NEWARK, N.J., April 11, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Shippers are facing the prospect of peak-season rush with uncertainty over availability of equipment central to moving goods from ports to stores, factories and inland distribution points.
International ocean container carriers are overhauling their programs in the United States that provide chassis to truckers hauling containers from ports, in what amounts to the most far-reaching maritime freight industry change in the United States in nearly 30 years. A cover story this week in The Journal of Commerce (http://www.joc.com/maritime/waiting-gate) analyzes the different directions carriers are taking and the concerns of shippers over the uncertainty in their supply chains.
A loss-leading practice, carrier-provided chassis grew out of the early U.S. competition between containerization and domestic trucking. Ocean carriers, which own about 45 percent of the nation's 750,000 chassis, receive very little financial gain from the $3 billion to $5 billion often tied up in capital or spent to provide chassis to assist the movement of their shippers' goods from port. As carriers attempt to maximize recovery from the recent trade collapse, many are dropping chassis in some manner. Confusion reigns, however, as changes are made only in specific regions or on differing schedules.
"The overarching challenge is how all the stakeholders are going to make this transition without any degradation of terminal operations or customer service," said Tom Malloy, vice president, Intermodal Association of North America.
A topic of much debate at The Journal of Commerce's recent Trans-Pacific Maritime Conference in Long Beach, Calif., it has industry stakeholders weighing benefits of cost-transparency and efficient terminal-space use against fears of liability, equipment availability and costs. Without carriers subsidizing chassis, the cost "ultimately is going to go back to the cargo owner, and it's going to come out of their pocket," said Philip Connors, senior vice president, Flexi-Van Leasing, at TPM.
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SOURCE The Journal of Commerce