By Jean-Paul Rodrigue
PortEconomics member Jean-Paul Rodrigue along with Mark Booth contributed to the 57th issue of the Port Technology International magazine with an article examining grounded and chassis container terminal operations.
Ocean container chassis have a critical function in the movement and storage of full and empty marine containers. A container chassis is a wheeled structure designed to carry marine containers for the purpose of truck movement between terminals and shipping facilities. It is a simple electromechanical device composed of a steel frame, tyres, brakes and a lighting system.
Storage in container yards can be grounded where containers are stored by stacking them upon one another, or wheeled with containers stored on chassis. Grounded container terminal operations are the standard model around the world. In such a setting, containers are stacked on the terminal yard, using equipment such as rubber-tyred gantries (RTGs) or straddle carriers. One key advantage of grounded operations is much higher storage density. Wheeled operations usually transfer containers with one lift, but require a significantly larger fleet of chassis, more land to store chassis, and containers on chassis. Usually, there is also more yard tractor time and mileage driving to and from the storage area. Empties are commonly kept in a specific part of the yard and often as an off-site empty container depot, which in this case requires a chassis for drayage. At some wheeled terminals in the US, container/chassis pairs are parked at an angle of about 60 degrees so they can be stored closer to another while a truck can easily back up for delivery or pick up.
Around the world, the chassis remains a crucial component of intermodal transport chains. Their role in terminal operations is in decline, notably in North American rail terminals that are switching to grounded operations, particularly at new facilities, though not as quickly as some proponents would hope to see, with extensive wheeled facilities still being commissioned in recent years. The setting of inland terminals is also switching chassis drayage operations further inland which usually involves shorter distances and thus less chassis; that same chassis gets a higher utilisation level.
This article summarises some of the findings of a 2012 report by CPCS Transcom, InterPro Advisory, Prime Focus and Jean-Paul Rodrigue in the ‘Guidebook for Assessing Evolving International Container Chassis Supply Models’, Transportation Research Board, National Cooperative Freight Research Program.
You can freely download Jean-Paul’s article @PortEconomics.