The containerized freight segment is historically conservative and skeptical about innovation, especially from a startup with founders from outside the container or tradition-laden maritime business community. There are relatively few investors or funds targeting business-to-business startup innovation for containerized freight logistics. And even if there is investor interest in our technology, there is often a concern about whether the investor has partners and associates with in-depth knowledge about the container segment and its complex market adoption cycle.
Futuristic helicopter drones delivering same day packages consumers ordered from Amazon or Google tend to get click-magnet, viral headlines. Reinventing the venerable 60 year old steel shipping container to serve the next 100 years of growth in the global economy doesn’t have quite the same new shiny toy appeal of logistics drones in the tech, trade or business media.
But overcoming skepticism, complex market adoption, funding obstacles and media communication issues are the everyday challenges for startups. We’ll find a path that works.
By far the biggest challenge for a business-to-business logistics startup focused on containerized shipping is figuring out where we fit in the continuum of industry reporting about sustainable supply chains, sustainable shipping and corporate social responsibility (CSR.) The easy part is figuring out how, when and where our technology can help reduce energy and carbon footprints for container fleet owners and operators.
Assuming Staxxon’s empty container optimization technology can eliminate 15% to 20% of the empty crane lifts at marine, rail and truck terminals and the related land-side moves by truck, rail and terminal equipment, the fuel and energy savings potential is relatively easy to calculate. There may even be carbon offset market opportunities for us and our customers or partners to monetize.
The hard part is figuring out how to communicate and compare the potential sustainability benefits to target customers and partners. While every carrier, terminal and shipper has announced plans or programs to reduce its carbon and fuel footprint, there are no consistent standards for measuring or reporting so that benchmarks become a common language that shippers – the brands that move product in containers and pay the freight bills – can compare and make booking decisions.
For example, we’ve determined that eliminating empty container lifts at marine terminal berths could enable container ships to spend less time moored at the berth. This time savings, in turn, might enable the container ship to make expanded use of slow or super slow steaming while underway to its next port of call, potentially saving tens of tons of fuel and tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per transit if weather, navigation and other realties of maritime commerce cooperate. The challenge is finding a common benchmark to use for reporting the real and potential fuel savings for container ships from eliminating empty lifts at the berth.
On the land side, reducing the number of diesel trucks lined up at marine terminal gates with empty containers by 15% to 20% – especially on those days when terminals “call” for empties – would help improve air quality, reduce gate congestion and potentially reduce conflicts with adjoining residential neighborhoods over traffic snarls due to the truck line ups. The dray drivers might find they are getting their target 3 trips a day on a more regular basis. Sounds great and good for everyone, right. So where’s the benchmark or standard for comparison?
What standards or benchmarks do you think we should we use? Or is the best approach to publish what we learn as we go and see if others also share data?