Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Invisible Fleet that Handles Ninety Percent of Everything

The release of the latest book by British author and journalist Rose George, Ninety Percent of Everything, has put the spotlight on an aspect of consumer society that is usually thought about very little. George spent several weeks aboard one of the 100,000 container ships that ply the world’s seaways, and her insights have brought home just how reliant we all are on this vital, but often invisible, fleet that handles 90% of all of the commodities that we all use daily.Her research turned up some very interesting facts about the intermodal shipping network generally. Perhaps the most significant thing that comes to light is that, with 20 million containers in transit at any one time, it is physically impossible to inspect them all and only around 10% of containerized freight is ever inspected by customs. The reason for this and for the invisibility of this fleet generally, is the huge ships that are now used to transport the world’s containerized goods. This has reduced the number of people that choose to go to sea, simply because the demand is not there with the new E Class super ships carrying 18,000 units and requiring a crew of only 13. This,… read more »

Maersk’s Investment in Super Ships Already Returns Value to Investors

A jump in world trade in recent months has seen the profits of shipping giant Moeller-Maersk increase significantly, giving some much needed buoyancy to the recessive European stock market. The share price of AP Moeller-Maersk reached their best levels in four and a half years, as they announced that the profits from their Maersk Line subsidiary would exceed the $2.9 billion in profits of 2012. Forecasts are indicating that profits may be as high as $3.5 billion, with the increased earnings largely due to the increased efficiency of the E Class container ships that have come into full service in the past few months.The savings due to the economy of scale that is possible with these huge container ships has proven to have an almost immediate impact on operating costs. Coupled with the use of slower cruising speeds, aimed at achieving maximum fuel economy, Maersk have been able to make significant cuts to their operational costs, making them even more competitive in an already oversupplied market. The group already accounts for 15% of the world’s shipping, and with more of the super ships being delivered in the coming months, they look set to take an even larger slice of the… read more »

Long Beach Intermodal Terminal Blows the Budget

Plans to create a mega terminal at the Port of Long Beach at a cost of $1.2 billion that were set in motion early in 2013 have shown signs of blowing that budget by as much as $85 million. The project which aims at combining two aging terminals into a single, large container handling facility designed to handle the new fleet of ultra large container ships, has encountered some unexpected costs involved in the relocation of utilities and other unforeseen construction costs. The new estimates come after the port hired risk analysis experts to survey the accuracy of projections for phase two of the project. It was found that relocation of the oil fields, the actual cost of a battery exchange terminal and other construction works required for connecting the port to the rail network had been under funded in the original budget for the project. As the second busiest container port in the United States, the Port of Long Beach has 76 feet of draft in its main channel, allowing the new fleet of ultra large ships easy access to its terminals. As many of these larger ships will not be able to use the Panama Canal even after… read more »

Repurposing Shipping Containers Comes Under the Domestic Spotlight

Since their development in the 1950s, shipping containers have become a ubiquitous part of modern life. They are scattered around the major cities of the world, stacked in freight yards, carried on the back of big rig trucks and loaded en masse onto ultra large container ships for transport around the world. In the sixty years since they were first used to simplify the handling of cargo, these solidly constructed steel boxes have found their way out of the intermodal network into a diverse range of other uses. Among the most popular alternate uses for shipping containers is as domestic storage, or even living space, and this has brought the focus of many local building authorities squarely onto containers and their use in domestic situations. While many people see shipping containers as ready built, weather proof storage options, just as many see them as eyesores that they don’t want as a part of their suburban landscape. In many cases local building authorities agree and, in some places, they are beginning to place restrictions on the use of shipping containers as domestic storage spaces. Recently, the Californian city of Menifee has been working on legislation that would ban the use of… read more »

Tracking the Shift from Road to Rail

One of the most important metrics in the intermodal freight industry is the accurate tracking of goods as they move through the system. Knowing when freight will arrive at its destination is a vital part of choosing the mode of transport that businesses use either for shipping their products or for ordering goods. A greater part of the appeal of using truck transport is the relative ease and accuracy of the ability to track the progress of goods in transit. Being able to mirror these metrics for other modes of transport has been an important part of the development of the world’s intermodal network. One company that understands this is the UK firm Freight Arranger who has spent two years developing a cloud based cargo tracking platform that provides real time reports on the progress of goods in transit across Britain’s rail networks. This important development in multimodal transport efficiency has been funded by both the British government’s Technology Strategy Board as well as a number of private investors. Freight Arranger has just completed their first closed trials of their new application. Their Sales & Marketing Director, John G. Russell has reported that these were a success, saying, “Freight Arranger… read more »