[ID] => 9851
[post_author] => 34
[post_date] => 2018-07-18 08:49:57
[post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-18 07:49:57
[post_content] => “Thirty years after the Union Pacific Railroad launched its ‘Bulktainer’ retail ISO tank service, there is still plenty of room for growth in the domestic American liquids market, which remains heavily dominated by over-the-road transportation,” says John Lonergan. “The cultural bias toward truck remains strong, but the ISO tank is gaining ground.”
Lonergan is regional director of tank containers for global container leasing specialist Seaco, based in Houston. He follows the North American tank container market closely and is engaged in further promoting tank container use, in partnership with operators and other partners, particularly the railroads.
“This year has seen an increased demand for domestic intermodal ISO tank use, in large part due to the ever-increasing shortage of hazardous material commercial drivers that is affecting both long- and short-haul deliveries’” Lonergan adds. “Some of the longest long-haul lanes that stubbornly stay on the road are starting to shift. As a result, Seaco is seeing new ISO tank demand within the North American sector.”
MEETING SPOT DEMAND
Peter Folkard has recently returned after working for Seaco in Australia for two years; he is now regional vice-president of the Americas for marketing and container sales. Early next year he will relocate to Seaco’s expanding Houston office, which is very much focused on the tank leasing sector.
The reason behind expansion at Houston is not hard to find. “In Houston it is noticeable that operator traffic has been high for much of this year with tank containers being turned almost as soon as they arrive at the depots,” Folkard says. “Tank operators have told us that with increased demand they have been booking tanks for export loads even before an import load has arrived and their fleets are running at full capacity. It is notable that many of our recent lease bookings have very much been ‘spot bookings’ to make up shortfalls when things run overly tight.”
Seaco’s depot stocks for both leasing and tank sales have reduced considerably and its operations team is having to manage inspection and repair cycle times very closely to ensure Seaco stays ahead of these spot demands as they arise.
“One unknown but very much in the nest just now is the threat of trade tariffs and even perhaps a trade war,” Folkard adds. “While at the time of writing there has been little noticeable effect or slow down, there is certainly the potential for the industry to be adversely impacted since it is so interdependent on global trade. We are obviously following this very closely.”
PLACE IN THE WORLD
The tank container business is by definition international in nature and Seaco is one of the three dominant players in the tank leasing sector. It has a modern fleet of some 43,000 units comprising tanks from T11 to T50 and with capacities from 12,000 to 35,000 litres. Much of the fleet is made up of T11 to T14 tanks, both insulated and uninsulated, designed for the carriage of foodgrade, hazardous and non-hazardous liquids.
Seaco has more than 50 years of leading the development of the container leasing business and has a well-earned reputation for knowledge, manufacturing quality and innovation. Through its network of offices and depots, Seaco offers an unparalleled range of containers, from general purpose and reefer boxes to tanks and a wide range of specialised units.
“Our tank leasing and container sales activities continue to expand, and we have a regular flow of new equipment ex factory being positioned into our key locations where they are made available for a range of different lease structures to meet the ever changing requirements of our diverse customer base,” Folkard says. And, as the pages of HCB have recorded in recent years, those requirements are changing rapidly.
“Over-buying in 2015/2016 created a glut of tank containers on the ground, linked with manufacturing over-capacity; it resulted in tank prices falling to some pretty low levels,” comments John Bannister, Seaco’s Singapore-based vice-president for tanks and refrigerated containers.
“We have seen some discipline come back to the market in the last couple of years, resulting in tank prices increasing. Lease rates are inherently linked to newbuild prices, so we have seen lease rates fall and now start to increase because of newbuild price increase,” Bannister adds. “This has obviously created a few challenges in the market over the last few years. As newbuild prices continue to increase, depot equipment becomes more attractive and we have seen demand for this type of equipment improve.”
THE PLACE TO BE
“While larger tank operators may make up the largest segment of our customer base, there then follows a very diverse number of customers moving a wide range of products, including foodgrade tanks throughout the Caribbean, chemical tanks throughout Brazil, Argentina and the Mercosur region, and gas tank users from Houston and so forth,” Folkard says. “But there are several factors that have kept us on our toes over recent years and these continue to shape our approach to the market within North America.”
Folkard points to flexibility, reliability of service and pricing as all being ongoing hurdles facing intermodal ISO tank service in North America. “Lack of storage space or transfer faculties in near proximity to rail yards adds stress and cost to the service,” he says. “Rapid growth in the global ISO tank fleet in the past 10 years is putting some stress on depot support services for all users.”
What can be done to increase the penetration of tank containers into the North American market? Folkard says there is scope to highlight the safety advantages of ISO tanks and the energy-efficiency and environmental benefits of using rail services. Pricing is also an issue: railroads could move away from the current policy of pricing intermodal services against truck services.
Overall though, Folkard is happy to be in the ISO tank sector. “Whether it’s the Americas, Australia, or any other part of the world, our tank leasing sector is always a fascinating and challenging part of our overall leasing and container sales business.”
[post_title] => North America: Making up ground
[post_status] => publish
[comment_status] => open
[ping_status] => open
[post_name] => north-america-making-ground
[post_modified] => 2018-07-18 08:49:57
[post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-18 07:49:57
[post_parent] => 0
[guid] => https://www.hcblive.com/?p=9851
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