Shipping containers are moved using various modes of transportation and equipment to facilitate their transportation across different parts of the supply chain. Here are the primary methods used to move shipping containers:
1. Shipping Vessels (Ships):
- The most common method of transporting shipping containers is by sea. Large container ships are specifically designed to carry thousands of containers across oceans and seas. Containers are loaded onto these ships at port terminals and secured in designated locations on the ship’s deck and in its holds. Shipping vessels connect major ports around the world.
2. Trucks (Road Transport):
- Containers are transported on trucks to and from ports, terminals, and inland distribution centers. Specialized trucks known as container chassis or flatbed trucks are designed to carry containers. Trucks are a crucial link in the supply chain, providing the “last mile” delivery from ports to destinations.
3. Trains (Rail Transport):
- Rail transport is commonly used for long-distance container transportation, particularly for intermodal shipments. Containers can be loaded onto specially designed rail cars known as intermodal or container flatcars. Trains connect major cities and regions, providing an efficient mode of land-based transportation.
4. Barges and Inland Waterways:
- In areas with navigable rivers and waterways, barges are used to move containers between ports and inland locations. This mode of transportation is particularly useful for connecting ports to inland distribution centers.
5. Air Freight (Air Transport):
- While less common due to cost considerations, containers can also be transported by air for high-value or time-sensitive cargo. However, airfreight is typically reserved for smaller and lighter shipments.
6. Multimodal Transportation:
- Many containers move through a combination of transportation modes in a process known as multimodal transportation or intermodal transportation. For example, a container might travel by truck to a rail terminal, then by train to a port, and finally by ship to its destination.
7. Cranes and Handling Equipment:
- Cranes play a crucial role in container handling. At ports and terminals, specialized cranes called ship-to-shore cranes lift containers on and off ships. Yard cranes move containers within terminals. Reach stackers, straddle carriers, and other equipment are used for moving containers within terminals and onto trucks or railcars.
8. Port Terminals:
- Port terminals are key hubs for container movement. Containers are stored temporarily at these terminals before being loaded onto ships, trucks, or trains. Modern terminals use advanced technologies to efficiently manage container operations.
Shipping containers are an essential part of the global supply chain, and their movement involves a complex network of transportation modes, equipment, and logistics processes to ensure timely and efficient delivery of goods.