Freight Modelling: WCM and NODUS

World Container Model (WCM)

In order to analyse possible shifts in future container transport demand and the impacts of relevant transport policies, a strategic model for the movement of containers on a global scale was developed at TNO in partnership with the Delft University of Technology and TML. The model excels at combining a consistent description of worldwide trade flows, container flows and transportation services on a global scale, combined with a port and multimodal route choice model.

The multimodal route and port choice procedure is conducted using an improved logit choice model, that considers overlaps between alternative routes in the network. The model considers transport times, tariffs and time sensitivity of goods. It describes yearly container flows across the world’s shipping routes through 437 container ports around the world, based on trade information to and from all countries, taking more than 800 maritime container line services into account. The model distinguishes between import, export and transhipment flows of containers at ports, as well as hinterland flows.

The model was calibrated against all available port throughput statistics. Scenario analyses done with the model included the effect of low speed shipping, increase of land-based shipping costs, major infrastructures such as the Trans-Siberian rail line and the opening of Polar shipping routes. The model is being applied for the European Commission’s Trans-European Networks programme and the Rotterdam Port Authority, to develop long term forecasts.

Presentations about WCM:


The University of Mons (FUCAM) has developed NODUS, a GIS-system to model freight flows in Europe. NODUS is used, among other things, to analyse strategic transport, socio-economic studies for new infrastructure and impact analyses of new tax/toll schemes. The software was first launched in 1991 and has since been upgraded and applied in several European research projects and in supporting the Walloon policy on multimodal freight transport. NODUS has recently been used to achieve a plan to integrate the development of freight networks and terminals in the Walloon Region and for the socio-economic analysis of the mega-project ‘Seine-Nord’, connecting the north of France with the Paris basin.

The WCM focuses on modelling global freight flows, whereas NODUS is more oriented on modelling freight transport within Europe, emphasizing mode choice and multimodal chains. When appropriate, the two models may be combinated. In such cases WCM calculates the global freight transport from/to the European harbours and NODUS performs a detailed, multimodal assignment of the freight transport within Europe.

Transport & Mobility Leuven’s model experts are active both in applying the model and in continuously improving and upgrading both freight transport models.

recent projects

Trade Facilitation ImpactImproving the efficiency of importing and exporting containers by using an advanced electronic system
World Container Model (WCM)The worldwide container model in brief
Evaluation of the Trans-Siberian RailwayBusiness case for new Trans-Siberian railway corridor services