Shipping containers

Discuss the Traveller RPG and its many settings
AndrewW
Cosmic Mongoose
Posts: 4371
Joined: Fri Dec 19, 2008 11:57 pm

Shipping containers

Postby AndrewW » Sun Oct 18, 2015 4:36 pm

Since this comes up from time to time (including a discussion over in the playtest section).
Andrew Curry has an interesting article about how more than any other single innovation, the shipping container epitomizes the enormity, sophistication, and importance of our modern transportation system. Invisible to most people, but fundamental to how practically everything in our consumer-driven lives works. "Think of the shipping container as the Internet of thing," says Curry. "Just as your email is disassembled into discrete bundles of data the minute you hit send, then re-assembled in your recipient's inbox later, the uniform, ubiquitous boxes are designed to be interchangeable, their contents irrelevant." Last year the world's container ports moved 560 million 20-foot containers. Even cars and trucks—known in the trade as "RoRo," or "roll-on, roll-off" cargo—are increasingly being loaded into containers rather than specialized ships. "Containers are just a lot easier," says James Rice. "A box is a box. All you need is a vessel, a berth, and a place to put the container on the ground.

Consider the economics of a T-shirt sewn at a factory near Beijing. The total time in transit for a typical box from a Chinese factory to a customer in Europe might be as little as 35 days. Cost per shirt? "Less than one U.S. cent," says Rainer Horn. "It doesn't matter anymore where you produce something now, because transport costs aren't important."
http://nautil.us/issue/29/scaling/the-b ... n-world-rp
Condottiere
Warlord Mongoose
Posts: 8612
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2013 8:23 pm

Re: Shipping containers

Postby Condottiere » Sun Oct 18, 2015 4:51 pm

Economies of scale don't really apply in Traveller, except that one time in Striker with fusion reactors.
phavoc
Cosmic Mongoose
Posts: 4921
Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2008 6:13 pm

Re: Shipping containers

Postby phavoc » Sun Oct 18, 2015 5:39 pm

I don't know Andrew Curry, but the concept of containerization revolutionizing shipping started before he was born. But he's right (just late to the party with his article). Moving away from bulk loading and switching to pre-loaded containers means all that loading work can be done away from the docks so shipping is relatively fast and easy in all facets (loading, transport and unloading). Well, at least for those cargo's that lend themselves to containerization.

This trend actually started earlier with railroads and piggyback transportation (in the US in 1936, prior to WW2). And earlier England experimented with it a bit, too.
Condottiere wrote:Economies of scale don't really apply in Traveller, except that one time in Striker with fusion reactors.
The problem with that statement is we don't know how correct it is. We simply have no information regarding economics and/or trade between worlds, let alone star systems. The trade rules, such as they are, are not applicable to the type of trade organizations required to service billions in population between planets. From a game perspective it's fine because PC's aren't meant to be trade magnates. Their role is that of the swashbuckler in ye olde sailing ships days, when everybody had a cannon or two because you never knew when someone was going to try and steal your cargo.
Captain Jonah
Duck-Billed Mongoose
Posts: 1758
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2009 9:58 pm
Location: United Kingdom
Contact:

Re: Shipping containers

Postby Captain Jonah » Sun Oct 18, 2015 5:48 pm

One of the things with Traveller economics and moving stuff is that the players operate at the level of the general public where as the corporations operate at an entirely differant level and system of costs.

Mega corps shipping their own goods don't pay book prices per container.
Traveller: Nonsense, those rumours about me and crashes, no truth in them at all. I never had a landing I didn't walk away from!

