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Video Tip: Maersk’s Floating Empire State Buildings

October 8, 2014

maerskBreakfast in your home is a global affair. While your eggs may be from a nearby farm, your cooking pan could be from Germany, the refrigerator, toaster, and table from China, the fruit salad from 4-5 different countries, your newspaper from Indonesian wood pulp, and the coffee from Ethiopia. Regardless of national origin, pretty much all of it came from outside your town, by means ranging from 1,200-foot-long container vessel to railroad to truck. And that’s just breakfast. For all of our activities, the average American requires the movement of 57 tons of cargo per year!

“Ninety percent of the world’s freight goes by sea, and the vessels that transport it are the largest vehicles on Earth,” writes The Atlantic-CityLab (Oct.2, 2014).  The more containers that can fit on a ship (measured in 20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs), the cheaper it is to move them. Today, the Triple E class container ships built for Maersk Line are the world’s largest ships. The Triple E class can hold 18,000 TEUs, enough to transport 111 million pairs of sneakers, or enough to shoe over 1/3 of the U.S. in a single trip. The Triple E is 1,300 feet long (which is the height of the Empire State building), 194 feet wide, and 240 feet high. This 6 minute video provides a perfect interface when you discuss logistics in Chapter 11.

As ships bring bigger swells of goods and ask for quicker turnaround times, the ports are focusing on how to get those goods off the ship and on the roads or rails faster. So while ships are maximizing economies, ports are focusing on efficiency. At this point, rail proves to be the most efficient mode of land transport. In 2013, railroads moved a ton of freight an average of 473 miles on a single gallon of diesel fuel. Rail is widely considered to be 3-4 times more fuel efficient than trucks, and especially vital for moving bulk cargo—2/3 of U.S. coal shipments move by rail, for example.

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