Driving Intermodal Solutions
The twenty-first century has created a global community that integrates international markets into one economic ecosystem that sustains itself through international trade. Billions of people around the world depend on foreign countries to supply some of their nation’s most vital goods, and the majority of these travel by container.
Cleveland-based ContainerPort Group (CPG) moves approximately 250,000 shipping containers every year and has pioneered the intermodal sector since its inception in 1971.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average American requires the movement of fifty-seven tons of cargo every year. As the force that fuels the movement of goods across the planet, the transportation industry may represent one of the global economy’s most critical systems of support. The shift towards globalization may not have happened at all without the development of transportation techniques.
Before the 1970s, international shipments required more money, more time, and massive amounts of labor. The process entailed several days and hundreds of workers to unload and reload cargo from one mode of transport to another. The advent of the shipping container revolutionized the industry and enabled a system of transportation that allows cargo to move seamlessly between multiple modes of transport – from ships to trains to trucks.
As a world leader in container and cargo solutions, CPG’s highly-experienced management team understands the intermodal landscape and knows how to navigate its ever-changing environment. “We provide unique solutions that enable our customers to maintain a smooth supply chain,” says Senior Vice President Jim Kramer. CPG provides inland terminal and trucking services to the major segments of the global shipping industry – ocean carriers, beneficial cargo owners, non-vessel operating common carriers, and intermodal marketing companies.
A beneficial cargo owner, or BCO, is an importer that directly takes control of its cargo. BCOs tend to be sizable companies that have the in-house capability to handle imports. Non-vessel-operating common carriers, known as NVOs or NVOCCs, are freight forwarding agents that will organize the transfer of cargo for owners that do not have their own logistics network. The forwarder may arrange to have cargo transferred from a ship to a truck to a train to a warehouse, as needed.
Over the past forty-five years, CPG has built a comprehensive intermodal network of terminals and container depot facilities in major U.S. markets throughout the Midwest, Ohio Valley, North Atlantic and South Atlantic regions. As well as the magnitude of international cargo shipments it handles, the company works in conjunction with a variety of intermodal marketing companies to handle domestic product.
“Developing a true collaboration with our valued customers is the core of what we do,” Kramer says. CPG weaves shipping logistics and advanced information technology within its transportation and depot services to maintain an intermodal system that guarantees efficient and effective service delivery. The company’s intermodal experts work closely with their customers to meet each distinct set of requirements.
“We continue to leverage technology and improve shipment strategies to truly align ourselves with the needs of our customers and their unique requirements,” Kramer says.
CPG invests in state-of-the-art transportation management systems and software platforms to provide real-time shipment visibility and a full array of customized equipment reports. Its transportation department provides reliable and secure trucking services that respond to local, regional, or long haul shipment demands. Its full-service depot operations include container, chassis and equipment storage, maintenance and repairs, and its experienced staff prepare the shipping containers for export bookings.
Changes in transportation technology and the ocean shipping industry have had a significant impact on the company’s growth and development. Until the mid-1980s, under World Shipping Inc., CPG operated as two separate companies that offered distinct services: trucking and depot operations. The Shipping Act of 1984 introduced regulatory innovations that enabled ocean carriers to offer intermodal pricing and integrate ocean shipping with truck and rail transportation services. This allowed the amalgamation of the two sister companies to form ContainerPort Group in 1986.
“We provide a ‘one-call-does-all’ service for our customers,” Kramer says. “The establishment of ContainerPort Group made it easy for our customers to release the box and book transportation on the same phone call.”
Today, Kramer says that it is the diversification of CPG’s customers and services that keeps the company ahead of the curve. As the freight business is the backbone of international trade, most of its sectors can be affected by fluctuations in the economy.
“Certainly, the state of the world economy affects our level of business, because we are tied primarily to the international box,” Kramer says. “However, our diverse customer base and wide range of transportation and depot services provide us with a fair balance that helps us to hedge ourselves against that challenge.”
Sustainable economic growth requires a high-quality transportation infrastructure that can support growing levels of international trade. Today, intermodal transportation represents one of the fastest growing sectors in the industry; indeed, approximately percent of world trade is shipped across the ocean before transported to its final destination. For shippers who seek transportation for heavy loads over long distances, the combination of rail and truck services costs less, emits less pollution, and has recently increased in popularity.
The Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) recently reported that the number of shippers who opt for intermodal transportation has increased significantly in the last few years. Kramer says that, compared to conventional systems that treat each mode of transportation separately, intermodal transportation systems provide shippers with more flexibility. “If driver capacity gets tight, customers can transport containers by rail,” he says. “If the market softens as it has recently, customers can easily select a trucking option.”
With almost half a century of intermodal experience, CPG knows how to respond to changing trends in the shipping industry. Amongst current business challenges is a significant shortage of truck drivers. According to the American Trucking Associations, the trucking industry will require 890,000 new drivers over the next decade to keep up with customer demand.
To combat the difficult driver market, CPG continues to expand its fleet of experienced and reliable independent contractors to meet the projected shipping needs of the future. Plans for the company’s development include further expansion into strategic markets to enhance its position.
The company has had a laser focus on customer service since its establishment and continues to build strong relationships with its customers to achieve their shipping requirements consistently. Its reputation as one of the most successful transportation, depot, and information services provider stems from its highly qualified team of more than 400 associates and over 600 independent contractors.
CPG has earned its position as a leader in the container shipping industry, and its qualified team of experts knows how to anticipate potential cargo flow disruptions. “We understand the pain points in our customers’ supply chains, and we work towards solutions that proactively address those challenges,” Kramer says. “That’s really what differentiates us – staying tuned to what our customers need and providing them with those services.”
After all, according to CPG’s website, satisfying customers is “an old-fashioned, foolproof recipe for success, which has stood the test of time.”