In today’s interconnected world, intermodal containers transportation has emerged as the backbone of international trade. These versatile steel boxes have revolutionized the way goods are transported, offering a seamless and efficient mode of shipping across different modes of transportation.
Table of Contents
Intermodal container role in the current supply chain
Overall, global ocean container transport accounts for around 60 percent of all world ocean trade, and this intermodal container trade is worth over 7 trillion dollars a year.
Almost 2 billion metric tons of goods are transported in shipping containers each year, and the global container ship fleet has a capacity of around 20 million standard containers. It’s estimated that there are between 20 and 25 million intermodal containers in active service, with around 5 or 6 million being moved at any specific time.
Global ocean container transport dominates the world of international trade, accounting for approximately 60 percent of all ocean trade and representing a staggering value of over 7 trillion dollars annually. With nearly 2 billion metric tons of goods transported in shipping containers each year, the vast global container ship fleet boasts a capacity of approximately 20 million standard containers. In active service, an estimated 20 to 25 million intermodal containers contribute to the intricate logistics network, with around 5 to 6 million containers in constant motion at any given time.
What are Intermodal Containers
Even though intermodal containers are a common part of day-to-day supply chain operations, the term itself can be perplexing in the logistics and shipping industry. Some view it as interchangeable with shipping boxes, while others emphasize its distinct mobility features.
Intermodal containers are large shipping boxes used for storing and transporting various types of cargo. They can be transported by sea, road, and rail, making them ideal for international shipments that require crossing different land and water routes.
These containers come in different sizes and types, but the most common ones are dry freight containers. Their capacity is measured in TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units), which refers to the amount of cargo a 20-foot container can hold. They are designed according to ISO standards and certified for strength and durability, ensuring their suitability for any mode of transportation.
Let’s explore some common types of intermodal containers and their benefits:
- Dry containers are the most widely used type of intermodal containers.
- They are designed to transport dry goods such as electronics, clothing, machinery, and consumer products.
- These containers are weatherproof, protecting goods from external elements during transit.
- The standard dimensions of dry containers make them compatible with various modes of transportation, allowing for easy integration into intermodal logistics networks.
- Reefer containers, or refrigerated containers, are equipped with temperature control systems, making them ideal for transporting perishable goods, such as fruits, vegetables, pharmaceuticals, and dairy products.
- The temperature control technology helps maintain the required temperature range throughout the journey, ensuring product freshness and quality.
- Reefer containers are essential for maintaining the cold chain integrity, particularly for temperature-sensitive cargo.
Flat Rack Containers
- Flat rack containers are open at the top and sides, with collapsible walls, making them suitable for transporting oversized or irregularly shaped cargo, such as heavy machinery, vehicles, or large industrial equipment.
- They offer flexibility in loading and unloading cargo from the sides or the top, facilitating efficient handling.
- Flat rack containers are often used when cargo cannot be accommodated in standard dry containers due to size or shape limitations.
- Tank containers are specifically designed for the transportation of liquids and gasses, such as chemicals, petroleum, and food-grade products.
- These containers have a cylindrical shape and are built to withstand the pressures associated with liquid cargo.
- Tank containers ensure safe and secure transportation of hazardous materials, reducing the risk of spillage or contamination.
Open Top Containers
- Open-top containers are similar to dry containers but lack a solid roof, allowing for easy loading and unloading of cargo from the top.
- They are commonly used for transporting goods that are too tall to fit in standard containers or require top-loading, such as heavy machinery, timber, or construction materials.
- Open-top containers provide convenient access to cargo and are well-suited for industries that require efficient loading and unloading processes.
The Value of Intermodal Containers for Your Business
Intermodal containers offer significant value to businesses across various industries. Let’s delve deeper into the advantages they bring and how they contribute to operational excellence and overall business success.
- Cost Efficiency: Intermodal containers are designed to optimize transportation costs. By standardizing the size and dimensions of containers, they enable seamless transfers between different modes of transport such as ships, trains, and trucks. This streamlined process reduces handling costs, eliminates the need for cargo repackaging, and maximizes infrastructure utilization, resulting in cost savings for businesses. Moreover, efficient utilization of transport modes leads to reduced fuel consumption, further contributing to cost efficiency.
- Enhanced Security: They provide robust protection for goods during transportation. Constructed with durable materials, they safeguard cargo against theft, damage, and tampering. Additionally, containers are equipped with seals and locking mechanisms to ensure the integrity and security of the contents. This level of security gives businesses peace of mind when their products are in transit, minimizing the risk of losses and disruptions
- Flexibility and Accessibility: Goods can be transported efficiently across various geographical locations, allowing businesses to expand their reach and access new customers. Whether by land, sea, or rail, intermodal containers provide the accessibility and adaptability necessary to navigate global markets and seize emerging opportunities.
- Environmental Sustainability: Intermodal containers contribute to environmental sustainability by reducing carbon emissions and energy consumption. The use of standardized containers reduces the number of trips required and optimizes transport efficiency, resulting in lower fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. By embracing intermodal transport, businesses can adopt eco-friendly practices, align with sustainability goals, and meet the growing demand for environmentally responsible supply chains.
- Improved Supply Chain Efficiency: They also play a crucial role in improving supply chain efficiency. They enable real-time tracking of shipments, allowing businesses to have better visibility and control over their goods throughout the entire transportation process. With advanced technologies such as geo-fencing and real-time tracking, businesses can monitor the location, condition, and status of their shipments, facilitating proactive decision-making and efficient coordination. This enhanced visibility and coordination streamline the supply chain, reducing delays, minimizing inventory holding costs, and improving customer satisfaction.
Intermodal containers have revolutionized global shipping by offering a standardized and efficient method for transporting goods. However, tracking their real-time location and status has always been a challenge, but addressing this issue by leveraging advanced technologies to provide real-time tracking and visibility of intermodal containers.
Unlock the potential of your business with enhanced operational efficiency and a streamlined supply chain. Experience the power firsthand with a quick demo.