Financial analysis of the transport of wood chips as an option among other solid fiberbased combustibles from the USA to Germany
This thesis analyzes the profitability of US American exports of woody biomass to Germany. To see under which conditions the transport has its maximum rate of return, four trans-porting categories are investigated. Firstly, it will be analyzed whether the woody biomass should be compressed to pellets, secondly which type and cargo handling features the vessel should have, thirdly which charter conditions, harbors, trade terms, and routes should be taken and fourthly, which market conditions under current market prices for energy wood, variation of exchange rates and fuel oil prices are favorable, to improve the efficiency of the transport. Be-yond that, also the Canadian exports have been analyzed in order to benchmark the market leader against the USA.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF TABLES
LIST OF FIGURES
LIST OF ACRONYMS
Demand in Europe
Demand in Germany
Supply of Timber based Biomass
Torrefied Woody Biomass
Transatlantic Shipment of Fiber based Fuel
Charter Party (C/P)
Port of Loading
Port of Discharge
European Hinterland Transport
Net Present Value
Main Thesis Question
Additional Thesis Question
The European demand for wood chips and wood pellets is strongly increasing in the course of a new energy policy. This new policy limits the use of non-renewable energy sources to a maximum of 80 % in favor of a 20 % renewable energy mix by 2020. Besides the main renewable energy sources, wind and hydro, woody biomass shall contribute the largest part of the generation of heat and power. As North West European wood resources are not sufficient for this sudden demand, the region relies on imports from abroad. The large renewable wood resources of the North American continent could be used increasingly to supply woody biomass to North West European countries like Germany.
This thesis analyzes the profitability of US American exports of woody biomass to Germany. To see under which conditions the transport has its maximum rate of return, four transporting categories are investigated. Firstly, it will be analyzed whether the woody biomass should be compressed to pellets, secondly which type and cargo handling features the vessel should have, thirdly which charter conditions, harbors, trade terms, and routes should be taken and fourthly, which market conditions under current market prices for energy wood, variation of exchange rates and fuel oil prices are favorable, to improve the efficiency of the transport. Beyond that, also the Canadian exports have been analyzed in order to benchmark the market leader against the USA.
In general, the transatlantic trade of industrial wood pellets and, under favorable circumstances, also the transport of wood chips from the USA is profitable. Currently, best profit margins can be earned when transporting industrial pellets between the US southern east coast and Berlin, which vary between US$ 21.36/t to 27.70/t.
Canadian industrial wood pellet sourcing, as the biggest competitor to the USA, is more beneficial and margins reach up to US$ 32.09 per ton of pellets. However, as pelletizing capacities in the Great Lake region and the east coast and especially the southeastern region of the USA are expanding, southeastern trade could overcome the profitability of trading Canadian pellets within the coming years, especially due to the shorter transporting distance and avoidance of the costly passage through the Panama Canal.
First of all, I want to thank the supervisors of the Hochschule Bremen and the University of North Carolina Wilmington for admitting me to their college and to have me as a student for the business administration program. I also thank the teachers and colleagues in helping me to broaden my view and knowledge.
My deepest appreciation goes to Dr. Graham; firstly for encouraging me in my choice of the topic of the master thesis, secondly that he accepted me as a student in his master committee and thirdly for his support during the progress of my thesis.
Many thanks are also expressed to Dr. Ciner and Dr. Dumas for their commitment to this thesis. Without Dr. Ciner, I wouldn’t have these deep international trading insights about the future and forwards trade to hedge risk and Dr. Dumas, who gave me support in the natural resource economics and environmental protection.
I also would like to express my sincere thanks to the ttz-Bremerhaven and specifically to Mr. Schank and Ms. Wildegger for their excellent support for my thesis and the whole team of the “renewable energies / biomass & biofuels” department helping me gathering background information about woody biomass which is the underlying of this master thesis.
I furthermore want to thank Mr. Rolf Bastian for giving me important information about the chartering business of the shipping industry. Without his knowledge, I wouldn’t have had thus deep insights into the transatlantic and hinterland shipping business.
