Affects of Competition and Modernization Research Paper

Pages: 7 (1977 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Transportation

Advancements and Modernizations in Port Infrastructure and Operation: Changes in Information Technology and Shipping Containers

There have been a great many technological developments in the twentieth century, particularly in the latter half of the twentieth century (at least as far as the civilian world is concerned), and these have revolutionized the way in which business is conducted at almost every level and at every stop along the supply chain. From the sourcing and extraction of raw materials, through every step of the manufacturing process and even to the final sale of finished goods to consumers, newly or relatively recently developed technologies have come into play that render obsolete the way business was conducted even a few short decades ago. This is just as true for the shipping and transport industry as it is for the producers and consumers that dot the supply chain, and though they have shown something of a resistance to change if only based on the sheer size and scope of their operations and infrastructures, many major ports have undergone modernizing to make them more efficient and capable of handling the ever-increasing volume of global trade.

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Increased computerization and the rapid growth of information technologies have played a major part in the progress of business and the modernization of ports. From planning to tracking and communication and even to the design of port layouts and mechanisms, information technology is a major part of port modernization. These applications are truly definitive of the current era of society, dubbed by many the "Computer Age."

TOPIC: Research Paper on Affects of Competition and Modernization Assignment

Changes to shipping containers to increase their standardization across all modes of transport have also changed the ways in which ports can perform basic functions, and modernization can change what were once inhibitive factors into greatly increased efficiencies. The ability to quickly handle newer shipping containers and facilitate transfer from maritime vessels to truck and rail transport modes -- and vice versa -- is key to maintaining a port's competitiveness, and the ability to efficiently schedule and plan transport operations is also a part of this process. In this way, both information technology developments and changes to shipping containers and the devices used for moving containers at port sites have contributed to the modernization needs of the modern-day ports.

Information Technology

A recent study commissioned by the RAND corporation found that ports in the United States can expect the number of containers they process on a daily basis to increase nearly four-fold over the next two decades, and even if this projection is halved many ports will have to undergo adjustments to remain competitive (Hillestad et al. 2009). A major part of port congestion is the lack of support of existing infrastructure for land shipment to and away from ports -- that is, railways and highways are either not sufficient enough used efficiently enough to provide access to/from the port at the port's maximum cargo-moving capacity (Hillestad et al. 2009). Information technologies allow for more accurate communication of shipment location and can also be used to organize traffic allowing for maximum capacity. And the adoption of such technologies in major ports is already well underway (Hillestad et al. 2009).

The need for information technologies in creating systems that more efficiently move cargo through ports has been stressed by other scholars, as well. Integration of ports into the full system of cargo transport to a degree recently not envisioned as even possible is necessary to allow for continued growth of the global economy, according to Rezende (1999). The term "systems optimization" is a catchphrase for this scholar, and for other calls to action in the previous decade when ports were lagging far behind the rest of the supply chain infrastructure in becoming integrated with communications and information technology (Rezende 1999). Through the adoption of these technologies and greater integration with both private shipping companies and government entities, modernized ports are more able to effectively and efficiently direct and handle increased traffic and cargo loads.

The growing amount of traffic making its way through the world's ports is accompanied by greater warehousing and transportation infrastructure needs. As these warehouses and infrastructure elements are built, they create a greater need for up-to-date logistics planning on the part of port operators and private shippers, and information technologies are vital in providing planning systems that incorporate the rapidly changing infrastructure of today's world (USDOC 2008). Decisions influencing which ports of entry to utilize can change on a daily or even hourly basis depending on the distribution of warehousing capabilities, and creating communications network between ports and other transportation infrastructure elements to allow for more accurate decision making has been a major part of port modernization (USDOC 2008).

There are also even more far-reaching and long-term applications for the increased capabilities of information technologies in the ongoing modernization of the world's ports. As port and general infrastructure needs are projected to continue to grow, there is also a need to find new areas for construction and to determine the feasibility of port expansions, and many ports are beginning to utilize newer technologies in estimating costs, scopes, and impacts of port expansion products as part of a continuing modernization effort (IDB 2008). Such analysis is both more accurate and cheaper than previous methods of producing feasibility studies for similar projects, but ongoing technological development that assists in future projects is increasingly incorporated as an ongoing part of port operations, in order to keep modern ports continuously modern in their ability to deliver (IDB 2008).

The applications for information technology in port modernization are vast, covering almost every specific task involved in such modernization. From creating systems that utilize the port's current machinery, human resources, physical space, and infrastructure connections in the most efficient manner possible to analyzing new sites for future port expansions, the assistance of computerization and information and communication technologies have increased port capability tremendously in the past few decades. Such technologies also play a major role in ensuring that the day-to-day operations of many ports remain consistent and efficient, not only in planning these operations and directing port traffic, but also in the direct operation of the newer equipment at modernized ports.

Shipping Containers and Intermodal Transport

The key to the "container revolution," as some have called the transition in the middle of the twentieth century from loose freight to containers, is the increased automation that the standardized containers allow for (Levinson 2006). When there are exact dimensions for the majority of all containers that are being transferred at a given port, and when these dimensions are not only exact but are exactly the same, then the same basic set of procedures can be used to unload each container, and automated or semi-automated machinery can do this much more quickly, tirelessly, and cheaper than human labor (Levinson 2006). Labor unions found this out too late, and dock workers are a far rarer breed than they used to be, but modernized ports drive the overall economy much faster than did their longshoreman-staffed predecessors with freight packed in all manner of ways (Levinson 2006).

Many ports operating in the United States and around the world have been long neglected in terms of this modernization, and the many changes in the standardization of hardware have led to inefficiencies in such ports (MGF 2010). Though the necessary upgrades can be costly, the improved efficiency of a modernized port helps to realize a cost-benefit from such endeavors fairly quickly (MGF 2010). Despite financial difficulties faced by many governments in the current era, ports are seen as increasingly important in terms of both economic and military strategy, and as such governments have begun revamping efforts to modernize ports and enable them to handle greater degrees of throughput through greater standardization (MGF 2010).

Other ports have remained even more neglected, and as of just a decade ago were still operating using only forklifts and whatever lifting/moving equipment was supplied by each individual ship to transfer cargo to and from marine vessels to rail or truck transport modes (Furukawa 2005). With the absence of even basic stationary machinery at such ports, there is almost no existing infrastructure on which to build, and efforts to modernize these ports have necessarily been more massive and thus usually far more slow-going (Furukawa 2005). Still, it is important to note that countries around the world are recognizing the need to update ports to handle modern shipping containers, using more specialized (as well as simply bigger and faster, in some cases) equipment to deal with these standardized containers more efficiently, transferring intermodal cargo shipments that much more easily (Furukawa 2005).

In the last two decades of the twentieth century, containerized shipping accounted for far and away the largest portion of the forty-percent growth in marine shipping during that period (Peters 2001). The ability for ports to handle this increase in overall volume, and especially the increase in container volume, is essential to the competitiveness of many major players up and down the supply chain, from the shipping companies that these ports service… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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