Monthly Archives: March 2013

Winners and Losers in the Intermodal Shipping Boom

The entire intermodal freight network in North America has been going through a period of restructuring in the past decade that has seen and will continue to see sweeping changes in the way that goods are transported across the continent. Other factors like rising fuel prices are forcing many transport companies to look for the most efficient way to transport goods. There has been significant development of the freight handling facilities along America’s Eastern seaboard in preparation for the increased flow of goods that is expected to result from the completion of the Panama Canal improvements in 2015. To complement this infrastructure development there has been a corresponding investment in the rail networks across the United States which is aimed at increasing the efficiency of the freight transport network. This development is certain to be a catalyst that changes current freight transport practices as rail transport expands into many of the traditional areas of road transport. These changes mean that there will be some companies which are set to benefit from the new demand for intermodal services but there will also be many losers who can no longer compete using their existing methods. For the most part the companies that… read more »

Panama Canal Expansion Will Contribute to Increased Warehouse Investment in American Ports

The Panama Canal is one of the world’s busiest waterways, handling an estimated 5% of the world’s freight every year1. Since its completion in 1915 there have been some minor efforts to improve the 48 mile long canal. These have been restricted to efforts prior to WWII of building a few new locks to allow the canal to handle larger warships and the construction of the Madden Dam to increase the water supply to the canal2. Currently the Panama Canal is having the largest overhaul that it has seen since it was opened, with the widening of the canal to accommodate many of the larger ships traveling the seaways now. The entrances to the canal are being improved as well with the construction of several new locks at both the Atlantic and Pacific ends. The most important aspect of these improvements is that it will open a new lane and double the capacity of the canal by 20253. One of the major impacts that this increased capacity is expected to have is that it will create an increased demand for warehousing of cargo that has passed through the Panama Canal along the Gulf Coast and the eastern seaboard of the US. This expected increase in traffic has seen capital investment being poured… read more »

Major Investment Plans for American Rail Networks

With forecasts of significant growth in the quantity of goods that will be transported in the coming years it is vital that the intermodal freight networks continue to be developed and upgraded in order to be able to accommodate that increase. After enduring a period of decline the American rail network has seen a return to relevance in recent years as the road transport that had largely displaced rail became much more expensive. This focus on efficiency in freight transport has inspired redevelopment and expansion of the American rail networks as the cost effectiveness of rail freight continues to surpass trucking costs. This development of the American rail networks and freight handling facilities is being backed by an investment of $24.5 billion in the rail networks by the nation’s major freightrailroad companies. Of this, $13 billion is earmarked for capital expenditure to be used for the enhancement of their physical infrastructure and safety systems1 that is necessary to keep pace with the increased capacity being demanded of the system. This expenditure is being used in part to create more intermodal freight terminals to facilitate an ever greater efficiency of train to truck transfers. There are also significant investments being made by many companies in new rolling stock with the aim… read more »

The Importance of Optimizing the Use of Road Freight Transport

As freight transportation has become more complex it has become less common for cargo to be shipped from point to point and often loads are using several intermodal methods in one journey. While the cost effectiveness of shipping and rail networks has continued to improve, the cost of using trucks for transport has spiraled upwards. Rising fuel costs and increased awareness of the need for greater regulation of the trucking industry have seen road transport become the focus of calls for greater efficiency in our use of trucks to transport goods. There is a growing need to find the most efficient ways to transport goods from place to place since the volume of cargo that is shipped expected to rise by as much as 130% by 2030 in many places1. Part of the solution to these rising volumes of cargo has been to increase the size of the trucks that transport it. However, this is becoming increasingly impractical as many urban areas restrict their entry. At the same time trucks will remain a vital part of the transport chain and the focus of most studies has been to find the best way to use those trucks within the larger context of the intermodal shipping networks2. It is conceded that the rail… read more »

