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13th March 1970, Page 54
13th March 1970
Page 54
Page 54, 13th March 1970 — container
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

commentaryby Norman M. Douglas at Hull A monthly intelligence report on container topics H ull-Liverpool/Manchester Landbridge

TOO MUCH need not be said about the state of the roads between the North East coast and the North West of England. But if Sir Clifford Dove's forecast about Britain being used as a container landbridge for goods travelling between Europe and, presumably, the States and Canada comes about land, as the new chairman of the British Transport Docks Board, Sir Clifford roust know that plans are afoot for this/ something will have to be done about them.

Lamentably, it is becoming a recognized fact of everyday life in the Humberside area that lack of good trunk roads is causing considerable delays to road transport carried containers which could lead to big switches to rail for containers using any landbridge that might be formed to cater for the volumes of additional traffic that would be attracted to the route.

"Landbridge," as a term, is not new to container men. As a concept it has been pushed to the limit by US and Canadian railroad men as a quicker and more economical means of moving containers between the West and East using the American land mass as the bridge between the Atlantic East coast and the Pacific West coast. The American landbridge has a counterpart on this side of the Atlantic linking W^.t.rn Europe, including Britain,

and Jap :,-!cf the rail link provided by

European ay_ and the trans-Siberian rail system. Pioneered by MAT Transport, this link could, if the volume was forthcoming, be extremely attractive in terms of distribution viability acting as a definite rival to the many container services now in the active planning stage which will carry containers between Europe and the Far East using conventional sea routes.

Up to now, landbridles have involved long distances which, su far as containerization is concerned, favours rail transport. The significance of a landbridge across the mere 90 miles or so between Hull and, say. Manchester or Liverpool is that such traffic would normally go to road transport—provided the roads could carry it. Hence the necessity, hauliers in the area feel, for a better road system.

Understandably, when questioned about the road situation around Hull, lmmingham and Grimsby, Sir Clifford had no comment, other than that he was pleased that the BTD B's staff were "pressing very • hard" for better roads. One wonders, though, whether this is not enough. How much longer are containers going to be held up in Selby or near Snaith?

Air containerization a 'dead-duck' unless...

THE "TRUCK-AIR" aspect of intermodal freight transport—the handling of unit loads on pallets or containers directly from road vehicle into cargo aircraft and vice versa—would expand more quickly in the 1970s than air freighting in association with any other surface modes. This was the forecast of one Russell Thayer, vice-president marketing, Seaboard World Airlines, when he spoke at an international air cargo conference sponsored by sister journal Freight Management, in London last month. Mr Thayer felt that unquestionably the time was nigh when all types of carrfer would draw closer together to form domestic and international intermodal networks, when new standards of service for shippers would be achieved.

Among other forecasts made at the conference was that there would be more whole freight aircraft chartering by large companies— which would again involve direct contact, on the airport apron, between the haulier and the air carrier. But the key to the whole problem rests in the container—and not necessarily the large 20 or 40ft x 8ft x 8ft ISO intermodal box that we usually talk about in these Columns, but the more functional type, so far as aircraft configuration is concerned, approved by the International Air Transport Association IIATAI.

In spite of the tremendous build-up that was given to the 1ATA container programme with which the airlines came away from their cargo conference in Athens last year, this so-called 'cheap' method of shipping by air—which the airlines themselves thought would prove to be a "hot sell"—has turned out to be rather a flop.

Difficulties THE reasons are not difficult to pinpoint, and since the programme came into effect during October last, shippers themselves have had an opportunity to discover what they are. According to Skytrader—a journal circulating to the air forwarders in this country shippers' homework has revealed that it is less costly for them to continue shipping uncontainerized at the general commodity rate, in spite of a discount of 30 per cent which the airlines allow off the general rates on longdistance hauls if the goods are containerized or palletized, and up to 50 per cent on shorthaul routes to places like Europe and Scandinavia.

Even the free loan by airlines of containers and pallets has failed to arouse the interest of shippers to the point of going in for containerization—which, on this particular score, is hardly surprising. The free loan period is limited to 48 hours. This means that a shipper who does decide to ship a containerized load and happens, for example,

to be located a day's road journey from an airport served by the airline of his preference, absorbs 24 of the 48 hours to unload the container on arrival, position it in his works, fill it, weigh, prepare documentation and reload for its return to the airport. With the free 48 hours load period of the container thus expired, the shipper still has to get the container back to the airport, which takes another 24 hours. EVEN assuming the shipper has his own transport vehicles to pick up and redeliver the container, he would require more than the arbitrary 48 hours. But—according to Skytrader—"if he was dependent upon an outside contractor for carriage, then he may easily require a week in which to complete the exercise". On top of this is the time the container sits at the airport before it is loaded on to an aircraft, the flight time—which is usually only a few hours—and the usual Customs and Excise procedures and collection at the other end.

What I would call the biggest disincentive of all from the users' point of view is the high weight at which the load has been pitched. In general, this is 900 kg which few shippers are able to produce regularly. Mainly forwarders are making use of these facilities on a consolidated or, to use haulage terms, "groupage" basis, and air containerization, in terms of 20ft and 4aft length containers, remains a pipe,dream.


IF Mr Russell Thayer's prophecies come about in the 70s when container carriers of all modes will come together (IATA container programme and size of aircraft permitting) there will still be problems. Only in a very few instances are hauliers allowed to operate their Vehicles on the airport apron alongside the aircraft.

In fact, at London Airport only one haulier can boast th is privilege—Roy Bowles Transport —who, in only a few short years has built up a vast haulage empire carrying airfreight. According to Roy, there are many safety regulations to be observed and "overcome" if road vehicles are to be allowed to regularly "service" aircraft in terms of transferring freight—containerized or palletized—direct from road vehicle to aircraft body or belly. No doubt this will come—or air containerization will be a dead duck before it really starts.

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