My heartiest thank goes to Mr. Schlesinger who had the idea about this project and gave me the connection to the ttz-Bremerhaven.
Last but not least, I want to thank my family and friends for their continuous backing to finish the master thesis.
LIST OF TABLES
1 Norms for Wood chips
2. Energy content of different wood assortments as a function of water content
3. North American wood chip prices
4. Wood chips, CIF NWE
5. Industrial pellets, FOB North America
6. Industrial pellets, CIF NWE
7. Pricing of wood chips in the hinterland of Germany
8. Typical features of various types of bulk carriers
9. Fuel oil consumption at sea in various sizes of bulk carriers
10. Fuel oil capacity according to the ship’s size
11. Classification Society Notations for Bulk Carriers
12. Differences between C/Ps
13. Transport of wood chips from Savannah to Rotterdam by geared carrier
14. Transport of Wood chips from Savannah to Rotterdam by ungeared carrier
15. Transport of industrial pellets from Savannah to Rotterdam by geared carrier
16. Transport of industrial pellets from Savannah to Rotterdam by ungeared carrier
17. Transport of wood chips from North Caroline to Rotterdam by geared carrier
18. Transport of wood chips from North Carolina to Rotterdam by ungeared carrier
19. Transport of industrial pellets from North Carolina to Rotterdam by geared carrier
20. Transport of industrial pellets from NC to Rotterdam by ungeared carrier
21. Transport of wood chips from Panama City to Rotterdam by geared carrier
22. Transport of wood chips from Panama City to Rotterdam by ungeared carrier
23. Transport of industrial pellets from Panama City to Rotterdam by geared carrier
24. Transport of wood pellets from Panama City to Rotterdam by ungeared carrier
25. Transport of wood chips from Vancouver to Rotterdam by geared carrier
26. Transport of wood chips from Vancouver to Rotterdam by ungeared carrier
27. Transport of industrial pellets from Vancouver to Rotterdam by geared carrier
28. Transport of industrial pellets from Vancouver to Rotterdam by ungeared carrier
29. Freight rates for the inland transport by barge according to the distance (km)
30. Descriptive statistics according to the T/C shipping costs (US$/t) USEC/USG to ARA and the type of cargo and vessel
LIST OF FIGURES
1. Contribution of the heating value in MWh per ton to the moisture content in %
2. German consumer prices for wood pellets
3. Prices of wood chips at 35% water content
4. The approxiamte correlation between a vessel’s draft in feet and it’s tdw
5. One year dry bulk T/C rates (US$/d)
6. Four year dry bulk T/C rates in periodic average ($/d)
7. Comparison between one and three year T/C from May 2010 until May 2011 ($/d)
8. Freight rate range within the handymax class
9. Transport costs by T/C-trip and per ton of cargo
10. Surcharge for the transport to Hamburg compared to Rotterdam in %
11. Freight rate for one barge per distance (100 km) and ton of cargo
12. Price difference (US$/t) between NC and Vancouver
13. profit by using T/C-trip from North America to Rotterdam
14. Comparison between using V/C and T/C, from NC to Rotterdam
15. Rate of return by using T/C-trip from North America to Berlin
16. NPV per ton of cargo by using T/C-trip from North America to Berlin
LIST OF ACRONYMS
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Demand in Europe
The European Union targets a gross energy consumption from renewable energies by 2020 of 20 %. In 2013, the trade of CO2certificates will continue without any further issuances from the European Commission which will encourage the competitive ability of renewable primary energy against fossil primary energy. In order to qualify for Renewable Obligations Certificates (ROC), heat and power producer are required to source a percentage of the energy supplied from renewable sources. The goal is to raise the use of renewable energy in dedicated or co-fired power stations to 15.4 % by 2015/16 and to 20 % by 2020.
Biomass, which is currently the leading source of renewable energy worldwide, is conducive to generate a wide variety of energy products including transportation fuels, bio-derived products such as plastics and chemicals, and electricity and heat generation.
