In a recent Journal of Commerce article, Ari Ashe wrote “Inland ports gaining popularity despite volume slowdown”.  The article makes reference to beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) using inland ports on the US East Coast, in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia.  GLDPartners’ work with shippers on supply chain strategy and also in our work to develop new inland port hubs affirms a deep well of opportunity  in North America.

This JoC article refers to growing inland ports associated with major seaports on the East Coast. We see potential far beyond a simple enough formula that has a rail intermodal facility and adjacent distribution center development, with a new generation of modern, purpose-designed trade and logistics hubs of scale.  The model will evolve and this is described below – but even as basic transportation/distribution assets, there are no real such project assets in the US West region.

Many shippers are managing supply chains that are demanding greater flexibility to allow for quick volume ramp-up or sourcing shifts.  Efficient rail and truck connected inland port locations provide BCOs the combined advantage of seaport connectivity with a strategic supply chain point that creates a cost efficient, scalable setting for in/near-market distribution.

With many of the impacts of the pandemic now fairly understood by the shipper community, GLDPartners is seeing some clear demand-side patterns that suggest that strategic inland trade and logistics hubs will play an increasingly important role in global supply chain management. Many shippers are actively seeking more seamless supply chain network solutions and are taking advantage of new infrastructure asset investment at new strategic hub locations.  Part of this is driven by heightened concern about an increasing focus on cost management and the inefficiencies associated with truck-dominated seaport locations, combined with total cost business advantages.

Supporting this trend are four key factors:

  1. COVID-19   Part of this trend is related to some of the realities associated with the pandemic.  Many shippers have restructured their supply chain network operations since March, 2020 to support inventory management assets over a more location-diverse system.
  2. Forward-Deployment   There is a clear and growing focus for many companies to site inventory assets closer to key end-markets at forward-deployment hubs that provide a strategic value to getting product to end-customers more quickly.  The advantages to having product closer to a sizable end-user market seems clear, but there can be a double-advantage is that location can also efficiently serve multiple markets, say within about 300-400 miles range.
  3. Mobility Technology Advances – The market has seen a number of quite significant advances in cargo handling and transportation technologies over the past 18 months and the landscape is expected to evolve significantly over the next few years.  These advances are creating more efficiencies in cargo handling with the effect to lower costs.  These technologies include integrated cargo handling systems automation, self-driving and far more integrated IT data systems.

In this regard, GLDPartners Mobility Solutions and our partner companies are working on a series of groundbreaking “TradePort” logistics/trade hub projects in several strategic locations in the West, Midwest and along the East Coast.  We will look forward to talking more about these projects soon with the TradePort Consortium which is a partnership of companies involved in automation, risk capital investment, property development, infrastructure planning and engineering, and telecommunications

JoC Article: Inland Ports Gaining Popularity Despite Volume Slowdown

Michelin, a longtime partner with the Port of Charleston, will begin moving its import cargo through Inland Port Greer, about 10 miles away from the tire manufacturer’s 3 million-square-foot distribution center in South Carolina, the state’s port authority said Tuesday.

It’s the latest in a series of indicators that show beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) have a strong interest in using inland ports, which allow BCOs to transport containers via rail or short-sea rather than moving goods and commodities to and from seaports via trucks, thus reducing costs and emissions.

GE Appliances announced in early March it would tap Georgia’s Appalachian Regional Port connecting to the Port of Savannah. Additionally, Brothers International and Amazon have begun using the inland port of Richmond with its container-on-barge service to the Port of Virginia.

In South Carolina, rail traffic to Inland Port Greer and Inland Port Dillon was flat for the fiscal year ended June 30, despite a 3.4 percent decline in pier containers in the same period. Inland Port Dillon traffic rose 9.7 percent year over year to 32,453 containers, while Inland Port Greer’s volume fell 2.1 percent to 140,155 containers. Other Inland Port Greer tenants include BMW, Adidas, Dollar General, and Eastman Chemical.  Michelin has used Norfolk Southern Railway’s overnight service to Greer to transport raw materials imports since 2015. Finished tires, though, were trucked to the Port of Charleston for exporting.

The Appalachian Regional Port in Chatsworth, Georgia, handled 27,132 containers in fiscal year 2020, its first full year in operation, besting the Georgia Port Authority’s 25,000-container goal. The Richmond Marine Terminal handled 41,019 containers in fiscal 2020, a nearly 23 percent increase.  Turn times are also much shorter in an inland port compared with Charleston, Norfolk, and Savannah. The port authorities say trucks can often enter and exit inland locations within 15 minutes, whereas marine container terminals can take an hour. Less truck idling means less pollution and higher daily productivity per driver

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About GLDPartners and GLDPartners Mobility Solutions:

Global Logistics Development Partners | GLDPartners works with global shippers on supply chain strategy and develops projects at and around strategic seaport, inland port and airport logistics assets.  The firm is based in the US and conducts project work North America, Asia and Europe.  Learn more about Global Logistics Development Partners | GLDPartners.

GLDPartners Mobility Solutions specializes in testing and development facilities, cargo mobility, infrastructure project development, mobility sector economic development strategies and regional mobility strategies. Company website: GLDPartners Mobility Solutions.