Transportation of the Future: Understanding Port Logistics: By 2020, Even at Moderate Rates of Domestic Growth, the International Container Trade Will Double from Current Levels

By Katsioloudis, Petros J. | The Technology Teacher, September 2009 | Go to article overview

Transportation of the Future: Understanding Port Logistics: By 2020, Even at Moderate Rates of Domestic Growth, the International Container Trade Will Double from Current Levels


Katsioloudis, Petros J., The Technology Teacher


Transportation is one of the most critical components in civilian and military logistics operation. Freight transportation is a vital component of the economy, an indicator, and a contributor to economic growth and stability. Transportation networks facilitate the movements of goods and people to markets and are essential for the prosperity of a society and the competitiveness of an economy (Denisis, 2009). Efficient transportation generates logistical savings for businesses through economies of scale, production, and distribution flexibilities. The success of business and industry, as well as the military, relies heavily on efficient air and sea transportation systems (Goldsman & Kang, 2002). Even though it can be argued that the most efficient means of civilian transportation and cargo delivery is via air, most military transportation is accomplished by some combination of air, sea, and land methods. A ship for example, although slow, moves a large amount of material at a very low cost (Goldsman & Kang, 2002).

The beginning of containerized cargo shipping began with the shipping of a Sea-Land container aboard the SS Ideal-X, which left the Port of Newark New Jersey in April of 1956 and headed for the Port of Houston, Texas. (Maersk, 2009). This was to begin a revolution in shipping large quantities of goods at substantially lower costs than in the past. Today there are major container ports in Long Beach, California, New York, Newark, New Jersey, and Singapore.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) forecasts that by 2020, even at moderate rates of domestic growth, the international container trade will double from current levels (Maritime Transportation System Task Force, 1999). This cargo flow surge has placed significant stress on the U.S. transportation network. Major coastal ports are currently operating near maximum capacity, suffering from bottlenecks and delays in container movements.

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Dealing with large cargo ships and trying to manage thousands of containers to their final destination can cause several kinds of logistical problems. Problems associated with dispatching and routing vehicles and locating items or facilities arise frequently in logistic systems (Bramel & Simchilevi, 1997). According to the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), the average "dwell time" of containers sitting idle in the yard is six to seven days for U.S. ports, compared with only one to two days or even hours in some Asian ports. Therefore a system is necessary to promote stability and organization in the process. Transportation logistics problems have been studied in the operations research and management science literature under different settings including vehicle fleet, truck routing, warehouse management, and facility location. Yet the amount of research that deals specifically with port logistics is limited (Korular, 1999). Most of the existing research is not directly applicable to a container terminal due to its unique characteristics. One of the first detailed analyses of port operations appears in Atkins (1983), who documented landside operations at the ports. Usually when a ship arrives at the terminal, containers are first unloaded from the ship and loaded on vehicles using the quay cranes and then moved to various locations for storage in the yard. These types of vehicles usually travel on a complex network of lanes within the terminal area.

Typically, after most or all containers have been discharged from the ship, other containers are loaded. It is well known that speed is the major contributing factor in today's transportation industry; therefore, the main intention of every port is to increase its throughput, or in particular, to reduce ship turnaround times (McKinsey & Company, 1967). Thus, an efficient port is one that allows speedy transshipment to and from the ships (Korular, 1999). Both the carrier and the port benefit from speedy operation. …

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