While the biomass industry has waxed and waned with shifting government policies and mandates over the years, a recent report from Pike Research forecasts that worldwide capital investment in biomass infrastructure will maintain steady growth during the next five years, rising from US$ 28.2 billion annually in 2010 to US$ 33.7 billion by 2016. Under these financial circumstances, shouldn’t it profitable to step into the trading business of wood chips?
In order to move such big amounts of wood, the handling has been standardized and professionalized. Transporting wood as ’tops and lops’, for example, is inefficient as too much space is required handling cannot be automated. Today, fiber fuel as a mass product can be shipped in bulk as wood chips, wood pellets or as torrefied wood pellets. In that way, the handling is fully automated enabling multimodal transports without long standing times. As wood chips are needed to produce wood pellets and torrefied wood, wood chips are the basic and cheapest form of woody fuel for the commercial consumption. Since global trade of wood chips is common for paper pulp production, couldn’t chips be profitably transported also for producing energy?
In 2008, almost 50 million wood chips were produced in the USA, of which, only 4.1 million tons were exported. Main consumers were China, Japan, and Europe. In 2009, 10 million tons of wood pellets where consumed worldwide, 8 million of them alone in Europe. Currently, in the EU, 170 co-fired cogeneration units are operational. In 2020, the consumption globally is projected to be more than 80 million tons.
According to the wood chips fired power station in Lyonsdale, NY, which has a consumption of 48,000-55,000 Mg wood chips per annum, one ton of green wood chips (moisture content of 40-55%) costs approximately $ 21.00. In comparison, one ton of wood chips in the German hinterland costs approximately € 91.00.
Other reasons why the trade of wood chips can be successful is the objective of the Kyoto agreement and the new European electricity law, which supports the usage of green energy, especially if primary energy has been provided as climate friendly as possible and if the generation of electricity is linked with the generation of district heating.
Demand in Germany
As part of this program, nuclear power supply is phasing out and more and more cities will close down their fossil-fired power stations and invest in boilers which are suitable for woody biomass. The small forest area in Germany amounting to 11.1 million hectares can take an important contribution but is not able to cover the sudden demand for fuel wood. As a comparison, the USA has approximately 350 million hectares of forests. Under these circumstances the German wood imports are expected to be increasing, especially since the American forests are sustainably managed to continually produce wood as a renewable energy resource. Therefore the financial efficiency of exporting woody fuel from the US to Germany under several scenarios will be analyzed.
German electricity prices from nuclear power stations and renewable energy facilities are similar; which is due to a certain price surcharges for electricity of nuclear sources. Germany depends on the OPEC and Russian supply for oil and gas and prices have been increasing considerably. Coal and biomass products can be imported from a multitude of countries and are therefore better hedged.
In Germany, big cities like Berlin (3.5 million inhabitants) and many smaller cities like Flensburg (90,000 inhabitants) aim to produce green electricity connected with district heating. They want to close down their fossil-fired power stations and invest in boilers which operate on wood chips or wood pellets. As these power stations are mostly sited municipally, electricity cogeneration can be connected with district heating.
The primary purpose of this master thesis is to find out under which scenario the profit of trading woody biomass from the USA to Germany can be maximized. The second purpose of the thesis is to find out whether the transatlantic transport of wood chips besides other fiber based fuels is profitable and if, what is the profit. Thirdly, it will be analyzed, which transport setting is most beneficial according to the greatest profit of each transport and which factors are most decisive determining the profit of the different trades. Furthermore, Canada, as the largest European export competitor of energy wood, will be benchmarked to the US market. As given in the thesis title, the analysis is purely financial, basing on current prices. Other possible aspects like CO2 mitigation or energy consumption during the process chain are disregarded.
To evaluate the research questions, four scenarios have been analyzed:
1. Preference of the sourcing of the woody biomass
2. Preference of harbors, shipping routes and distances
3. Preference of the vessels specifications (loading capacities, cargo handling gear)
4. The best form of charter party for the broker
a. the broker has durable delivery contracts
b. the broker has own port facilities and / or durable trading contracts
c. The trader has no specific deals or ownership with the terminals
“The transatlantic transport of wood chips besides other woody biofuel from the USA to Germany is not profitable.”
