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Thinking inside the box – Automotive Logistics

Loaded container

Automobiles have been shipped in containers ever because the trendy delivery container was introduced commercially within the late 1950s, but it is just since dedicated racking methods have been mass produced to enhance loading that there was a higher adoption of containers for volume shipments. 

There are estimated to be 39m containers shifting around the globe, 25% of that are being shipped empty at anybody time. The goal is to fill these containers with different merchandise and for the automotive business, that includes completed automobiles. 

The share of latest automobiles shipped in containers versus the normal ro-ro course of is tiny (though the market for used automobiles is greater). Nevertheless, there are specific elements that substantiate their use.

These embrace shipments to areas that endure from irregular ro-ro providers or insufficient infrastructure, an issue that has arisen from the decentralisation of the worldwide automotive manufacturing base. Ocean ro-ro service providers can’t simply accommodate smaller or more erratically scheduled volumes and, given their investments and margins, they are only serious about massive volumes. That leaves carmakers trying to the container aspect of the business.

Containerisation can also be an answer for the cargo of latest automobiles over long distances, both by truck or rail, across areas where quality or safety could also be compromised. The very fact that there is a international driver scarcity additionally promotes the motion of containers by rail. 

Moreover, using containers on creating routes out of China can also be being adopted, particularly by rail between China and Europe.

In addition, containerisation is used for automobiles which are shipped as semi-knockdown (SKD) kits for ultimate meeting overseas, in instances where the standard of the unique physique and paintwork is a priority, or excessive tariffs discourage imports of utterly constructed models.

Fact 1950sLastly, the mode is commonly used for second-hand automobiles shifting to new markets and, more and more, for the cargo of broken automobiles that have to be repaired and resold.

“Primarily, for any lane where ro-ro isn’t the perfect answer, due to numerous elements similar to value, multiple transhipments or handovers, transit time, infrequency or crucial mass, containerisation with racks is sensible,” says Christoph Seitz, co-owner and CEO of CFR Rinkens, a world third-party logistics provider that makes 95% of its income from delivery automobiles in containers.

Opportunities in Asia
The proliferation of gross sales and manufacturing in China, and the event of the country as an exporter of automobiles as a part of its famous ‘Belt and Street’ policy, is generating huge alternatives there for suppliers of container providers and gear.

But another area with all the elements needed to make containerisation feasible – plus progress in car sales and subsequently demand for outbound providers – is South-East Asia. Following the free trade agreement signed within the ASEAN markets, together with the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, commerce in finished automobiles has grown. Nevertheless, good ro-ro connections are sparse, especially from Europe, and this is the place corporations supporting containerised car shipments are finding business.

CFR Rinkens has simply gained a contract to ship BMWs from Europe to Vietnam in containers, to take one instance. Container shipments to Vietnam are extra common, whereas ro-ro suffers from at the least one transhipment point and irregular ro-ro schedules thereafter.

“Ro-ro had by no means been a superb choice on that lane, and previous suppliers weren’t capable of optimise container utilisation and course of flows,” says Seitz. “Typically, you could have only a few times a month service, however with transhipment added you are looking at two months or more, with processing on the transhipment port to take into consideration, and points relating to wreck and theft. That can turn out to be a nightmare, however containerisation makes more sense as a result of it goes each week.”


“Primarily, for any lane the place ro-ro isn’t the perfect answer, due to numerous elements similar to value, a number of transhipments or handovers, transit time, infrequency or important mass, containerisation with racks is sensible” – Christoph Seitz, CFR Rinkens


Container racking gear supplier Trans-Rak additionally reviews that one among its largest markets for gear in the mean time is the ASEAN region. Trans-Rak provides merchandise globally to logistics suppliers, including CFR Rinkens, in addition to the ocean liner corporations.

“In case you take a look at the ASEAN area, whether you’re shifting from Japan or Europe into those areas, they could have a ro-ro service that is monthly or bi-monthly, while there are container ships taking place there nearly each day,” says Trans-Rak’s CEO, Paul Donaldson. “The container is the one true ‘international envelope’ for taking products door-to-door.”

