The shipping industry is fiercely competitive. Shippers’ demands on ship operators are increasing as they look for partners who can boost the efficiency of their supply chains, whilst demonstrating sustainability credentials throughout each stage of their operations. In turn, ports are facing pressure to support these requirements as well as meet wider regulatory requirements. This drive has sparked a new era of innovation and some transformational changes are on the distant horizon. The shipping industry is notoriously slow to adapt to change and whilst we await the mainstream use of autonomous ships and AI, the impact from making operational ‘tweaks’ at a more practical level should not be underestimated.
Critical infrastructural elements, such as shipping containers and lighting, are a prime example. Invented in the 1950s, the basic design of a shipping container has seen little change since. This is despite the fact that containers play a fundamental and major role in enabling shipping’s global supply chains. You may be asking, what is the issue if it works?
The answer is cost
A traditional container takes around forty minutes to one hour to load, depending on cargo. When you consider that some of the world’s largest container ships carry thousands of containers, this time equates to huge expense. Similarly, the original design of a container, with doors that are easily opened, also makes the cargo vulnerable to theft. With over €85 million of cargo thefts reported in 46 countries in the first half of 2020, making access to cargo harder could enable considerable savings. Likewise, there is an associated high accident rate with loading cargo into containers, the financial repercussions and reputable damage of which, can be fatal.
At CakeBoxx Technologies, we recognised that there was room for improvement, and invaluable efficiency, safety and security gains to be made by re-assessing the existing design principles of a container.
Our redesigned containers have no doors, and instead consist of a ‘deck and lid’ design, often tailored to meet unique ship owner requirements. This design enables greater cargo security, structural integrity, and supply chain efficiency. For example, our containers significantly reduce the time to load a container to around ten minutes. In comparison to traditional containers, this means containers can be loaded at a rate of five an hour as opposed to one. This huge time saving increases supply chain velocity and reduces associated labour costs.
Likewise, our containers eliminate the necessity for doors, meaning they are both harder to break into
and easier to load – minimising the risk of injury from unsafe loading.
The complete access to cargo offered with the CakeBoxx Technologies design also enables loads to be safely and effectively secured for transit from all angles. With recent container losses at sea reported globally, the increased security is vital from a reputational, cost and safety standpoint.
However, despite the proven benefits and concrete long-term payback, ports and shipping lines are slow to change their habits and adopt available technologies. In fact, the catalyst for a change in mindset is frequently a major accident or incident.
Enlightening port operations
From conversations with Midstream Lighting, lighting in ports and terminals is also a case in point – the similarities with shipping containers another stark example of where accessible efficiencies are being missed. For example, despite good visibility being vital to enable safe, secure and efficient operations, dated metal halide, or HPS lighting, are still the prominent lighting solution.
According to Midstream, LED lighting solutions can improve light quality by over 50% and increase energy efficiency by up to 70%, whilst improving operational safety and efficiency. These technologies go hand in hand in collectively improving operations and contributing to the terminal of the future, today.
We can therefore see, the subtle and incremental changes to fundamental elements within the supply chain, and the knock-on effect these can have on the entire infrastructure, that are the most accessible, and effective, yet remain underutilised.
No time like the present
Developing a progressive shipping industry can be supported by revising existing fundamentals and taking a holistic view of long-term payback. More enlightened companies are recognising that the lowest priced asset isn’t necessarily the cheapest. However, there is still work to do in raising awareness of commonly overlooked operational areas that can be updated to boost performance. These don’t have to create major operational disruptions or completely change the way a company works. There are simple, practical and cost-effective changes that can enhance efficiency and customer relationships. So, unlike many aspects of the shipping industry, action can be taken now.
Chris Clark, Senior Vice President, CakeBoxx Technologies
March 11, 2021