In the first stage, the present wood resources and wood prices have been segmented by the different regions of the USA.
Secondly, the freight expenses were calculated based on the different cost factors affecting the shipping companies. Therefore, several expenses like current charter rates in US$ per day, several harbor and bunker charges and the costs for cargo handling have been absorbed by different ports of loading and discharging.
As third step, profit margins were calculated according to current European selling prices of woody biomass and subtracted by the sum of the observed purchasing prices of the woody biomass in the USA and the transport costs to the destination. The following formula has been used:
Profit = Revenue - Costs
In the fourth stage, the rate of return has been calculated by dividing the profit from the investments to evaluate the specific capitalization factor of the investment and to simplify the comparison between the different trade opportunities.
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In the fifth instance, the NPV has been calculated to show if the different trades from different shipping settings exceed opportunity cost of capital.
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The C0is the initial cash flow, C1the selling cash flow and r the capitalization rate
In order to prove the profitability of the carriage of fiber based material from the US to Europe, this paper is divided into five chapters. The first chapter is describing the intention and the research questions of this thesis. It also shows the model, which is used to calculate the shipping costs, the profit margin, the rate of return and the NPV according to several shipping and trading scenarios.
The second chapter, the literature review, shows the background information about the cargo which has to be transported and the transport itself. Therefore, this chapter is separated in several subchapters. The first segment briefly outlines the origin of the woody biomass. It will be shown, where the resources in which quantity are available and shows some insights into the cultivation of the forests and the plantations. The second section provides information of the specifications and production, the transportability, the caloric value and the prices of wood chips, wood pellets and torrefied pellets. Furthermore trading terms like the Inco terms and trading platforms like the APX, BFI, and ARGUS necessary for international trade are introduced. The third segment illustrates the logistical characteristics of the US American ports, the transatlantic carriage and the discharging processes at the European seaports. In this part, information about specific shipping parameters, facilities and pricings are given. This includes different categories of charter parties, port and handling capacities, vessel classes, propulsion specifics and discharging facilities. The last section of the second chapter illustrates the German hinterland transport. This part includes waterways, barge details, and loading and unloading specifications.
In the third chapter, the methodology, explains how the gathered information from the second chapter are processed to calculate several transporting scenarios from the North American Continent to the Northwestern region of Europe. This chapter is separated into two parts. The first gives calculations on the transatlantic shipment by the means of different possible freight and vessels categories, harbors, and charter parties, and the second focuses on the German hinterland transport and compares them with transports by truck and train.
The fourth chapter contains the results from the calculations of the different methods of transshipments and compares the costs according to the different shipping ranges and vessel features, current market prices of woody biomass, and the return and profit of the trades.
The fifth chapter, the discussion, mentions different trading scenarios which haven’t been considered for the transshipments and evaluates its effects to the transport profitability. Furthermore, potential impacts to the primary energy market will be implicated. It will be estimated how variables like the exchange rate between the US$ and the €, the price development of crude oil, the world’s wealth and the peoples mindset of green energy could influence the market development to narrow down to an outlook of how the future energy market could look like.
The conclusion, which is the final chapter, reminds the reader of the initial problem statement and the hypothesis and relates them to the results of the study. Then the conclusion presents the new insights that arose from this paper and how they could affect the existing market participants.
Supply of Timber based Biomass
Wood is one of the oldest fuel sources known to man. Traditionally, only cordwood and wood chips were used for the thermal energy production. In the 27 member states of the European Union (EU-27), the consumption of traditional firewood amounts 1,327 Petajoule (PJ) or approximately 139,000 m³ wood in 2005. Till 2050, this consumption is expected to drop to 650 PJ while the consumption of wood chips and wood pellets will rise from 280 PJ in 2005 to 1,400 PJ in 2050.
In the future, wood based fuel can be supplied from three sources.
