The 411: Basic Requirements for Inland Terminals

Posted : 01/7/13 8:30 AM

Dry ports or inland terminals, although not a new concept in the global supply chain, are newer, in a demand wave of intermodal, global shipping as global trade rises. With the increase of global trade taking a toll on the capacity of coastal or maritime ports, for instance, many US coastal ports, inland terminals shoulder a lot of the burden of sea port terminal inbound/outbound shipping traffic. The inland port is synonymous with hinterland logistics; the ‘hinterland’ being any country’s interior logistics zones of which coastal ports have challenging access. Inland/dry ports are strategic in connecting logistics zones which incorporate distribution centers, shippers, freight forwarders, trucking companies, container repair facilities and the like, as a throughway for the overage of inbound cargo now stretching the capacity of coastal ports. This frees the sea ports to receive the next vessel of inbound cargo, as well as expedites truck and rail outbound shipments to these ports. Three basic requirements of inland terminals encompass ‘co-location’, a principle of multi-function capability which cements the inland port’s vitality in its integral role to the global supply chain as a dedicated connective component of logistics zones, military bases and maritime terminals. Inland terminals, efficient in their operation, regularly incorporate 1) logistics activities with 2) an intermodal rail terminal and 3) a dedicated rail line or corridor to the gateway, which is a location where access to bulk information, high passenger volume and high capacity freight circulation is conducive. There are around a dozen ‘true’ inland ports among the hundreds of intermodal, non-maritime ports in the U.S., including the cities of Atlanta, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas and Fort Worth. Success in the efficient operations of true inland terminals is contingent upon the state and local government ‘prime directive’; legislative support of inland port development and institution of logistics infrastructure incentives. Also, a deal seal of approval of investor/stakeholder collaborative port management ensures the paramount global market impact of any true inland port. Some key elements of these inland terminals are: (see fig. 1) Figure 1 Inland terminals function as satellite terminals, transshipment terminals and load centers. While some inland ports are located more than 900 miles off the sea port it services, others are closer in proximity, roughly under 300 miles away from the maritime port, operating as a cost-efficient satellite-access dry port in the transloading of containers and diverting of heavy sea port traffic. Load center functionality of dry ports includes access to intermodal logistics infrastructure, regional markets, warehousing and connection to free trade zones. Inland ports function as transshipment terminals with the connectivity of intermodal (rail-to-truck) and rail-to-rail freight system’s circulation.