Thursday, November 01, 2007

53's On The High Seas

Big box stores will now be able to ship their goods to the United State in bigger boxes.

APL said that it will begin offering shippers the option to move cargo in 53-foot containers, a move it says could "make a significant difference to the economics of transpacific trade."

The Singapore-based carrier said it will take delivery of what it called the "world's first ocean-capable 53-foot boxes" on Nov. 7. It said the reinforced boxes are 200 pounds heavier and have stronger corner posts than domestic 53-foot boxes.

The boxes will be available to shippers using APL's premier weekly South China to Los Angeles service. The company plans to also look at deploying them elsewhere.

"Our objective is to move big-box economics farther back in the supply chain to the point where products are manufactured in Asia," said Ron Widdows, chief executive officer of APL. "We're responding to customers who want new levels of efficiency in their containerized trade."

While 20- and 40-foot containers are the most common size box used by container carriers, APL and other carriers also offer a variety of other size boxes, including 45-foot and 48-foot ocean containers.

Fifty-three-foot containers, which are the same size as domestic trailers pulled by 18-wheelers, are widely used domestically.

Trailer Bridge, a company that provides container service between the U.S. and Puerto Rico, has used 53-foot containers in its service for a decade.

Importers commonly ship cargo to the U.S. West Coast in 20, 40 or 45-foot boxes, then transload cargo into 53-foot containers or trailers at U.S. ports for truck or rail transport to the final destination in order to take advantage economies of scale of moving freight in bigger boxes.

A 53-foot box has 60 percent more capacity than a standard 40-foot container, and at nine feet, six inches high and 102 inches wide, are six inches wider than standard boxes. Two 53-foot boxes will hold about the same amount of cargo as three 40 foot containers.

Because more cargo can be moved by fewer trucks, APL said 53-foot boxes could reduce transportation costs, road congestion and pollution.

It predicted they "could become the transport method of choice for customers moving cargo to inland U.S. destinations," allowing cargo to be transported in the same container from Asian factory to U.S. stores without transloading.

APL's press release included laudatory comments about the larger boxes from executives at retailer Toys ‘R’ Us and New Balance, the athletic shoemaker.

The benefits touted by APL were familiar to John McCown, chief executive officer of the Puerto Rico carrier Trailer Bridge.

His company began using 53-foot containers in regularly scheduled ocean service to Puerto Rico in 1998, and since then "fundamentally all of our liner freight has moved in 53s and our customers have experienced the various benefits that come with these superior units."

Trailer Bridge has 3,800 53-foot boxes in service, and McCown said they've been specially designed for ocean use. The company also instituted regular service using 53-foot containers to and from the Dominican Republic earlier this year.


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