Many of the millions of cars we see on the highway today are built right here in the USA but many are shipped in from ports abroad. Have you ever been to a port and seen the massive container ships? What does it take to make sure your car ships safely?
The ports in Louisiana Texas, California and Florida are like small cities. It’s hard to fathom the amount of shipping containers that move in and out of these ports.
Some of these vessels are specialized to carry automobiles across the thousands of miles between here and Europe and the Far East. Some of these behemoths can carry up to 8,500 vehicles at a time!
Car Shipping Around the World!
This article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette goes into exactly what is involved in getting your shiny new Toyota into your driveway.
“AN ocean voyage of thousands of miles may separate the factory where an import car is assembled from the garage of its new owner, but the weeks spent at sea are hardly an endless buffet punctuated by evenings of Las Vegas-caliber entertainment.
The trip is no Disney cruise either: the vehicle makes its crossing lashed snugly to the steel floor of a cargo deck, just inches from its neighbor, inside a vessel that looks both impossibly clunky and imposingly grand. When loaded, these decks look like a traffic nightmare on the Long Island Expressway; cleared in the hours after docking, they are as spotless and cavernous as a newly opened warehouse.
Car carrier ships are nautical workhorses of the industrialized world. Hauling up to 8,500 vehicles in a layer cake of 13 decks packed as tight as the Tokyo subway at rush hour, these ships do one basic task very well — delivering vehicles, from tiny compacts to enormous excavators, unscathed to destinations like the port here.
The Andromeda Leader, operated by NYK Line, the Japanese shipping giant, with Panamanian registry, is typical of modern car carriers. Launched in 2004 when global auto sales were booming and shippers raced to keep up with demand from carmakers, the ship is two football fields long and has a cargo capacity of 21,443 tons, greater than some of today’s largest cruise ships.
More relevant to its mission, perhaps, is the ship’s width of 32 meters, or 105 feet — one of measurements in the requirements known as Panamax because they are the largest dimension that will fit through the locks of the Panama Canal.
For eight years, the Andromeda Leader has brought Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles across the Pacific to the United States in all seasons without incident, maintaining an accident-free record. Its captains have detoured to avoid rough seas, keeping a day’s cushion in reserve to maintain their promised arrival times.
In part, the ship’s packing-crate profile is a result of only about 15 percent of the hull being submerged. Looking like a floating shoe box, it seems, to the untrained eye, on the verge of tipping.
“We call it a floating coconut because so much of the ship is above water,” Capt. Vineet Kapoor, who was in command when the ship sailed to Newark from Japan late last year, said with a chuckle. Turning serious, he added: “It’s part of our profession to deliver the cargo safely. Over the centuries, it is ingrained that cargo is sacrosanct.”
In recent months, that cargo has been arriving with urgency. Toyota said it expected imports through Newark to increase by nearly 20 percent this year compared with 2011, as the company rebounds from last year’s natural disasters in Japan and Thailand.
Captain Kapoor said he saw his job as an extension of the production process, which relies on precision as well as speed. Indeed, automakers depend on shippers to comply with their just-in-time production policies; for that reason, NYK has seven of its 120 car carriers dedicated to Toyota for North American service, and the carmaker has similar agreements with two other Japanese shippers, K-Line and Mitsui O.S.K.
To meet the tight deadlines, the Andromeda Leader sails at 17 to 19 knots during its 28-day journey from the port of Tahara, near Nagoya, to Jacksonville, Fla., where cars destined for the southeastern United States are unloaded, and then to Newark. On its return trip, the ship stops in Puerto Rico to drop off its few hundred remaining cars before continuing empty to Japan, a plan designed to avoid delays and keep the ship moving.
With its ready access to major United States markets, Newark is the ship’s main port of call, where more than half of the Andromeda Leader’s 5,500 vehicles are offloaded and parked in a 12,000-place lot at the pier. In the following days, the cars will be driven a few hundred yards to the Toyota Logistics Services facility, where electronics, roof racks and other options are installed before delivery to dealerships from Maine to Virginia.
On occasion, cars are damaged in transit, but just 0.04 percent of the vehicles that NYK delivers to Toyota in Newark need repairs, and most of those are for small scratches.
“We walk a fine line,” said Matthew Martyn, operations manager for NYK Line North America at Port Newark. “We want zero damage, but as much production as we can. Even a little damage affects our presentation to Toyota.””
So the next time you see that Lexus driving next to you down the freeway, you may just think a moment longer about what was involved in getting it there.
This vessel is not exactly like the ones we use to ship your vehicle internationally but the same level of care and attention to detail is practiced.
Drive safe everyone!