Corporate initiative is, mostly, an oxymoron, but it has emerged in container shipping in the past year to slow the slide to greater inefficiency at US ports. And in doing so, the initiative has shown that the private sector can tackle bureaucratic and systemic snarl-ups.
That inefficiency logjam lies in first, cargo movement from ship to rail and second, within the container yards where thousands of chassis are piling up, adding to trip times and fuel usage as trucks chug around yards to find specific chassis.
As detailed previously in this blog, SSA Terminals has come up with a method to put the boot into the vessel offloading mess with an automated electric bridge system, manufactured by ZPMC of China. The terminal operator wants to install the first unit at Long Beach.
Now, Maersk is extending its "available to everyone" chassis program to 16,000 units at more than 20 depots and yards covering 10 states in the Midwest and Ohio Valley. Called Direct ChassisLink, its essence is to allow any trucker to grab any of its chassis at the designated locations. The big change is that the chassis stays with the power unit – as is the practice in Europe -- and not the container, as has been the norm in the US. Maersk reckons an extra three pick-ups a day will be possible – more than paying for the $11 a day charge. The company says that the program so far has chimed with truckers, who are relieved at not having g to search for or swap a chassis.
A beneficial side effect is that there will be less truck noise, yard congestion and air pollution.
Of course, there are still some disbelievers. One skeptic commented on the Journal of Commerce website that the draymen will "in turn mark up by 200% and pass on to the end consumer...." That is highly unlikely, but the refreshing lesson from Maersk and SSA is that the private sector is always on the lookout to get the industry up to scratch.