Global container throughput recorded a substantial growth over the past 25 years. The ports of Rotterdam, Hamburg and Antwerp have benefited greatly of this development. (Statistikamt Nord, 2014) At the same time rapid increases can be observed for the dimensions of container vessels calling these ports. In 2005 the average capacity of container vessels in operation between Northern Europe and Far East amounted to 6,000 TEU. However, already today market actors talk about container vessels with a capacity of 24,000 TEU. (ITF, 2015) This development provides a challenge for seaports concerning the water-side and landside accessibility. According to UVHH (2014) a rising amount of Ultra Large Container Vessels in the Port of Hamburg bears the risk of an increasing number of peaks and bottlenecks within the container terminals. These fluctuations will be continued at the interface to hinterland transport modes and to the connections to hinterland regions. By intelligently combining and switching between different transport modes the concept of synchromodality could form a solution for improving hinterland transportation and reducing bottlenecks in the seaports. (Tavasszy et al., 2015) This paper analyses the degree of implementation of synchromodality in major European container ports with special focus on the Port of Hamburg.Keywords: Synchromodality, hinterland, maritime, seaport, implementation, preconditions, barriersIntroductionGlobal container throughput recorded a substantial growth over the past 25 years. The ports of Rotterdam, Hamburg and Antwerp have benefited greatly of this development. The Port of Hamburg’s container throughput e.g. increased by more than 490 % from just under 1.98 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit (TEU) in 1990 to almost 9.78 million TEU in 2014. (Statistikamt Nord, 2014, 2015) At the same time the Port of Antwerp recorded an increase in handled container volumes of almost 580 % from 1.55 million TEU in 1990 to about 8.98 million TEU in 2014. (Statistikamt Nord, 2014; Antwerp Port Authority, 2015) The Port of Rotterdam’s container volumes increased by more than 335 % from 3.67 million TEU to 12.30 million TEU during the same period of time. (Port of Rotterdam Authority et al., no date)Similar rapid increases can be observed for the dimensions of container vessels calling these ports. In 2005 the average capacity of container vessels in operation between Northern Europe and Far East amounted to 6,000 TEU. However, the average capacity increased to 10,000 TEU in 2013 and is still increasing. (ITF, 2015) According to ITF (2015) shipping lines have ordered vessels with even larger nominal capacities. The currently largest container vessel on order belongs to the liner shipping company OOCL and has a capacity of 21,100 TEU. (ITF, 2015) This development continues. Already today market actors talk about container vessels with a capacity of 24,000 TEU. Ocean Shipping Consultants and Lloyds Register already conducted a feasibility study on such container vessels. (ITF, 2015)The described development of the world container vessel fleet provides a challenge for seaports. On the one hand this concerns the nautical accessibility as well as the dimensions of berths. On the other hand increasing vessel dimensions and capacities are challenging container terminals and the connections to the hinterland. According to UVHH (2014) a rising amount of Ultra Large Container Vessels (ULCV) in the Port of Hamburg bears the risk of an increasing number of peaks and bottlenecks within the container terminals. These fluctuations will be continued at the interface to hinterland transport modes and to the connections to hinterland regions. Port and infrastructure extensions could form a solution to this. However, due to scarce space reserves an expansion of infrastructure and terminal capacities can hardly be realized in the large European seaports. Hence, Notteboom and Rodrigue (2005) refer to growing interdependencies between the seaports and terminals in the hinterland. A collaboration of seaports and inland terminals could help to overcome peaks and bottlenecks. (Notteboom and Rodrigue, 2005) The concept is further developed to an Extended Gate Concept by Veenstra et al. (2012). Synchromodality bases upon the Extended Gateway Concept and thus, could form a solution smoothing the peaks and reducing the bottlenecks resulting from continuously growing container vessel sizes.In this paper the degree of implementation of synchromodality in major European container ports is analyzed. For this an extensive literature review has been carried out in order to define synchromodality in a first step. Afterwards the general definition of synchromodality is transferred to the maritime transport chain. In a third step the degree of implementation of synchromodality in the TOP 3 European container ports is analyzed with special focus on prerequisites of synchromodality in maritime