In 2003, the European Commission made a proposal concerning the introduction of Intermodal Loading Units (ILU-001).
According to the Commission, differences in design, size and technical characteristics of loading units makes intermodal transport very complex. These differences would constitute a barrier for interoperability. Loading and unloading is slowed down because every box has to be individually identified to determine what technique should be used. The lifting equipment often needs to be specially adapted or tuned, which brings unnecessary costs. Most of the time swap-bodies are only used in road- and rail transport, whereas containers are mainly used in sea and inland navigation.
Therefore, the European Commission made a proposal in 2003 for an Optimal Intermodal Loading Unit, the UECI. The Intermodal Loading Unit has the main advantages of the container (sturdy and stackable), but also of the swap-body (larger capacity). These European units can be used by the four modes of transport (rail, road, sea and inland navigation). Transhipment between the different modes would therefore become simpler.
The proposal contained requests on safety, security, interoperability, loading and unloading, sturdiness, coding and identification of the units. The proposal was amended several times during the decision-making procedure, but in the end no consensus was found. Most of the sector stakeholders strongly opposed to the proposal. On 25 March 2009, the European Commission therefore revoked it (ILU-002).
Some relevant documents:
ILU-002: Withdrawal of obsolete Commission proposals (2009/C 71:07) (OJ C 71/07 dd. 25.03.2009) (European Commission)
ILU-001: Communication from the Commission. Programme for the Promotion of Short Sea Shipping – Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Intermodal Loading Units (European Commission)