The world's first ocean-capable 53-foot containers were received by Singapore-based APL on Nov. 7 and will soon be deployed as a weekly service on APL's South China to Los Angeles lane. The creator of outsize containers in the 1980s, APL said its latest innovation--premium big-box service on a regular, weekly basis--has the potential to make a significant difference to the economics of transpacific trade. "Our objective is to move big-box economics farther back in the supply chain to the point where products are manufactured in Asia," says Ron Widdows, CEO of APL. "We're responding to customers who want new levels of efficiency in their containerized trade."
Deployment of the new-generation, larger container for Transpacific trade is a logical next step for APL, which introduced the industry's first 45-foot container in 1980, the 48-footer in 1986, and the domestic 53-foot box in 1989. The 53-foot container has become fundamental to domestic intermodal transportation in the U.S. But to date, other than for occasional cargo lifts when repositioning new containers from Asia to the U.S., 53-foot boxes haven't been strong enough to endure the rigors of ocean transport. Instead, importers ship cargo to the U.S. West Coast in 20, 40 or 45-foot boxes, then trans-load their shipments to 53-foot containers at U.S. ports for truck or rail transport to the final destination.
APL is looking to change all of that. The new, reinforced 53-foot boxes are built specifically for international trade and designed to withstand ocean voyages. That means cargo can now be transported from factories in Asia all the way to U.S. store doors without trans-loading. The bigger boxes have 60 percent more capacity than standard 40-foot containers. They're 9 feet 6 inches high and 102 inches wide--six inches wider than standard boxes. That extra space enables shippers to consolidate more cargo into fewer containers.
APL has concluded pilot tests of 53-foot ocean containers with key U.S. retailers. The successful trials led to the decision to order the big boxes for immediate use with select customers, including Toys "R" Us and New Balance.
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