Five ways to modernise on-dock rail operations at container gateways



Johannes Leholm, Solutions Architect, Navis


As ports increase the size and scope of on-dock rail facilities, terminal operators need innovative solutions to increase throughput and efficiency. With global supply chains breaking down due to unexpected surges in demand, large gateway ports face unprecedented challenges in clearing cargo.

The Port of Los Angeles’ Executive Director recently described the situation as a “once-in-a-lifetime event” after the port handled record container volumes in March 2021.

European gateways continue to experience heavy congestion after the Ever Given blocked the Suez Canal for five days in April 2021. Increased waiting times for cargo at overflowing terminals have forced vessel carriers to announce impromptu container surcharges for truck, barge, and rail exchanges.

Compounding issues further are the severe shortages in labour, containers, chassis, and railcars across supply chains. While supply constraints may loosen in upcoming months, uncertainty around ongoing pandemic lockdowns continue to hamper suppliers’ efforts to effectively adapt.

This confluence of events has created a perfect storm where demand continues to overwhelm supply. Gateway terminals, meanwhile, face the formidable task of absorbing these shocks while working down their cargo backlogs before this year’s peak season begins.

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