Viable Options

We saw the headline “Cargotec Wins Big Order From Venezuela’s Puerto Cabello, La Guaira” and proceeded to read that earlier this month Cargotec’s Kalmar received that substantial order for port equipment from Venezuela’s government-owned port operator Bolivariana de Puertos. Neither party has disclosed the sum involved but you know it wasn’t for peanuts.

Here’s what the order included:

30 reachstackers, four empty container handlers, eight heavy forklifts, nine light forklifts, seven heavy terminal tractors, 41 medium terminal tractors, and one rubber tired gantry crane.

Those reachstackers are worth about $ 15 million; the container handlers go for about $ 2 million; the eight heavy and nine light forklifts might be worth about $ 5 million; the terminal tractors could be worth as much as $ 6 million; and the RTG could cost as much as $ 2 million.

The work to be imposed upon that formidable array of container-handling equipment will amount to about 760,000 TEUs annually, and although undetermined, the amount of time before actual operations commence at this several hundred-acre port could be a year or more.

Too bad they didn’t come to us for some advice. For that $ 16 million we could build our patented container storage, retrieval and delivery system on about one-tenth the acreage, and in about one-tenth the amount of time.

And they wouldn’t even have to come up with the $ 16 million. The acreage in that unused nine-tenths parcel would bring in an enormous amount of money from eager developers, and the whole operation would be in the black even while it was still on the drawing board.

Every aspect in the port’s operation would be programmed. No crowding, no confusion, no lost time, no lost containers, and just as important, no gates with idling trucks lined up spewing pollution into the surrounding communities.

The powers-that-be at the port will see the light in the near future, however, and right the ship … just as the folks at Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) did last week when they decided to deep six the awkward 53-foot long container misfits. After falling in line with US standard truck length regulations in 2007, Singapore’s APL, the container shipping arm of NOL, has discontinued transpacific use of 53-foot containers.

“The economics just didn’t work”, said APL Americas CEO Gene Seroka. “We’ll keep watching it, but at this time it’s just not a viable option.”

A prediction: One day folks will be wondering why the industry ever considered the current method of stacking containers one atop the other – aboard ship and in container yards – “a viable option.”