1. Advantages and disadvantages of the land-bridge system.
This is a landmass in which ISO approved containers are transported from the ships they have been offloaded from, in one port, to other ports in another coast. They are usually transported by trucks or rail to these coasts for a further journey by ship. In the US, Continental United States (CONUS) is a good example of this type of system, and it is used to connect the west and east coasts by use of trains. This has a potential advantage of improving shipping of cargo from the Far East and West Coast to Europe. This is due to the reason that ships avoid transits through the Panama Canal, which increases the shipping speed. The land bridge system covers a relatively shorter distance, which ensures that ships use lesser time to transport cargo. This is very important especially when the cargo being transported is required in a very short time, or if it can go bad if it spends too much time at sea.
The fact that the land bridge system takes less time and uses a shorter route, means that less costs are incurred in transporting cargo in the sea (Marks et. al., 1999). This is advantageous to the transporters who incur lesser expenses and make higher profits. It is also advantageous to consumers of the cargo being transported since lesser transport costs may translate to cheaper purchase prices.
Another advantage is that it is also a safer route to use, especially when transporting military equipment, in the wake of increases piracy in the high seas. The land bridge system also provides another advantage to military ships due to provision of an alternative route where their ships can fit. These war ships are very huge and cannot fit in new canal plans or canal locks, which leaves the land bridge system as the only feasible way to transport the military equipment.
Another benefit of the use of the land bridge system is the fact that ships discharge their cargo in Far East or EU before leaving for the loading states, and discharging on loop runs which are constant. These routes attract many vessels which they depend on for logistical operations, such as confirming few or lack of changes in routes. This repeated calling in at ports enables the crew to master ports and routes which increase the experience at sea. This is a priceless asset which improves the safety factor in the voyage. The authorities and ports also become accustomed to the vessels and their conditions, which is useful when handling them in future.
However, the land bridge system faces certain challenges, and one of them is safety. As stated above, this system involves offloading shipment and transporting them through rail or road, to another port where the journey can continue. Offloading the shipment from the ship and leading it into trucks or trains presents a weakness in securing the goods. It is easier to secure the goods when they are intact in water and on the ship, than when they are offloaded into many trucks and transported by road. There is a chance that the goods may be tampered with or stolen in this process. Valuable goods or goods which can affect national security increase this risk, and may present complex challenges if they are stolen during the transportation process.
There are also additional expenses in offloading and transporting the goods by road or rail. Direct expenses include payment to personnel in the offloading process, as well as transport expenses. Indirect expenses involve wear and tear due to frequent transportation of these bulky goods by road.
2. Argument on rail car which provides the best overall service to a customer.
There are different types of rail cars around the world, and they are designed for different stacking configurations and containers. Therefore, the benefits that the rail cars present to customers depend on the needs and type of goods which are being transported. However, there are generally certain rail cars which present certain advantages over others. In my opinion, assuming a customer is transporting perishable products, the refrigerated box car is the rail car which provides the best overall service to the customer. This is due to the several features that it has, which enable it to serve various customer needs, especially related to the transport of perishable products. The refrigerated box car has the following features;
The first is the advanced refrigeration unit in the rail car, with several units which are computer controlled (Wang and American Society of Civil Engineers, 2002). These are fuel efficient and they serve the needs of people who are transporting perishable products. There are two benefits which customers enjoy from these features. The first is that perishable goods are capable of being transported over long distances without getting damaged. For instance, they are capable of transporting frozen French fries and cheese from Pacific Northwest and California to the eastern markets. The eastern markets are then able to supply frozen poultry and meat to US. This is a long distance and makes it convenient for customers dealing in exports and imports of these products to receive them in good condition.
The second benefit is attributable to fuel efficiency. This rail car is very fuel efficient, and this is beneficial to the customer. The fuel compartment has gallon tanks which go up to 550, and these ensure that the rail cars run for longer periods without requiring refueling. When the rail car consumes lesser fuel, this means that the lower costs will be translated in prices charged for the shipping. This ensures that consumers make higher profits when they sell their products. The fuel tanks have a head shield which prevents damage in case of accidents or security breaches, which secures the goods transported to the customers.
The refrigerated box car is also capable of being incorporated with a satellite monitoring system which is very useful in monitoring the movement of the cargo (Chadwin et. al., 1990). This is very important especially in the modern age of hijackings and thefts. The customer and transporter are able to see any diversions on the destined route in time, and take the necessary precautions such as informing the relevant authorities on the possibility of a hijacking or accident.
In terms of insulation, the refrigerated box car has a foam insulation which provides thermal barrier. This increases operating efficiency. In addition to this, the lower prole side design not only improves insulation requirements, but it also increases the interior cubic capacity and car width. The insulation is very important especially when dealing with refrigeration since it means that lesser energy will be lost. This in turn lowers the energy costs due to high efficiency, which in translates to lower charges to customers. The increased cubic capacity enables a higher volume of goods to be transported in a single trip.
