Land-Sea integration – the new frontier of shipping
Our last briefing described the opportunities and challenges of Port Community Systems (PCS) in the digital transformation of ocean shipping. PCS should be active in pivoting the maritime industry towards inland operations as we have witnessed more strategic initiatives recently. But they face a number of challenges in relation to inland container management, complex technology model and the variety of stakeholders.
Ocean carriers and ports are investing in inland services
Ocean carriers have announced their plans. Maersk’s strategy is to become the global integrator of container logistics, building an end to end integrated logistics solution connecting the entire supply chain through a one stop shop. While French carrier CMA CGM is moving in the same direction with its recently announced stake in CEVA Logistics and its multi-temperature logistics facility at DP World’s London Gateway. And large ports such as Rotterdam with their 2.6 million TEUs moving inland annually are enhancing their intermodal operations by investing in container shuttle train operator PortShuttle and Nextlogic electronic platform. Cargo owners are at the centre of these initiatives as demonstrated by the “Peel Off” program at the Port of Los Angeles which increases shipment velocity for high-volume shippers.
Integration of land with sea operations is more than a simple service enhancement of traditional maritime service providers. It provides new service options and additional value for BCOs as well as broader economic and environmental gains.
Critical gains for the industry
The inland leg of the container shipping supply chain is under pressure to achieve rapid efficiency gains.
The evolution of carrier alliances and larger vessels has made the integration of inland and port operations a key efficiency factor with the risk of increasing congestion if smart planning and shipment release systems are not in place. In particular, the once moribund practice of vehicle booking systems (VBS) has seen quite a renaissance of late, supported by cloud and mobile app technologies. Already the port of Manila has reported a 50% rise in productivity thanks to implementation of a VBS.
Economies of scale have slashed costs, but empty container repositioning operations remain unlocked with 33% of containers on the road carried empty.
Increasing compliance requirements, whether for security or environmental purposes, require more data to be passed and checked on the land side.
Cargo owners understand the efficiency gain opportunity for more information and better control of Detention & Demurrage. Their expectations for more land-sea integrated services open opportunities to technology driven operators.
So which technology is likely to change inland container logistics?
Technology initiatives are addressing specific problems such as terminal or depot gate appointments management, real time asset tracking and scheduling systems, container reuse and electronic documentation. For instances, technology companies such as Matchback Systems or Avantida are engaging the street turn and triangulation challenge, in North America and Europe. Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) container Xchange addresses the repositioning cost burden through its container interchange marketplace. Australia based 1-Stop.biz and Containerchain.com are actively implementing vehicle booking systems, which connect depots, terminals and truckers through mobile apps in various Asia Pacific ports. The objectives are better synchronisation of yard movements with truckers, less manual processing and more analytics. Elane’s container drayage marketplace Tuochebao.com claims 80% market share in China thanks to a complete service including truckers’ invoice generation and payment. These container trucking apps tend to be regionally focused, such as “matchbox.bid” in Africa. The trend is well supported by carriers with Maersk’s development of its “spotlanes.com” portal covering certain locations and CMA CGM’s investment in the collaborative port haulage platform e-Dray.
Standalone applications are not enough
Inland container logistics needs scalability, data and process re-engineering to rapidly reach the expected gains brought about by predictive analytics, planning and marketplace processes. It requires market wide adoption and alignment of players’ operational systems through an acceptance of a minimum set of standard practices. It can be tricky as it may need public and multiple private stakeholders to collaborate. Moreover, there is structural complexity attached to each region such as chassis management in North America. Carriers may still struggle with forecasting their empty container positioning needs. Beyond technology, challenges can simply be in the behavioural practice of moving to more standardised processes.
Such a systemic and integrated approach is likely to succeed through the initiatives of large operators or authorities seeking safer and greener inland container logistics. Their support in encouraging inland container start-ups should drive some of the coming changes.