A supply chain executive at J.C. Penney says the retailer hopes to see ocean carriers and logistics operators provide 53-foot containers for U.S. importers, a shift away from longtime industry equipment standards.
Richard Wallace, vice president of supply chain operations at J.C. Penney, said the move from 20-foot and 40-foot boxes would bring greater flexibility and lower handling costs for the huge volume of imports the company brings to the U.S. West Coast and sends on to population centers in the East.
“We would love to see 53-foot ocean containers,” Wallace told the annual joint meeting this week of the National Industrial Transportation League, Intermodal Association of North America and Transportation Intermediaries Association in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
“We would love to see greater flexibility and that would give us an opportunity to eliminate transloading and to load the box directly for inland distribution,” he said.
By The Numbers: U.S. Intermodal Container Traffic.
Container shipping has been built on the 20-foot and 40-foot boxes since the industry’s inception and much of the field’s equipment, including container line vessels, is aligned to the measures, making any large-scale shift unlikely in the near term. But those measurements are out of step with the standard truck measures in the United States, and railroads use railcars dedicated to the ocean container standards for intermodal transport.
Wallace said the difference adds complexity to the J.C. Penney supply chain that makes it more difficult for the retailer to expand use of intermodal transport.
“New service lanes are something we are very interested in,” he said. “We’re looking for new intermodal opportunities as well, for new opportunities to open up intermodal lanes.”
Some ocean carriers have added modest capability to handle 53-foot trailers. Officials at APL, for instance, said a handful of its container ships can carry 53-foot boxes.