transport chains. Due to the fact that special attention should be put on the Port of Hamburg the literature analysis was complemented by expert interviews with actors involved in maritime transport chains via the Port of Hamburg. Finally, conclusions are drawn summarizing the results and evaluating the chances and state of synchromodality in the Port of Hamburg. Synchromodality - The next generation of multimodal transportationGenerally spoken, synchromodality is a relatively young term that is not officially defined so far. First usages can be found in the grey literature in 2010 e.g. the publication of a project report by the Dutch research institute TNO on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment. (Tavasszy et al., 2010) According to Tavasszy et al. (2010) synchromodality means an integrated transport solution (for a larger group of companies) where the optimal transport mode and available capacity is used at all times. One or more coordinators of complete transport chains or transport chain sections are monitoring the synchromodal transport chain. The mode choice decision is continuously checked. It will be then dynamically adjusted if there is a new ‘best transport mode’.Since the first use of the term synchromodality in the grey literature different definitions arose. (van der Burgh, 2012) However, although the term synchromodality is gaining popularity in academic publications, no final and consistent definition exists so far. (Pleszko, 2012; van der Burgh, 2012;van Riessen, 2013; Reis, 2015; Tavasszy et al., 2015) In order to define synchromodality, in a way that integrates all aspects of synchromodality discussed in the grey and scientific literature, a total of 23 publications have been analyzed. (Tavasszy et al., 2010; ECT, 2011; Tavasszy et al., 2011; van Stijn et al., 2011; van Wijk et al., 2011; Verweij, 2011; Douma et al., 2012; Pleszko, 2012; van der Burgh, 2012; Li et al., 2013; van Riessen et al., 2013a; van Riessen, 2013; van Riessen et al., 2013b; Roth, 2013; Behdani et al., 2014; DHL, 2014; Knol et al., 2014; SteadieSeifi et al., 2014; alice, 2015; Putz et al., 2015; Reis, 2015; Tavasszy et al., 2015; TKI DINALOG, no date)In this paper synchromodality is defined by the authors in high conformity with Putz et al. (2015) as follows:‘Synchromodality is at the actual time of performance the most efficient and most appropriate transport solution in terms of transport costs, duration as well as sustainability. Within the concept of synchromodality the configuration of the transport chain is not pre-defined before the transport starts but flexible. Thus, the configuration of the transport chain (mode choice) can be adapted according to the infrastructural and capacitive conditions at the actual time of transportation. This is made possible through a collaboration of all transport modes, the required terminal facilities as well as other actors involved that exchange real-time information on capacities and schedules. Thereby the collaboration is under the governing of a central institution that monitors the interactions between the different actors as well as provides the necessary information technology infrastructure.’The majority of the analyzed publications consider synchromodality as the latest stage of development of still developing modality concepts. (Tavasszy et al., 2011; Verweij, 2011; Pleszko, 2012; Behdani et al., 2014; Putz et al., 2015; Tavasszy et al., 2015) However, the differences between the different concepts are partly just marginal. (SteadieSeifi et al., 2014; Reis, 2015) As an example, according to SteadieSeifi et al. (2014) the concept of multimodality includes all other modality concepts. Thus, the authors only use the term multimodality in their research paper. Reis (2015) also mention the co-existing and overlapping definitions for the different modality concepts. For a greater clarity Reis (2015) carried out an extensive literature analysis in order to be able to clearly define and differentiate the terms multimodality, intermodality, combined transport, co-modality and synchromodality. However, it is not explicitly stated whether co-modality and synchromodality require the use of at least two different transport modes. Pleszko (2012) also mentions co-existing definitions and defines synchromodality as a “multimodal transport policy at a higher level of process organization […], based on combinations of co-modal transport with proper scale of individualized solutions”. In this definition co-modality allows the use of one transport mode only if this is the most efficient solution.According to Tavasszy et al. (2015) and Behdani et al. (2014) synchromodality can be differentiated from the other modality concepts due to a higher degree of process organization. Following the authors’ argumentation synchromodality is characterized by a dual integration that is no attribute of the other modality concepts. This is illustrated in Figure 1.