Foldable Containers to Reduce the Costs of Empty Transport? A Cost–Benefit Analysis from a Chain and Multi-Actor Perspective

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Rob Konings (2005)

Transport of empty containers, which arises from the need to reposition containers, is an expensive business. This holds in particular for shipping lines, which are usually responsible for container repositioning and have to bear these container management costs. Shipping lines are known to follow various strategies to reduce the costs of empty transport. A rather unfamiliar, but interesting option to save costs is the possibility to fold empty containers. This could save transport costs, but also transhipment and storage costs. In this paper, we analyse the opportunities for commercial application of foldable containers. For this purpose a cost–benefit analysis is adopted in which four logistic concepts to use foldable containers are presented as a framework for analysis. The costs and benefits of using foldable containers in these logistic concepts are calculated and compared with the situation in which standard containers are used. It is shown that the use of foldable containers can lead to substantial net benefits in the total chain of container transport. However, much depends on the additional costs that foldable containers cause, that is, the cost of folding and unfolding, additional exploitation costs and any additional transport to places where folding and unfolding can take place. The logistic concept plays a part in it, but it should be a great challenge for designers and container producers to develop a foldable container that generates limited additional costs. Maritime Economics & Logistics (2005) 7, 223–249. doi:10.1057/palgrave.mel.9100139
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