Today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal includes an article, Ports Get Creative as Cargo Piles Up. (paid subscription or complimentary metered view) This article describes the application of innovation and creative use of Uber like technology can certainly help alleviate the current backlog across U.S. west coast ports.

Supply Chain Matters trusts that industry teams will indeed employ other creative uses of technology to help alleviate the current congestion as well as more permanently avoid current choke points.

The WSJ describes how the newer and far larger container ships have contributed too much of the current congestion citing observers noting that the containers are less organized on these newer ships. Rather than waiting with dock workers to extract specific containers from the stacks of piled-up containers and match them to a specific transport movement, a new approach is to schedule local short-haul truckers to pick-up the first container off the top of the stack, without a scheduled appointment, and get that container off the dock as soon as possible. It is described as a variant of free-flow or peel-off operations destined for the same cargo owner.  The truckers utilize a smartphone based, Uber style app developed by Cargomatic, under delivery parameters within a maximum of 150 miles from the port. The driver then logs the container into the app, which provides instructions for where to transport the container.  Drivers are paid immediately at delivery.

According to this WSJ report, the average turn-around time for Cargomatic equipped drivers was roughly half the time from the turnaround of the usual dig-out process.

While the use of this technology is limited to those shippers with high inbound volume levels, it is, from our lens, a demonstration of innovation and creativity applied to an industry that sorely needs such more of approaches.

We trust that port operators, organized labor and shipping lines will be more open and supportive of such approaches.  The collective goal has to be increased container throughput, especially in light of the effort remaining in restoring a state of normal operations.

Bob Ferrari