European Court of Justice: Moving empty containers in intermodal is not a cabotage

European Court of Justice: Moving empty containers in intermodal is not a cabotage
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Cabotage, transport services within a country provided by a foreign haulier, has an exception for moving empty containers by combined transport.

European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued a rule that significantly impacts the railway and intermodal transport sector within the European Union (EU).

The practice of cabotage, where transport companies from one EU country operate within another, faces strict regulations, especially for road transport, limiting operations to three domestic trips within seven days. However, the intermodal transport sector, which combines different transportation methods like rail and road, operates under different rules when it comes to container transport.

Previously, the industry faced uncertainty regarding whether the movement of empty containers to or from points of loading or unloading in combined transport scenarios fell under cabotage restrictions. This led to fines for companies, as the German government treated such movements as cabotage.

The ECJ's ruling clarifies that both empty and loaded container transports, as part of intermodal operations, are exempt from the cabotage rules. This decision, as reported by Tigges law firm, is a significant relief and provides much-needed legal certainty for the railway and intermodal transport industry. It aligns with the European Commission's efforts to reduce cabotage restrictions, facilitating a more efficient and seamless transport network across the EU. This decision is a major step forward for the industry, ensuring smoother operations and contributing to the overall growth and efficiency of intermodal transport.

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