The Space / Cost Dichotomy of Forelands and Hinterlands
Depending if space (distance) or cost is considered, the relative importance of the hinterland significantly changes. For instance, when international transport chains are considered (such as trade between Asia and Europe or North America) the foreland distance (maritime shipping) commonly account for 90% of the total distance while the hinterland distance (rail, barge and truck combination) account for the remaining 10%. From this perspective, the hinterland appears to be a relatively marginal concern as the large share of the distance is covered by maritime shipping.
However, from a cost perspective the relation is the opposite, thus the dichotomy. Maritime shipping has achieved remarkable economies of scale, underlining its ability to transport cargo over long distances and at a low unit cost. Economies of scale are much more difficult to achieve over the hinterland and as traffic increases, transport networks near ports are getting increasingly congested. Hinterland transportation accounts for a dominant share (about 80%) of the transport cost while maritime shipping accounts for the remaining 20%. Therefore, hinterland transportation remains one of the most salient issues in long distance freight distribution.