VW is reported to have started parts shipments using a direct short sea route between its Autoeuropa production plant in Palmela, Portugal to its plant in Emden, Germany.

VW has not confirmed the reports but several sources in the Portuguese press state that the first trailer of parts was moved last week from the ro-ro terminal at the port of Setúbal in Portugal for onward shipment to Emden. The same route will be used for return shipments of parts from the German plant to supply the assembly line at VW Autoeuropa.

The first shipment was moved by the vehicle carrier vessel Emden, chartered by Portuguese shipping agent Navigomes, according to the reports.

Setúbal’s port authority (Administração dos Portos de Setúbal e Sesimbra) has recently issued a tender for the expansion of the ro-ro terminal at the port, in what will be a €3.5m contract. This forms part of the government's priority projects included in the PETI 3+ programme, first issued in 2014.

Work will involve the creation of a 5.8ha area to improve the handling of import-export finished vehicles and also provide value added services on the dock, which are currently undertaken at an area outside the main port. The aim is to turn Setúbal into a ro-ro hub for car carriers serving routes across the Atlantic to Africa, Asia and the Mediterranean.

This is important for VW in particular as it exports around 80% of its output via the port. The VW Eos, Scirocco, Sharan and the Seat Alhambra are all produced in Palmela.