however. Community action is therefore required.

The proposal

The proposal provides for a conformity assessment, maintenance and inspection framework to improve the safety of all existing intermodal loading units. For all new ILUs, it provides for a framework to improve the handling efficiency of the units in terminals, and state-of-the-art security devices.

The proposal also provides for the development of a new type of unit: the European intermodal loading unit (EILU). This unit will combine the benefits of containers (in particular stackability, top handling and ability to withstand transport by sea) and those of swap bodies, in particular their more useful dimensions. It should be possible to use EILUs freely in all modes of transport, on land and by sea, thus ensuring maximum intermodality.

The ILUs and the EILUs covered by the proposal must bear the CE marking indicating that they are in conformity with its requirements. Each unit should bear an indication that it has passed its previous periodic inspection, or, in the case of units that are less than five years old, that they have not yet had to undergo such an inspection.

To ensure safety and minimise the risks to persons and property, all intermodal loading units in use must be regularly maintained and periodically inspected. Member States should designate inspection bodies to carry out the conformity assessment and periodic inspection procedures. They should also ensure that such bodies are sufficiently independent, competent and impartial, and are able to carry out the tasks for which they have been designated and notified.

Before the intermodal loading units and European intermodal loading units are placed on the market, the manufacturer must submit them to one of the conformity assessment procedures described in the directive.

Existing or new intermodal loading units circulating in the Community or used for the transport of goods between the Community and third countries must undergo periodic inspections at least every 30 months.



Official Journal


COM(2004) 361


Codecision COD/2003/0056


Council Decision of 22 July 1993 concerning the modules for the various phases of the conformity assessment procedures and the rules for the affixing and use of the CE conformity marking, which are intended to be used in the technical harmonisation directives [Official Journal L 220 of 30.08.1993].

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on intermodality and intermodal freight transport in the European Union [COM(97) 243 final - not published in the Official Journal].

Directive 98/34/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 June 1998 laying down a procedure for the provision of information in the field of technical standards and regulations [Official Journal L 204 of 21.7.1998].

Last updated: 16.05.2007