container depot wtih lots of containers and some trucks

What is a Container Depot?

Silver Runner Kft.

Silver Runner Kft.

Container depots are an ideal case study of logistics and operations management. They showcase the steps that can be taken to overcome important problems such as bottlenecks and lack of space.

In the past 6 years more than 27.000 freight trains were dispatched only by the UTLC ERA on the traintracks of the New Silk Road. One train carries on avarage of 100 TEU at once. This is around 2.627.500 containers, what were transported on this route from China to Europe, or the other way around.

After the containers are unloaded, most of the times they are not immediately reloaded, therefore the shipping company must store them somewhere. This is the reason which brought to life the idea of the container depot in the mid-20th century.

freight trains on traintracks going to a container depot

The Bottlenecks in transportation and logistics

What is a bottleneck?

Bottleneck in shipping reffers to delays and restrictions in the normal flow of shipping. There are three main type of bottlenecks.

  • Infrastructure bottlenecks: these bottlenecks are expected, but cannot be predicted. The reason for this to occur could be altering weather conditions, under-investment infrastructure, constructions, sudden surge in demand.
  • Regulatory bottlenecks: sometimes there is a reason to increase the security and safety measures. This causes inevitable delay in the transportation time.
  • Operational bottlenecks: here the main factor is the poorly coordinated tasks and sequences. Most of the times it comes down to not enough avaiable vehicle or equipment, or lack of  the labor.

The role of the Container Depot

If there is a container ship which wants to transport 8.000 TEU from Rotterdam to Shanghai then in Shanghai there will be an 8.000 surplus of containers and in Rotterdam there will be an 8.000 shortage. 

Here comes into the picture the depot. Rotterdam can request containers from its nearby depots to balance out the outgoins and Shanghai can distribute its surplus to its nearby depository. 

When this distribution is managed poorly, then it creates the shipping bottleneck

delayed-port depot with containers

About the Container Depot

Depos are huge yards with a lot of place to store large container units. Most depots have large boundaries with points of entry and exit that are manned round the clock. Some depots have facilities that test for trace amounts of drugs and other substances in empty containers. This helps officials pinpoint and stop methods of smuggling.

It is a common misconception that in the depots the containers are stored with goods inside. When a container arrives to the port it is everyone’s interest that it is being transported as quickly as possible to its intended destination for unloading. After that the empty container can be stored in a container depot.

But the depos are not only for storing. They usually offer some other services such as cleaning, repairing, maintenance, protection, fumigation, transportation etc.

Container depots are an ideal case study of logistics and operations management. They showcase the steps that can be taken to overcome important problems such as bottlenecks and lack of space.

container depot wtih lots of containers and some trucks

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