Amazing Facts about Container Ships

Container ships are the largest ships that sail the seas today. Only oil tankers are larger, and at present, with dwindling oil supplies, the largest oil tankers have been broken up for scrap. Currently, the longest ships that are traveling the seaways are the Maersk E Class container ships, which at 397 meters1, is 64 meters longer than a Nimitz Class aircraft carrier2. Container ships are among the most amazing things that have ever been built, and some of the facts about these mass transportation vessels are staggering to the imagination. The largest container ships in the world, the Maersk E Class ships, are capable of carrying 15,000 containers at a time. The CMA CGM Marco Polo, which is slightly smaller, has an even greater capacity at over 16,000 twenty foot containers3. If all of the containers on the average sized container ship were loaded onto a train, it would be 44 miles long4. Container ships also often carry passengers, and there are currently around 350 freighters that carry passengers, more than the total number of cruise ships in the world5. The engines that drive these immense ships produce around 1000 times as much power as the average family car, and use solid fuel with the consistency of asphalt, which… read more »

The Key to the Cost Effectiveness of Intermodal Shipping

Intermodal shipping is undeniably the most cost effective way to transport bulk cargo because of its integrated use of sea, rail and truck transport to deliver goods in the quickest, most direct way possible. The development of freight handling technologies that allow individual cargos to be tracked from their source to their delivery have contributed to the effectiveness and speed with which cargo can be transported across large distances, but it is the standardization of shipping containers that makes this efficient handling of freight possible. Since their worldwide acceptance in the 1970s, shipping containers have increased the efficiency of transporting goods by reducing handling times when unloading ships and reloading the same cargo onto trains or trucks. The containerization of bulk freight made it possible to develop port facilities that can handle vast numbers of containers in a single day, with the world’s largest port, Shanghai, estimated to have handled 31.7 million containers in 2011 alone1. Alongside the development of increasingly efficient infrastructure in modern ports, the growth in the size of container ships has seen the average transport vessel able to carry 8,000 containers at once, and may transport as many as 200,000 containers in a single year2. Obviously the key to all of this efficiently handled cargo… read more »

The History of Shipping Containers

People have been shipping cargo around the world for thousands of years, and the logistics of loading, unloading, and reloading goods, has always proved to be costly, time consuming and inefficient. The huge increase in the amount of cargo during the 20th century meant that solutions had to be found for the problems of cargo handling, and this drive towards greater efficiency and cost effectiveness led to the development of the intermodal freight networks that crisscross the globe. The key to the development of the most efficient cargo handling system ever conceived, however, was the invention of the shipping container. Contrary to popular belief, the shipping container wasn’t invented by the Chinese. In fact, the first shipping container design was patented in America by Malcolm McLean1 in 1956. McLean was the owner of the fifth largest trucking company in the United States, and he saw the truck loading and unloading process as being costly because of its inefficiency. This led to his development of pre-loadable containers that could be set onto trucks as a unit, considerably reducing handling time, and therefore costs. Early attempts at developing this into a standardized system for freight handling were unsuccessful until the U.S. Navy… read more »

The Port of Dubai Sets the Standard for Modern Freight Handling

Since its beginnings in 1799, the Port of Dubai has developed into a cosmopolitan center of trade and tourism that possesses one of the busiest ports in the world. The huge economic development of Dubai on the back of the oil wealth of the region has seen Dubai become a city of gleaming skyscrapers and that forms the hub of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region. In recent decades, Dubai has developed as a major tourist destination because of its central geographic location and warm climate with white sandy beaches. Its geographical location has also made it a vital link in the worldwide intermodal transport chain at the same time. The Port of Dubai is one of the biggest ports in the world as well and it has been ranked as the 9th largest container port worldwide after giant seaports like Shanghai, Singapore, and Hong Kong and larger than the busiest port in Europe at Rotterdam1. The majority of the growth of Dubai has occurred in the past decade with huge increases in the amount of cargo being handled by the Port of Dubai’s managing authority, DP World. During the period 2000-2005, there was an increase of 155%… read more »