The ‘Atlantic Intermodal Services’ (ATLANTIS) project aims at preparing the launch in early January 2017 of new Motorways of the Sea (MoS) services in the Atlantic Arc between the three ports of Brest, Leixões and Liverpool.

The project was submitted in March 2015 to the Connecting Europe Facility – Motorways of the Sea programme by the Chamber of Commerce of Brest (co-ordinator), Liverpool and Leixões and was successfully selected in June 2015.

The project is designed to bring innovative solutions to support the launch of new shipping lines and ensure their sustainability. Innovation with regards to the business model, the financial instruments and digital logistics tools will facilitate the creation of a unified network of multimodal transport involving all stakeholders (investors, ports, ship-owners and partners).

This new approach to the Motorways of the Sea makes Atlantis a pilot project. Its resulting model could be reused for other Motorways of the Sea services.

The project partners have been working together for two years in connection with the European Commission, the Member States and multimodal transport stakeholders.

Motorways of the Sea

Motorways of the Sea (MoS) is a strand of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T), the transport fund under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).

Motorways of the Sea aims to introduce new intermodal maritime-based logistics chains in Europe. These chains respond to the need to develop more sustainable and commercially more efficient routes, than road-only transport. The concept was developed initially through the Marco Polo programme.

In 2015, Motorways of the Sea has the potential to improve access to markets throughout Europe, and bring relief to the over-stretched European road system. To ensure successful application of the concept, fuller use will have to be made not only of maritime transport resources, but also of the potential in rail and inland waterways, as part of an integrated transport chain. Moreover, new economic models and financial instruments to accompany the launch and development phases of such services will ensure success.

The Atlantis Project

The Atlantis project will undertake the necessary preparations with a range of stakeholders for the successful launch of new RORO and LOLO MoS services along the Atlantic coast of Europe.


The project covers all the studies necessary for the launch of Motorways of the Sea services between the three ports of Brest, Liverpool and Leixões:

1. Developing a formal network, governance structure, and innovative financial tools to accompany the development of the MoS services, and development of a wider stakeholder network in the port regions. This study covers the governance scheme, innovative legal and financial tools.

2. Prototyping the Atlantis ICT LSW (Logistic Single Window) collaborative network of platforms and studying the adaptation to each of the ports’ information systems. The Atlantis service platform will allow customers of the MoS services to reserve and book capacity on a door-to-door basis.

3. Carrying out the necessary technical feasibility work for relevant infrastructure required in the ports and their hinterlands.

4. Ensuring that there is a detailed operational plan for all stakeholders leading up to the launch of the services.

5. Undertaking an active communication action, to disseminate the project results, to promote the project, the MoS concept and the CEF program, and to allow the take-up of the results in other EU maritime regions.

Lastly a project team as well as a multinational strategic Steering Committee will be set up at the beginning of the activities. This organisation will inscribe the project in multimodal transport development strategies, in particular for the Atlantic coasts.

Planning and budget

The project timescale is from 1 January 2014 – 31 December 2016.

This period covers work already undertaken and ongoing pilot work to prepare for the launch of an intended RORO service along the Atlantic from 2017 including network development, mobilising partners and stakeholders, piloting the ICT system and a major international maritime conference for 250 people on 24 June in Liverpool as part of IFB.

In addition to the technical schedules, four important milestones have been identified to accompany the implementation of the project through strong communication and dissemination actions, European in scope:

1. October 2015, in Brest: project launch meeting with for frame two important conferences for those involved in maritime transport: Safer Seas (27-28 October) and the Atlantic maritime strategy (29 October).

2. March 2016, in Porto: 1st progress meeting that will provide the opportunity to organize a meeting of the transnational strategic and technical steering committees (with all the actors of the project including regional, national and European institutions).

3. June 2016 in Liverpool: 2nd progress meeting and organization of an international conference during the Liverpool “international trade festival”.

4. December 2016, at the European Parliament: final conference which will bring together all actors of the project, and the European and national institutions involved.

The budget of the project is of 3 647 758 Euros with European co-financing of 1 823 879 Euros.

The partnership Brest-Liverpool-Leixões

ATLANTIS is carried by an already well-established consortium – the ports of Brest, Leixões and Liverpool – which is working on the action from the beginning of 2014. The ‘Leixões-Brest’ line was also selected by the French and Portuguese governments in 2008 as candidate to the Motorways of the Sea programme. At last the partners have worked together in the framework of the Marco Polo programme between 2009 and 2011.

