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European shippers, carriers slow to embrace 45-foot boxes

Date: 17/09/2014

European carriers and shippers are struggling to embrace the 45-foot PalletWide container mostly because of pricing and space issues, a new report says.

A new report, released by the Port of Hamburg in conjunction with Germany’s Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics, delves into the usage of 45-foot PW containers in Europe, especially in short-sea shipping [NDLR : “Short Sea Shipping in the Baltic Sea Region: Freight volumes and the potential of 45’ PW containers », 34 pages].

"Some container terminals in North Range ports are fairly reluctant to see such units occupying space in their backyards," the report said.

"Moreover, even if some shippers would like to take advantage of a 45-foot PW container, the rather limited supply of such boxes forces a pre-carriage of the box to the shipper, rendering the whole operation economically unattractive and giving standard boxes or trucks a privileged position."

The report said that 1.3 million TEUs (20-foot-equivalent units) were transported on short-sea routes in 2012, with about 55 percent of that traffic in 45-foot PW containers.

But widespread use of 45’PW containers faces several obstacles, the institute said. The availability of 45’PW is spotty, and many short-sea trade lanes are imbalanced with little to no backhaul volume.

With truck transport and short-sea shipping charging nearly the same rates for transporting the 45-foot PW containers, shippers are sometimes encountering pricing wars. Depending on the season, trucking could win out with lower freight rates, the institute report said.

The survey of carriers and shippers did offer several “fixes” to promote use of the 45-foot PW containers, starting with countries supporting infrastructure to make handling those containers easier and more efficient.

The institute also noted support for the idea of “grey boxes,” a more standard 45-foot PW container distributed around the European Union that could create a common equipment pool for EU shippers and carriers alike.

Improved marketing efforts could also help in finding backhaul cargoes, the report said.

There was also talk of encouraging deep-sea carriers to transport some of the 45-foot shipments, which would open up competition in the region. – 03/09/2014

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