The refrigerated car train is built in such a way that it is resistant to the wear and tear which is caused by everyday loading and unloading operations. The ceiling and lining used to construct the car rail is impact resistant. This means that the car train is resistant from damage attributable to clamp truck or fork and pallet impacts This is a benefit to customers who use it due to the reason that repair costs, which may be passed on to them, are minimized.
3. Importance of the 50-mile rule when considering container movements in and out of water ports
Containers can either be unloaded or loaded off or on the pier. The International Longshoremen’s Association views the loading or unloading of containers as the traditional role of the longshoremen (Environmental Risk Solutions Pty Ltd. et. al., 2000). The association put forward a rule that leased or carrier owned containers should be loaded or unloaded by the consignee or ultimate shipper, with assistance from his or her own employees at their own plant, if these operations are carried out within a 50 mile radius of the port. In case the consignee or ultimate shipper does not perform these operations, they should be performed by ILA labor at a deep sea water front facility (National Research Council et. al., 1999). The association did not aim to demand that all loading and unloading activities be performed in dock; it aimed to stop the transferring of loading and unloading activities to consolidation facilities which did not use ILA labor. The carriers are also prohibited from furnishing consolidators with containers. Flouting of this rule attracts a fine of $1000 per container.
The major strength of the 50 mile rule was that it helped dock worker unions secure employment opportunities for their members. Due to the high level of unemployment which was brought about by technological change, where machines performed jobs previously done by humans, generation of employment was of importance. There were massive job losses due to containerization, with dock workers holding regular strikes due to low salaries during this period. In efforts to increase employment levels, the 50 mile rule was developed. The increase in employment helped the local communities develop and earned revenues for the government.
One of the weaknesses of this rule is that it is viewed by some people as discriminatory and unreasonable. It forces the shippers to follow actions which may be against their will. If the shipper does not have enough manpower or a plant to load or unload the cargo, he or she is forced to use ILA labor to perform these operations, if they are done within a 50 mile radius of the port. The shipper is therefore limited to the available labor, and is forced to meet their demands which may be exploitive in nature. This limits the independence in carrying out operations and free choice, which is a feature of the free market.
The 50 mile rule also creates unreasonable barriers to shippers who want to use the cargo facilities off pier (Hooydonk, 2007). It limits the ability of shippers to utilize all the services which are available in the port and this may affect their operations. These barriers are not consistent with the shipping regulations and are not in the best interest of the shipping operations. These weaknesses led to the challenge of the rule in a court of law where the National Labor relations Board declared it to be a violation of the Taft-Hartley Act, in 1975. The Supreme Court also upheld the judgment and declared the rule to be discriminatory, in 1977.
4. Improvements which can be made to the port community of information.
The port community of information enables linking the logistics to exchange information efficiently with each other. There are three major systems which make up the port community of information and these include communication and information services, central database and facilities platform. The platform consists of domain tools, generic tools and implementation tools.
One of the major improvements which should be made is the upgrading of the existing technology, especially concerning Information Technology. This involves the use of more modern software and hardware in all processes. Upgrading technology will not only improve the efficiency of IT operations, but it will also improve the security situation and make it more difficult for fraudsters to fleece the ports.
Another improvement relates to regular employee training, especially in the areas of data security, and this is meant to prevent commission of fraud or loss of revenue, due to corruption and inefficiency (Leblanc et. al., 2000). This should be followed up by evaluation by ICT security specialists on a regular basis, on the overall port community system. Improvement should also be made to safeguard the port infolink, and this can be achieved through accessing controls for each location and putting in place physical security.
There should be a modern user-friendly system link-up which is interactive with customers. The port website should not only be fully functional and updated, but it should be easy to use. This is due to the reason that some customers use it to view message specifications and later download them in secure locations. The port infolink should meet international standards when sending messages which include barge planning, rail planning, cargo declaration and road planning. These services should be extended to cover twenty four hours a day.
The port community of information should link to all stakeholders of the port (Mahoney and Eno Foundation for Transportation, 1985). These include the port authority, maritime agents, border control, stevedores, shippers, forwarding agents, warehouses, harbor masters office and customs. This requires all the stakeholders to have similar objectives and political will. In addition to the IT infrastructure which has been discussed above which is required to link them, there should be convergence groups and workshops organized for these stakeholders in order to streamline their goals and share opinions. The public and private sector should cooperate in this initiative, since exchange of useful ideas will be beneficial to all.
Improvement of the port community of information will facilitate changes to be made to the physical infrastructure of the ports. The ports will increase the depth and size of ports to handle increased size of vessels. They will also invest in new technology involving cranes which will improve the capability and efficiency of handling cargo. As was stated before, war ships are very large and cannot be accommodated in some of these ports, and this is one of the reasons that the land bridge system is used. In addition to this, due to technical innovations, Samsung Heavy Industries is planning to market 16000 TEU ships, which cannot fit in many ports. The first ports to achieve this depth will enjoy doing business with these ships, which makes it imperative that ports increase their depth and capacities.
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