The fist image that comes to my mind when I hear about the word “logistics” is a container port. This can be due to the fact that I live in Valencia, where we can find the sixth container port in Europe with the major containers movement. I’m used to seeing from my early years, not too far from the beach, enormous cranes near to huge surface area full of containers, and also a lot of lorries carrying containers in and out of the city.
There are many different logistics activities in a container port to the extent that there are different kinds of port operation:
Direct: communication between boat and ground transportation is almost immediate because in the moment that a boat arrives to the port, there is a lorry or a railway waiting to pick the freight. Boats are discharged with pier’s cranes, which are very big gantry cranes.
Semi-direct: operation in which the communication between seaway and overland requires a gathering esplanade in the port. So the containers have to stay in the esplanade until the land transport (rail or road transport) arrives.
Indirect: in this operation it is needed not only a gathering esplanade but also the freight is stored during a period of time. The containers are moved from the discharge zone to the storage area by straddle-carrier.
Therefore, the staff has to manage the huge amount of lorries that are waiting to be loaded from a boat that has just arrived to the port, but also from the containers that have been stored some hours, days or months before.
A container port is, ultimately, a modal interchange point so the total activity includes a hard and large logistic work in each one of the four subsystems that it is composed of:
- Loading and unloading ships subsystem, which is in charge of resolving the maritime interface and all the aspect of civil engineering, the necessary equipment such as the forklift trucks and all the agents involved in this activity.
- The container storage subsystem occupies the largest part of the terminal surface. A suitable layout is very important because it is strongly attached with the land transport, and also is very significant the type of handing mechanism.
- Reception and delivery ground transport subsystem, which is composed of all the volume information, facilities and the specific area in order of making easier the door to rail and road transport.
- Internal interconnection subsystem, which is essential to guarantee horizontally containers transport among the other three subsystems.
In addition to these, we should emphasize the complexity of operating with heavy loads and manipulating the specific machinery.
Also, they have to manage the empty containers and coordinate the ones which have to stay in the warehouse taking into account when is the departure schedule.
And we are missing to talk about many other factors that also demand operations of planning and control because there are not only Full Container Loads (FCL) but also what is known as Less Than Container Load (LCL) which requires an additional subsystem to load a container with a variety of ways of present the freight such as boxes or pallets. LCL is the freight traffic that is set together for being transported but it has to be separated in destiny.
As we have seen, the container terminal could be considered as a paradigmatic case of complete and complex logistic activity.