Hoping to shave nearly three weeks shipping time from traditional all-water routes, Direct Container Line, an off-dock consolidator, has launched an intermodal less-than-containerload service from Japan to Mexico.
The Carson, Calif.-based non-vessel operating common carrier said it can consistently offer Japanese shippers and Mexican importers 14-16 day door-to- door service - roughly 20 days quicker than all-water competitors.DCL staff consolidate freight from the Japanese ports of Osaka, Tokyo, Yokohama and Kobe, and send the cargo to Long Beach, Calif., on weekly sailings by Hyundai Merchant Marine.
"The importers were finding it was taking 35 days from Tokyo to get freight to their warehouses (via all-water service). That was unhappiness," said Michael J. Sinclair, executive vice president of DCL.
By contrast, under DCL's intermodal service, the shipments arrive in Long Beach after nine days and within three or four days arrive by truck to the Texas border town of Laredo.
"In Laredo, they can clear the goods and take it in their own truck, or we can take the goods for them," said Mr. Sinclair.
Japanese consumer goods will be the primary cargo moving in the expedited service, he said.
"The market itself is limited. We have to be loading eight 40s (40-foot equivalent containers) a month. If we quadruple that over the course of a couple years we'll be happy," Mr. Sinclair said. "There's certainly a niche there. There's nobody in Mexico running around selling an inbound LCL (less- than-containerload) service from Japan."
Users of the new DCL service said transit time factored into their decision to switch from all-water service.
"It's a very good, faster shipment," said Goki Uchida, a consignee in Mexico City for the SEAP Corp., an auto parts supplier based in Osaka, Japan.
Mr. Uchida said many of his clients purchase the goods on credit and want access to the freight as early as possible to sell and pay off their creditors. He expects to move about 50 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) a year with the DCL service.
Only a handful of lines offer all-water service to Mexico at this time. However, a number of trans-Pacific carriers offer intermodal service to Mexico through Southern California.
"I imagine the transit times there are comparable," said Ulrich Janssen, western region vice president in San Francisco for Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, or ''K" Line.
He noted that "K" Line was one of the pioneers in double-stack container
trains into Mexico City from Los Angeles. "That's been a pretty successful service, and I don't think anybody can beat our transit time," he said.