In Thailand, heavy traffic and port bottlenecks has led to more use of rail for inland services, resulting in operational cost savings.
In Thailand, Maersk Line uses three modes of transportation for laden as well as empty containers: truck, barge and rail.
However, the main ocean port of Laem Chabang has been growing its throughput, putting pressure on vessel schedule reliability. This is making it increasingly difficult to plan barge services from the Sahathai terminal, which is closer to central Bangkok.
It was therefore crucial for Maersk Line Thailand to find a solution to move roughly 16,000 more containers via land this year, to avoid the risk of incurring additional costs from last-minute contingencies and service failures.
Trucks would increase congestion
Trucking was one option; also the preferred mode for most shipping lines. It is flexible, being independent of rail and barge timings. But trucks come with multiple issues: traffic congestion, bottlenecks due to a preference for weekend vessel arrivals, and the fact that depots are clustered near Lad Krabang.
Adding more trucks would only increase congestion and reduce efficiency. For example, a truck which can usually make three trips on a non-peak day, can only make a single trip on a peak day.
Increasing rail usage
Working together with Siam Shoreside Service, the inland depot which Maersk Line uses in Lad Krabang, the ‘rail maximisation project’ was conceptualised. The project had two elements: increase rail usage from the depot to Laem Chabang terminal, and maximise rail transportation of 20’ (instead of 40’) export containers.
Besides increasing transportation efficiency, another key target was to lower intermodal costs. Transporting a 20’ container by rail is 25% lower in cost compared to a 40’ container, and significantly cheaper than trucking it.
“Since the project started, the proportion of 20’ containers used has gone up from around 40% to 75%, which has resulted in significant savings,” says Kornthong Chakornsirisakul, Operations Manager in Thailand.
However, as there are factors preventing the lifting of a 20’ container on rail such as weight, the Operations team has to ensure there is sufficient supply of 20’ containers.
Stable and less polluting service
The shift to use more rail instead of trucking will help to ensure more efficient use of Maersk Line’s rail allocation by the depot. The project will also focus on increasing rail usage from Saturdays to Tuesdays, where usage is less due to vessel cut-off dates.
“Compared to 2014 on a year-on-year basis, we have increased rail usage by 7%. We are definitely keen to further increase this as it is safer, more efficient, stable, costs less and causes less pollution compared to the other modes of transport,” concludes Kornthong Chakornsirisakul.