These collaborations have led to the setup of the Atlantis proposal, addressing the need for innovative tools to sustain the development of MoS services in the Atlantic area, and in Europe more generally.

The project also relies on a positioning analysis of the three ports and of their regions:

Brest: represented by the Chamber of Commerce and industry, the project co-ordinator. The port of Brest is the entry point to rail multimodal links with Lyon and Paris in particular. These lines can provide an alternative to the development of road transport, and help reducing transport costs between Britain and the rest of the France. The project will create new bases and opportunities for the economic development of western French regions.

Liverpool: In the region of Liverpool, Superport encompasses a network transport and logistics facilities providing faster and cheaper access to world trade to and from the United Kingdom and North Ireland. Superport is closer to 35 million people than the southern ports. The historic Port of Liverpool is a key port of the European network and serves the market, along the Manchester Canal, the northern UK road and rail core network. Thus Atlantis serves the goals of opening up of the northern regions of the United Kingdom.

Leixões: represented by the port authorities (APDL). The strategic location of the port of Leixões, on the Atlantic corridor, has motivated the extension of LoLo and RoRo services meshing regional multimodal transport opportunities with those of Brest and Liverpool. Leixões has also initiated the development of a multimodal software platform («Single Logistics Window» concept) which provides simplified and unified multimodal services, door to door, for the whole set of actors of the transport and logistics chains.

Rationale of the project in European MoS and transport strategy

The partnership between Leixões, Brest and Liverpool represents a South-North freight path supplying the North of the UK and Europe.

Liverpool has created an efficient multimodal network around the large port of Liverpool. Liverpool Superport is positioned as one of the major ports of the United Kingdom and Europe, with the ambition to be the port serving the North of the UK and Europe and the exchange with the US.

Leixões is one of the most important ports of trade in the South European Atlantic area. In addition to its geographical position, Leixões owns this development to a commitment in the European programmes for the development of its port infrastructure (oil terminals, RoRo and bulk), and the parallel development of software services of logistics stop for its partners.

The port of Brest fits naturally into this shipping line South-North. As shown in the map with relevant distances between the three ports, Atlantis offers a potentially competitive service of road transport, and opens the opportunity to aggregate to/from Brest flows of an extended hinterland (axes Brest-Paris/Lyon) by interconnecting railway and sea networks.

The map below highlights the geographic and economic rationale of the project: its integration in the European and national TEN-T schemes which it complements the main connections between major European and national transport nodes.

tentIntegration of Atlantis in the European transport network

The European transport map above reveals new development perspectives enabled by the project for the three ports and their hinterlands through interconnection with rail and road networks.


Taking into account transatlantic traffic growth forecasts, due to the extension of the Panama canal and the foreseen free trade agreement with the USA, the project addresses economic development opportunities at all scales: transatlantic, intra and extra-European.

The ports of Brest, Liverpool and Leixões are particularly well positioned to open up the Northern UK regions, Western French regions and the North of the Portugal. The anticipated benefits are of European, national and regional scope.

The intended RORO and LOLO services developed by Atlantis will assist towards the removal of trucks from congested road networks through the Iberian Peninsula, across the natural barriers of the Pyrenees and the English Channel and through congested road networks in France and Great Britain.

Through the TEN-T programme, and in particular Motorways of the Sea, Europe has been able to enhance the strengths of maritime transport with rail and road development plans.

Atlantis will contribute to the development of this strategy by setting up a new maritime line and services based on innovative solutions regarding the business model, the financial instruments and the digital logistic services.

More information on the project can be found via these links:


An Atlantis workshop was held with the project partners from Brest, Liverpool and Porto in the Port of Leixoes, Porto on 8-9th March 2016. Presentations were given by DG Move (Director General for Mobility and Transport) and each port on:

Six months after the Kick off meeting of the project, the first progress meeting took place in Porto on March 8-9 2016 at the premises of the port of Leixoes.

The meeting provided the framework for a stakeholder meeting organized as an opening session on march 8 with representatives of the maritime community (partners and customers of APDL) and with a remote contribution of M. Antongiulio Marin, policy officer at DG Move who introduced the new financial instruments studied between the DG

Move and the European Investment Bank to accompany the development of maritime projects.

The meeting (march 8 afternoon and 9 morning) has enabled discussing the status of the technical studies, the development perspectives in each port and at project level, and the economic and financial study due to start officially on March 14.

This technical meeting between the partners ended on March 9 with a detailing the action plan for the next period clarifying the technical, financial and management issues linked to the project agenda.

Full details are available here