1. Traditional harvesting in forests,
2. the recovery of waste wood, e.g. constructional wood form the demolishment of buildings, the collecting of sawdust, shavings and bark in timber mills, the waste sludge of paper mills,
3. and as a new source, wood from the cultivation of short rotation coppices (SRC).
To obtain woody biofuel at large scale for the transatlantic export, the supply must rely on the harvesting of existing forests and increasingly on SRCs. In the long run, only these two sources are able to fulfill the increasing demand for the cogeneration heat and power (CHP). Waste wood, saw dust from lumber mills or other waste wood will not be able to fulfill the European needs. In 2011, European power producers like Vattenfall Europe AG stated, that their woody biofuel needs will arise to a minimum of 10 million Mg of wood annually only for the region of Berlin by 2020.
Pinus palustris (Longleaf Pine), Pinus taeda (Loblolly Pine) and Pinus elliotti (Slash pine), are fast growing native species in the southeastern United States. As they are growing in sustainably managed plantations, they deliver large amounts of cheap timber. In their first five to twelve years, vertical growth is slow, but after this stage, they are growing fast till maturity. Furthermore, these trees are resistant against wildfire and well adapted to the southeastern environment. Even to environmental changes caused by global warming, the Longleaf Pine forests will be particularly well adapted. Pine trees are suitable as firewood; they are easily flammable and can burn extremely hot. In plantations, the trees can be harvested at a 20 to 30 years rotation. These trees are grown to provide pulp wood for the paper industry. As the demand for paper wood is decreasing, feedstock prices are decreasing respectively in the southeast. Timber resources are increasing annually by 30 % for the last 10 years. In Georgia, approximately 1,000 acres of pine trees get replanted every day. For this reason, more and more pellet manufacturer set up pellet squeezers to start production.
The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) compliance ensure that all fiber derived from forests with such an certificate like in southeast USA fulfill logger training requirements, a cultivation of regenerative forests and that the seller will adhere to all requirements of their standard. Especially for the power production, it is important that woody biofuel comes from sustainably managed plantations as only this source is permitted as feedstock for the pellet industry by EU law. Otherwise the CO2equation is not balanced.
The second largest production capacity is growing in the Northwest of the USA. In contrast to the southeast, wood from this area is not as fast growing as it is in the subtropical climate. The south-east is fostering fast growing plantations. Therefore US prices for woody fuel are more competitive in the southeast.
Nevertheless, Canada is currently the largest supplier of woody biomass for the European demand. Canadian feedstock is one of the largest worldwide. Canada has 10 % of the world’s forests which is an area of 397.3 million hectares. Annually, less than one % of Canada’s forests are harvested, in 2008, Canada harvested 136.9 million cubic meters (m³) of roundwood, and 13.7 million hectares (ha) were affected by insect defoliation in British Columbia (BC). Furthermore Canada has the largest area of certified forest in the world, more than 142 million ha. Approximately 40 % of the world’s certified forest area is in Canada. Approximately 8 % of Canada’s forest area is protected by legislation. By law, all forests harvested on Canada’s public land must be successfully regenerated.
The pioneer plants eucalyptus, bamboo, poplar, black locust, birch, willow and others are fast growing species, which can be used in short rotation coppice (SRC). They can be harvested in three to five year rotations and produce 20 to 40 Mg dry matter (wd) annually of wood chips per hectare (ha). Without fertigation, which is a mixture of fertilizing and irrigation, the yield depends on the quality of the soil and the rainfall. Poplar and other species like black locust are efficient where water supply is sufficient, as poor or sandy soil can be used because these species are able to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. Therefore, growing these trees is sustainable in several ways. Firstly no fertilizer is required, secondly, the CO2balance is nearly at equilibrium and thirdly, poor sites are satisfactory to support tree growth. As poplar yields between 20 to 30 Mg (wd) per annum and more in subtropical climate, it only delivers 10 to 20 Mg of wood chips weighted dry (wd) per annum in temperate climate zones.
