The dry port concept initially emerged from the idea of seaports directly connected by rail to inland intermodal terminals, where shippers could leave and/or collect standardized units as if they were at a seaport. This was a response to the problems posed by the growth of containerized transport and the corresponding lack of space at seaport terminals and growing congestion on access routes serving the terminals.
The vision of the need for promotion of intermodal interfaces which, together with the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway networks, would support the realization of the vision of an international integrated intermodal transport and logistics system in Asia-Pacific was endorsed by the Ministerial Conference on Transport held in the Republic of Korea in November 2006. The Commission at its 66th session in 2010 requested the ESCAP to work towards the development of an Intergovernmental Agreement on Dry Ports, which was adopted by the 69th Commission Session on 1 May 2013. It came into force on 23 April 2016.
The objective of the Agreement is to provide a uniform definition of a dry port of international importance, identify the network of existing and potential dry ports of importance for international transport operations and propose guiding principles for their development and operation.
As of 2022, 17 ESCAP member States are Parties to the Intergovernmental Agreement on Dry Ports and 269 dry ports in Asia have been identified and listed in the Agreement.
A Working Group on Dry Ports was established to implement the Agreement and meets biennially. It considers the implementation of the Agreement and any amendments proposed by the Parties and serves as a platform for discussion.
ESCAP carries out capacity-building to assist countries to establish and operate dry ports as part of a region-wide effort to develop an efficient logistics industry. As part of its activities supporting the implementation of the Intergovernmental Agreement on Dry Ports, ESCAP prepared a Regional Framework for the Development, Design, Planning and Operation of Dry Ports of International Importance. The Framework identifies fundamental issues related to the development and operation of dry ports, proposes related targets and provides guidance on ways to reach them. The promotion of the Regional Framework was supported by ESCAP Resolution 74/2 adopted in 2018.
Recently, in the context of dry port inter-connection and efficient operation, ESCAP is emphasizing intermodal transport corridors, the facilitation of multimodal transport and the integration of dry ports and other inland intermodal transport facilities into intermodal transport chains.