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Sea-Change or Shell-Game: The Transforming of International Inland Transportation

“Sea-change” is a well-used term describing significant transformations since William Shakespeare coined the phrase in “The Tempest” in 1610.  More narrowly applied to transportation and logistics, sea-changes have occurred throughout history: sail-to-steam-to-diesel propulsion or break-bulk to containerized cargo, for example.

Now we are facing a more subtle sea-change – or maybe it’s more of a ripple – with the changing nature of how international import cargo is managed and paid for.  World trade has grown at over 9 percent per year for the past four decades, largely through the immense flexibility and operating efficiency provided by containerization.  Containerization has many virtues: much better economics and competitiveness, lower labor and terminal costs, reduced pilferage, damage to cargo and speed to customer.

Traditionally, if that word can be applied to a technology that is a relative newcomer on the scene, ocean carriers offered a single bill of lading (“Store-Door Delivery”), providing a multimodal service of truck-ocean-rail-truck from shipment origin to customer’s dock.  This made transportation relatively simple, convenient and painless for the consumers of transportation services.  This holds particularly true for retailers of apparel and footwear, electronics and other high-value products, from chips and computers to TVs, DVD players, PlayStations and Xboxes.

Read more here.

October 20, 2015