Wood chips can be produced by chipping any kind of wood. The production of wood chips is fully mechanized by a mobile chipper or at a chipping plant. Wood chips are pieces of wood roughly chipped to a non-uniform sizes between 3.5 and 100 mm. They may be a blend of soft and hard wood. Properties of wood chips are specified in the standard CEN/TS 14961 “Solid biofuel - fuel specifications and classes”, and can be classified according to moisture content, bulk density, net calorific value, energy density and particle size classification. The CEN Standard –CEN/TS 15103 describes methods for the determination of the bulk density, according to its specific moisture content. The measurement “as received” (ar), includes the moisture content. On the other side, wood chips which are traded at the scale “dry matter” or “weighted dry” (wd) excludes the moisture content and expresses the pure woody material at a theoretical moisture content of zero percent. In that way, a comparison between different sorts of wood chips is possible. The requirements for the particle size distribution of wood chips for a certain consignment are given in table 1.
Fresh wood chips (ar) have a weight of 300-350 kg/m³; absolute dry wood chips “wd” have a weight of 140-150 kg/m³. The water content of wood chips is usually too high for direct use as a fuel. Wood chips need to be dried which raises storage and heating costs. If wood chips are stored in a pile, they heat up within the pile up to temperatures of 140 Fahrenheit and higher and may lose up to 25 % of their potential energy due to microbiological deterioration. Wood chips need to be dried to a water content below 35 % in order to get the cargo storage-stable. For this reason, a moisture content of 35 % will be presumed for the shipping calculation from the US to Western Europe. Conifer wood chips derived from North America have a stowage factor of 100 – 120 cbf per long ton (LT) which is a volume of 3.07 to 4.46 m³/t. In comparison, wheat bulk has a volume or stowage factor of 1.31 – 1.37 m³/ton and coal 0.79 – 1.53 m³/ton. In terms of shipping and handling costs, not the weight of the load matters, but the volume of the load. Ship owners get paid per m³ space utilized in the vessels holds. In the shipping industry, the term is called “weight/measurement”. If the cargo is larger than one m³/t, the transport is charged by the measurement of the cargo; every cubic meter is charged as one ton.
A 40 feet container has a capacity of 76.5 m³. Therefore 20.32 t of wood chips fit one 40’ container at a stowage factor of 3.765. As 40’ containers have a maximum load capacity of 26.6 t, 6 tons container capacity are unused.
The energy content is the foundation for the wood fuel trade and the acceptable range is usually stated in the trading contract. Recommended methods for specifications are the net calorific value measured typically in Gigajoule per ton (GJ/t), or the energy density (kWh/m³). The energy content decreases with increasing moisture content. The net calorific value of chipped conifer wood is approximately 12.4 GJ/t or 3.45 MWh/t at a moisture content of 30 % and 15.6 GJ/t at a moisture content of 15 %. As a comparison, lignite typically has an energy content of 12-16 GJ/t while hard coal has 24-27 GJ/t. The regression between moisture content and the calorific value for deciduous and conifer wood is given in figure 1 and 2. As the moisture content of fiber based fuel decreases, the higher is the calorific value.
For the consumer, specifications like water content and the caloric value determine the price of the wood chips. For the trader, the prices for wood chip are a matter of terms which are agreed in the shipping contract with the seller or the ship owner. The purchase agreement states among other things the weight, value, and the kind of the wood, its actual moisture content and the Inco term of the trade. The Inco terms are a set of uniform rules codifying the interpretation in three letters defining the rights and obligations of the trading terms. “free on board” (FOB) and “cost insurance freight” (CIF) are the most common terms used for the transatlantic trade of bulk cargo.
1. FOB: The seller has to deliver the cargo to the port which the buyer has nominated and has to perform the loading of the vessel. Furthermore, the seller must clear the goods for the export. As the cargo has been loaded to the vessel, the cargo has been officially delivered and the seller’s obligations are fulfilled.
2. CIF: The seller bears the cost for the loading, the freight rate for the vessel and the cargo insurance for the transport. The seller has to bring the cargo to the terminal agreed by the contract partners. The discharging cost bears the buyer at the port of discharge.
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