Donaldson says the Philippines is an effective instance of where its gear is required in the meanwhile, as a result of carmakers are on the lookout for onward providers from Manila to the various islands making up the country. It is simpler to move containers to these islands and it is easier, in the face of limited obtainable and expensive parking area on the ports, to stack containerised automobiles; the storage prices are decrease.

Returns between Europe and Africa
Richard Cox, CEO of racking gear and providers supplier Kar-Tainer, also sees elevated demand within the ASEAN area, but adds that Africa is another focus for brand spanking new enterprise. 

Kar-Tainer is nicely established in South Africa and counts BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen among its clients. For the lanes between there and Europe, enterprise is helped by the truth that carmakers are sending numerous European-made elements into South Africa and are taking a look at choices to get the containers back. At the similar time, nevertheless, Kar-Tainer has to retrieve its personal gear from Europe.

Exterior vehicle-loading cassettes from Kar-Tainer

Exterior vehicle-loading cassettes from Kar-Tainer

“Our [Mercedes-Benz] C-Class challenge in South Africa is an effective instance,” says Cox. “We ship approximately 2,000 automobiles a month for them [to Zeebrugge]. There is a ten-week turnaround. To try this, we’ve got to offer a pool of 4,500 cassettes, which we keep and guarantee is taken care of correctly.”

For each ten to 12 containers that exit with automobiles, one goes straight back to Mercedes-Benz with the gear, in accordance with Cox.

The newest venture for Kar-Tainer in Africa, nevertheless, is for SKD models from South Africa to Kenya and Rwanda. “It has to go in containers here, notably in Rwanda, where there is a long inland transfer and safety is a matter. All of these elements together are making this a particular container transfer,” says Cox.  

Kar-Tainer can also be managing the return of the gear and dealing instantly with the delivery line and the inland transport supplier, with the security of a guaranteed quantity of automobiles. 

Progress in SKD shipments
Trans-Rak’s Donaldson additionally factors to the growing significance of SKD shipments for decentralised international automotive manufacturing. “It’s turning into extra of an essential market the place car manufacturers are saying they need to make their automobiles in low-cost areas but need to send all the bits on the market to do it,” he notes. 

One massive undertaking involving Trans-Rak is Nissan’s cargo of the Pathfinder SUV from its plant in Spain to Russia for remaining assembly. The car is shipped without its wheels, gearbox or engine, thus avoiding import obligation on entry to Russia. Those elements are then refitted at its plant in St Petersburg.

Meanwhile, Kar-Tainer is shifting SKD kits for Jaguar Land Rover out of the UK (by means of the port of Liverpool) to Brazil, another instance of where it offers extra than just the gear.

“We went in and helped them design the power to get the automobiles from the production onto our gear – the mobility of the gear around the inside their facility,” says Cox. “We are very much a part of that set-up and maintaining it.”

CFR Rinkens is among the container shippers finding that new routes are opening up

CFR Rinkens is among the many container shippers finding that new routes are opening up

SKDs apart, it isn’t a simple battle profitable business from international carmakers sure by tenders which are closely geared in the direction of typical ro-ro and have better rates for forwarding automobiles.

As Cox makes clear, providers of containerised gear and providers find the business of auto strikes fickle as a result of they’re competing in a high-volume enterprise, no less than as far as built-up automobiles are involved. Ro-ro charges have additionally been dropping as a result of gross sales in numerous markets are down, which means vessels have excess capability and are preventing to fill it. “The ro-ro guys can come and take your ft from underneath you, which they do in these conditions,” he explains.

Seitz makes the identical level: “It is a steep uphill climb to not only determine attainable rack lanes but then also compete towards ro-ro providers within the tender course of.”

Nevertheless, this is something CFR Rinkens has managed with BMW, both between Europe and Vietnam and from the US to Brazil. “I am especially excited about our momentum with BMW, who have actually embraced the thought of containerisation with racks, and we are jointly exploring feasibility on a worldwide degree,” says Seitz. 

The company should be capable of add three further OEM contracts by the top of 2019 and sees good potential in Brazil and Colombia for containerised shipments, he adds.

EVs and a recent angle
One other area where containers provide a solution is in the shipment of electric automobiles (EVs), which are typically moved in smaller volumes and in less regular shipments. With new EV start-up corporations rising virtually every day, especially in China, there’s a number of alternative right here for corporations offering containerised providers.

