A severe land shortage around North American ports is driving warehouses farther and farther inland, according to the study "Import-Driven Warehousing in North America: Challenges and Opportunities."
Report authors Arnold Maltz of Arizona State University and Thomas Speh of Miami University in Ohio based their conclusion on interviews with executives of 19 warehouses at 10 of the largest U.S. ports. Maltz and Speh presented their findings in April at the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC) conference in Nashville, Tennessee.
The steady rise in imports has created a critical need for more warehouses located at or near ports, but harborside property remains difficult to come by. "There's not a port (in the United States) with significant space on the waterside for warehouse development," Maltz said. As a result, he added, import warehouses are now being built 150 miles from ports.
The researchers found that the efficiency of import cargo handling varied dramatically from port to port.
The process of offloading import shipments and transporting it to a warehouse involved multiple participants: ocean carriers, stevedores, freight forwarders, customs brokers, port authorities, terminal operators, longshoremen, drayage companies, warehouses, and rail and trucking firms. Import warehouses, the study noted, are highly dependent on managing all of these relationships in order to successfully carry out their responsibilities.
To improve the flow of cargo to import warehouses, the study suggested, those facilities could benefit from access to a single source of accurate information on the status and whereabouts of inbound ocean containers. Surprisingly, that information often is lacking, the research found. "Steamship lines often won't tell what's coming into a warehouse until after it's offloaded," Maltz said.
[Source: "Import-Driven Warehousing," Arnold B. Maltz and Thomas W. Speh, presentation at Warehousing Education and Research Council 2007 Conference, April 24, 2007.]