Potentially Hazardous Containers Close Two Terminals at the Port of Oakland
Workers from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) forced the shutdown of two marine terminals at the Port of Oakland in late October over concerns that refrigerated container units that were serviced in Vietnam during March and April could explode when they were powered up.
The companies that supply the containers have issued safety bulletins. Memos addressed to the Port of Oakland marine terminals stated that the ILWU would not allow any refrigerated units through the gates until it received a list of all refrigerated units serviced or re-gassed in Vietnam, which was said to be where the faulty containers were serviced.
According to World Cargo News, refrigerated containers have been quarantined around the world after reports of “compressor explosions and incidents of spontaneous combustion that have resulted in at least three fatalities.”
The problem could have something to do with the addition of incompatible or unsuitable refrigerant gas, the article stated.
The shutdown at the Port of Oakland directly affected the SSA and TraPac terminals, but also impacted operations throughout the port and for truckers moving in and out of the port complex.
According to a statement issued by the Pacific Maritime Association, multiple international shipping agencies are conducting a comprehensive review of refrigerated containers processed at a Vietnam port after some units exploded, reportedly killing two mechanics in Vietnam and one in Brazil.
Paper: The New Pallet in Town
Wooden pallets are facing a challenge from a cardboard rival that’s an innovation of furniture retailer Ikea Group.
Ikea will ditch wood pallets by January in favor of a lighter, thinner, paper-based alternative, which the Swedish company claims will shave 10 percent from transport costs.
“We don’t know if the paper pallet will be the ultimate solution, but it’s better than wood,” says Jeanette Skjelmose, sustainability manager at Ikea’s supply chain unit. Although it’s made from folded corrugated-card, the design can support a load of 750 kilograms (1,650 pounds), the same as timber, she adds.
The pallets will be good for a single delivery before being pulped by the retailer. One-third the height of wooden trays at 5 centimeters (2 inches) and 90 percent lighter at 2.5 kilos, they’ll save thousands of truck trips and cut transport bills by 140 million euros ($193 million) a year at a cost of 90 million euros for paper purchases and new forklifts, Ikea says.
“We hope this will be a start in making transportation systems smarter and freight as compact as possible,” Skjelmose said during an interview in Helsingborg, where Ikea has its Swedish base. The world’s No. 1 home-furniture company will help ease the transition from wood by shipping ready-to-assemble pallets to some of its suppliers, about 330 of which are based in China.
Meanwhile, paper pallets designed to last for a single journey could represent a challenge to pooling systems used by many of the container industry’s biggest customers.
Nonetheless, CHEP doesn’t use paper-based pallets and has no plans to change, according to James Hall, a spokesman for Australia-based Brambles Limited, the world’s leading provider of pallet and container pooling solutions, through the CHEP and IFCO brands.
“Paper pallets and other cardboard packaging products are not suitable for pooling,” Hall says. “They’re not durable enough, not capable of withstanding heavy loads or extremes of weather and temperature, and they can’t be repaired. It’s not what our customers are looking for.”
Pallet pooling is especially useful for companies that need to turn around products quickly, such as food suppliers, while a wooden structure is preferable for industries dealing in heavier goods, clarified Russell Shaw, an analyst with MacQuarie Group Ltd., based in Sydney, Australia. “Wood helps to prevent product damage,” he says. “If you’re transporting something really light such as cushions or candles, like Ikea, you probably don’t need a high-quality pallet.”