CFR Rinkens’ container providers actually took off with volume business from Tesla, and Seitz says the chance introduced by the EV sector is enhanced by the truth that EV start-ups are wanting beyond the legacy of ro-ro tenders. 

“China’s dramatic improve in EV activity supplies numerous alternative because, identical to Tesla was back in 2013, most EV start-ups are far more open-minded to various options to the normal ro-ro model,” says Seitz.

Donaldson concurs: “Tesla just isn’t invested in the legacy mannequin of how automobiles are moved around – they’re in search of a solution and are extra pleasant to new ideas of how to try this,” he says, although they’re utilizing ro-ro for Mannequin 3 shipments out of the US.

Whereas it was previously a mainly US-based logistics provider, CFR Rinkens is establishing itself in China in an enormous approach and the supply of providers to the EV sector is central to its plans. The corporate has now began its sixth contract, as sub-contractor to international freight forwarder Crane Worldwide for EV start-up Electra Meccanica, exporting a three-wheel car referred to as the Solo from Western China to North America. 

Common weekly volumes are resulting from begin in the second quarter of this yr and the automobiles will probably be shipped in containers instantly from the manufacturing plant in Chongqing by way of Shenzhen to the port of LA. 

In response to Seitz, the corporate can comfortably load six of the automobiles per 40-foot (12-metre) container, making for a high utilisation fee. In response to official figures from Electra Meccanica, the corporate has 23,000 pre-orders on its books.

From inner to external loading
One different development affecting the containerisation of automobiles for shipment is the move toward exterior loading on racking techniques. When devoted returnable racking methods started being used, they have been solely fitted internally and the automobiles have been driven into the container earlier than being fixed. That also occurs, but there’s now a growing choice among OEMs for loading automobiles onto the racking cassettes outdoors the container, which suggests automobiles could be pre-staged for loading, with general savings in loading time. The cassette and automobiles are then moved by forklift into the container.

Kar-Tainer International specialises in exterior loading cassettes for full automobiles, SKDs and bikes, and Cox says automobiles might be loaded in two-and-a-half minutes in contrast with the much longer loading time required for drive-in loading (as much as an hour in some instances). He notes, nevertheless, that a larger number of mannequin mixes might be loaded on an inner racking system.

Kar-Tainer’s exterior loading cassettes are said to reduce vehicle loading times to around two-and-a-half minutes from up to an hour

Kar-Tainer’s exterior loading cassettes are stated to scale back car loading occasions to round two-and-a-half minutes from as much as an hour

Responding to demand for exterior loading, Trans-Rak launched its EL-Rak cassette late final yr. It’s being used between the UK and New Zealand and will probably be on all of its Europe to China routes. 

CFR Rinkens is making use of the EL-Rak and highlights the benefit of external techniques affording more room for loading and securing the wheels, free of the constraints of having to do so contained in the container.

“It in all probability reduces loading time by 25-30% versus the normal inner techniques,” says Seitz, adding that greater than half of OEMs favor the work to be accomplished outdoors before loading. Nevertheless, he factors out, exterior methods use more metal and so are costlier, while fewer racks might be returned in a container than an inner loading system – necessary issues when competing with the ro-ro mode the place “every dollar counts”. 

Altering know-how and trade
A decentralised international manufacturing base and expanding trade routes, along with an open-minded angle among EV start-ups, is presenting new opportunities for corporations supporting containerised car shipments. However what developments are on the horizon and how might fractious commerce relations have an effect on the way forward for the business?

Automation of the automobiles being shipped, the machines loading them and the vessels on which they’re being moved, whether or not rail or ocean, might have an impact. Based on Seitz, nevertheless, these disruptions are a way off.

“Every little thing to do with automation will be the disruptor and the question is, how much of a disruptor and when?” he feedback. “Our process is so difficult that I feel it is going to be an extended while earlier than automobiles might be loaded into containers on racks by robots or other automation. We are a great distance from that. Any lane that is viable for containerisation is protected for an additional 15-20 years.”

