Intermodalism in North America and World Markets
Intermodalism is virtually a worldwide concept; it is widely practised in North America, in the Baltics, parts of the Middle East, Asia, and Australasia – in fact in most world trading markets – very much as we have come to know it in Europe. But the basic ingredients and the degree of sophistication in the equipment used and the operating procedures adopted tend to differ according to region. Basically, Europe is alone in being strong on swap body and piggyback operation as well as containerization while the rest of the world – apart from North America, which also strongly favours piggybacking of road trailers on rail wagons – focuses predominantly on the shipping container; in other words containerization. In fact, the most common scenario in most developed territories is the high level of dependence on this ubiquitous item of transportation hardware. From its origins in the USA in the 1950s, the container can now be seen almost everywhere, in many different guises. Statistics from UNCTAD (the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, www.unctad.org) indicate that in 2002 containers totalling about 240 million teu (i.e. a 20-foot equivalent unit) were transhipped worldwide, with about 127 million teu being handled by just 20 of the world’s largest container ports, six of which are in the Pacific-Asia region underlining the importance of this area as the manufacturing centre of the global economy.