Logistics managers may soon have new tool to locate and move empty ocean containers

BCG launched a platform late last year that could save the container industry billions of dollars

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The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) launched xChange, a Web-based marketplace to effectively and environmentally reduce costs and emissions for shipping companies, the firm announced late last year.

According to BCG analysis, moving empty shipping containers costs $15 to $20 billion annually and generates up to 19 million tons of carbon dioxide globally—the equivalent of driving more than 90 billion miles in a standard car. BCG believes that xChange will greatly increase the number of container exchanges among logistics companies and reduce the movement of empty containers by as much as 30 percent.

The platform is designed to provide end-to-end functionality and enable the direct exchange of containers and other equipment between market participants, such as container liners and other logistics companies.

“The main goal in developing BCG’s container xChange is to facilitate exchanges of idle equipment between ocean carriers, container leasing companies, intermodal operators, and other logistics companies,” said Ulrik Sanders, a Copenhagen-based partner at BCG and the global leader of the firm’s transportation and logistics practice. “Through a comprehensive end-to-end process management system, we are introducing a groundbreaking solution that addresses very real exchange needs,” added Jens Riedl, a Munich-based partner and the firm’s head of transportation and logistics in Europe.

Key functionalities for users of the xChange platform include the following:

• Global transparency into equipment needs and the availability of other players in the industry provide easier, more streamlined coordination
• Automated identification of possible transactions supports staff in selecting the highest-value repositioning options
• End-to-end online interchange process reduces complexity and facilitates communication with other participants
• Live updates help to satisfy equipment needs, even on very short notice
• Intuitive graphic interface with search and filter functionalities let users find exactly the information they need
• Integrated data management and logging reduces recurring workload
• Integrated reporting provides transparency and rewards performance

The system is already in operation and is being tested by a majority of the top 20 global ocean container carriers and leading leasing companies.

LM conducted an exclusive interview with BSG’s Eric Gregoire to learn more details:

LM: Can you name some of the carriers, ports, and leasing companies involved in this development?

Gregoire:  10 of the Top 25 carriers plus leasing companies are involved currently; discussions with ports have been commenced; we cannot reveal information on specific carriers involved

LM: Which economic zones will profit the most from this service?

Gregoire: The potential to reduce empty moves is highest in Europe, Asia and Oceania; These are markets with higher shares of company-specific (i.e. not structural/macro-economic) trade imbalances. Also, all heavily industrialized zones (especially also US ports) will benefit significantly as reduced empty moves and mileage limit traffic, pollution and port/infrastructure congestion.

LM: How will you grow this business in emerging markets?

Gregoire: A significant share of the carriers involved already are from the developing markets. Our plan for 2016 is to approach even more mid-sized and smaller carriers – including companies whose home base is in emerging markets. xChange is – just like are our customers – a fully global solution that includes port- and inland locations in both emerging and developed markets

About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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Article Topics

Container · Ocean Shipping · Shipping · All Topics
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