Fact 39mHowever the best way automobiles are manufactured might have an influence, in line with Vegard Synnes, advertising director for Asia at Kar-Tainer. “OEMs are changing the best way they produce automobiles,” he observes. “There are more being produced ready for sale, or customised off the road, in many instances with a selected customer assigned to the car by the point they are midway by means of the manufacturing unit.”

If these customer-specific automobiles might be containerised and shipped immediately from the manufacturing unit, by whatever mode, to the client in a way that preserves high quality and safety, then it brings a new degree of service to car supply.

One necessary level is that the gear used with the standardised container needs to be standardised itself to accommodate all car varieties. “To make the container shipments cost-effective, gear have to be standardised to carry all car shapes, sizes and weights efficiently,” says Donaldson. “Equally essential is to optimise the return and reuse of the gear to scale back value, they usually must work in all sizes and kinds of containers.” 

Concurrently modifications in know-how and manufacturing, shifting trade relations are additionally presenting each alternatives and challenges.

Within the case of the UK’s imminent departure from the EU, Cox says that whereas there could also be scope for providers out and in of the UK if the manufacturing base is undermined by a no-deal Brexit, the uncertainty would outweigh the potential good points as a result of OEMs can’t commit to the three-year mannequin required to plan cost-effectively.

The trade disputes within North America and between the US and China (and now India), meanwhile, also have an effect on plans for establishing car manufacturing bases and the international commerce between these crops and the worldwide markets for his or her sale. 

“Something that disrupts world commerce goes to disrupt our business,” Seitz concludes.


 Growing trade hyperlinks with China

Volvo Daqing trainThe proliferation of sales and manufacturing in China, and the development of the nation as an exporter of automobiles alongside new and established commerce links, including by rail to Europe, can also be producing opportunities for suppliers of container providers and gear. 

BMW, for instance, has been utilizing rail to move automobiles and SKDs to China since 2008 and Volvo has been shifting S90s from Daqing to the port of Zeebrugge in containers on a rail service that started in 2017 (pictured). 

Clients in China are in search of European luxury manufacturers and, given the delivery prices and time required to maneuver automobiles from Europe to China by ocean, containerised rail providers supply a quicker (and safer) delivery route – down from 56 days to 18, based on Paul Donaldson of Trans-Rak. 

“The security, security and velocity of getting the products to market are key parts,” he says.

There have been trials using typical rail wagons however once more, automobiles are uncovered to harsh temperatures and other circumstances on routes from Europe throughout Russia or the Central Asian states into China.

As Vegard Synnes at Kar-Tainer, factors out, there’s also the prospect of no less than two rail-gauge modifications between Europe and China. Switching volumes between trains is simpler and the automobiles are less subject to wreck if they’re in containers, he factors out. There’s also much less congestion on the container terminals supporting rail in Europe, he provides.

“Right here you’ve the native [Chinese] authorities backing the route that has been arrange which is across the container,” says Synnes. “We undoubtedly see progress and assume it’s going to proceed. Containerisation of automobiles going between China and Europe is certainly going to be one of many massive ones in the next one to 2 years.” 

As with the South Africa-China commerce lane, one other necessary factor is the optimisation of the number of racks a supplier can get back in a container.

Donaldson says shifting a container from Europe to China is sort of low cost. China provides western markets with a whole lot of items, leading to an imbalance in availability of containers, which corporations want again in China. Shifting them out is thus the expensive leg of the spherical trip. 

Logistics providers tasked with getting their rack sets back at a commercially viable price have to get 45-60 racks in every container. “If you hit these levels, then it starts to get very competitive,” says Donaldson. 

Inside the country, in the meantime, manufacturing is being pushed additional west – even as far as the Kazakh border, where Shanghai GM has a plant. Chengdu, in central China, is the second-biggest marketplace for automobiles after Beijing and there are various manufacturing crops being arrange close to that metropolis and in Chongqing. The Chinese language government alone has invested around $1 trillion during the last decade. 

As the manufacturing base shifts west in China, it appears highly doubtless that carmakers will make larger use of the rail hyperlinks between Chain and Europe – a trade from which these offering container providers stand to profit.


“We undoubtedly see progress and assume it will continue. Containerisation of automobiles going between China and Europe is certainly going to be one of the massive ones in the next one to 2 years” – Vegard Synnes, Kar-Tainer




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