As global markets expand and the hunger for goods grows, port developers and operators are scrambling to keep up. New ports in Asia require extensive build-out to rise to maximum efficiency levels, while existing ports are groaning under the weight of aging infrastructure.
All ports are challenged to bring in and send out significantly more freight than ever before. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that domestic freight volume will increase by 45 percent by the year 2040 and container shipping volume — which accounts for 95 percent of all freight — is steadily rising as well.
Infrastructure problems at ports are affecting shippers worldwide, from aging and congested ports to a lack of inbound and outbound connectivity. Find out how your ocean freight might be affected by these issues and what you can do to circumvent potential problems.
Consider what mode is best: road, rail or river
The destination ocean freight port you choose has as much to do with its outbound capabilities as it does its proximity to your customer. You must weigh the distance from port to door against the challenges you’ll face moving your ocean freight on the most direct route. Depending on the infrastructure around your destination port, you could risk heavy truck congestion, theft and accidental losses.
Instead of defaulting to road transportation, consider that you might be able to transfer ocean freight to one of many modes for final delivery to the customer or distribution center. Road transportation might be your best option, but also consider sending your containers via rail or river.
Don’t underestimate the financial loss driven by trucks that are idling on roadways. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, domestic truck congestion wastes $27 billion in time and fuel annually. If you have the opportunity to complete your ocean freight’s journey via other modes, it’s worth your time to investigate prices.
Secure your own international road transportation fleet
Enterprises that consistently ship ocean freight to the same port or ports may consider investing in an international fleet to handle their road transportation at destination. Even with a contract for ground transportation services, an unreliable infrastructure system around a port can cause your freight to sit idly when it should be moving.
You don’t necessarily need dozens of vehicles to create your own fleet. Purchase or lease a truck or two, hire your own drivers and get going. Having your own road transportation also means you don’t have to worry about worker strikes or contract driver shortages.
You also have control over vehicle licensing, so you know your ground transportation is always in good standing. Develop your own routes with your drivers’ input, so you can be as efficient as possible.
Get help from a freight forwarder
One difficult aspect of port area infrastructure is that it’s constantly in flux, controlled by people and influences hundreds or thousands of miles away. While it’s important for you to stay on top developments, there’s no way for logistics professionals to understand the structural, weather and geo-political factors that might affect your port’s operation.
If port operations become too much to manage or you want to start shipping to a new and potentially complicated destination, recruit assistance from a freight forwarder. These logistics professionals are tied in to the latest news, projections and problems in the world’s ports. Freight forwarders will advise you of route options and step in if problems pop up.
Forecast out and investigate new options
Your logistics operation should always be forecasting for the future, considering volume variances and potential new lanes of operation. If ocean freight factors heavily into your projected plans, research how the future of infrastructure may look at your destinations. Maybe your current port is expanding and shoring up capacity. Perhaps roads around the port where you’d like to open an ocean freight lane are degraded and dangerous.
Freight forwarders can help with this research, as well. They understand the challenges importers-exporters face in trying to efficiently serve customers on the other side of the world. Their job is to understand the ocean freight industry and keep their finger on the pulse of what’s next. Freight forwarders can be a powerful ally in the future health of your logistics.