ACTA-SF: Who are we, GORN. What do we want, Cruisers that can turn.... Wait, OK Escorts... Wait. I'll get back to you !
Condottiere
Warlord Mongoose
Posts: 8612
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2013 8:23 pm

Re: Shipping containers

Postby Condottiere » Mon Oct 19, 2015 1:03 am

At our scale, containers allow the fast transfer of goods, and permit the merchant ship to minimize it's stay at the starport, though a cargo module would probably be even more efficient.
User avatar
ShawnDriscoll
Cosmic Mongoose
Posts: 2999
Joined: Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:13 pm

Re: Shipping containers

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Mon Oct 19, 2015 4:16 am

There's profit to be made, even in shipping. Talk to anyone that sells on Amazon or eBay.
Condottiere
Warlord Mongoose
Posts: 8612
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2013 8:23 pm

Re: Shipping containers

Postby Condottiere » Mon Oct 19, 2015 3:43 pm

If the transport megacorporation has vertical integration, controlling costs from starship construction, overheads (warehousing), operating costs (their own fuel refineries) and directly selling cargo space to exporters, or even just transporting goods manufactured by their own subsidiaries.
Askold
Stoat
Posts: 55
Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2015 8:21 am
Location: Finland

Re: Shipping containers

Postby Askold » Wed Oct 21, 2015 11:01 am

Condottiere wrote:At our scale, containers allow the fast transfer of goods, and permit the merchant ship to minimize it's stay at the starport, though a cargo module would probably be even more efficient.
Cargo module works if the ships are standard size and you they only take in one module AND there is enough cargo to fill the module.

Since there are different kinds of transport ships in many sizes it is easier to have some standard size of container and when ship is going from planet A to B, C and D they can take in as much cargo as they have room for and either drop all or just some on those locations.
phavoc
Cosmic Mongoose
Posts: 4921
Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2008 6:13 pm

Re: Shipping containers

Postby phavoc » Wed Oct 21, 2015 2:46 pm

Askold wrote:Cargo module works if the ships are standard size and you they only take in one module AND there is enough cargo to fill the module.

Since there are different kinds of transport ships in many sizes it is easier to have some standard size of container and when ship is going from planet A to B, C and D they can take in as much cargo as they have room for and either drop all or just some on those locations.
Container ships more efficiently move large quantities of containers because they are specialized ships. But any ship that can fit a container in it's hold can transport them. Old-school break-bulk cargo carriers where highly inefficient in their cargo carrying due to the nature of things. But this axiom has been true since, well, cargo was conceived as a concept.

As far as filling the container before it's moved, that's not quite true. Containers ship sometimes with only 10% of the volume being used. A container gets filled based upon it's destination and scheduling. Ideally they are always fully loaded, as your costs are typically based on the container and not it's weight. But in order for your product to arrive at it's destination in time it must be picked up at X time, taken to the docks and loaded on the ship. With the frequency of most cargo ships in heavily trafficed transport lines you might have to wait a week before your next window of opportunity. Shipping in the future shouldn't be any different - starships are going to try and keep regularly scheduled runs too.

Containers will be the method of choice for moving a great deal of all cargo. There are specialized containers that hold liquids, solids and such. It is much more efficient to load and unload them than any other method, which is why you see so much cargo moving via them. The exceptions are numerous as well, but that's because there are numerous exceptions. It's far cheaper to move bulk cargos like ore or grain via bulk freighters. But the cargo is also relatively time insensitive. Oil and other liquid tankers exist for the same reason. RO-RO ships work well for their intended purpose too (though it is possible to put a car in a container, the size isn't quite right, so you'd have to resize all containers, and that's not practical. Nor would it save you tons of time due to how cars are distributed). Air, rail and trucking industries all operate using the same principles.
-Daniel-
Duck-Billed Mongoose
Posts: 2317
Joined: Mon Jan 28, 2008 5:20 pm
Location: Burbank, CA

Re: Shipping containers

Postby -Daniel- » Wed Oct 21, 2015 4:13 pm

Askold wrote: Cargo module works if the ships are standard size and you they only take in one module AND there is enough cargo to fill the module.
Just a side note, just because a standard sized container system is agreed upon and used, does not mean only one size container. An agreed upon standard could include several sized modules but they are designed to work together.

If you look into the modern Sea Containers for example you will see they have several sizes and shapes allowed, but they are designed to interlock and thus stack. 20', 40', and 45' long sizes are all very common for example. The key to a standard system is that all the sizes within the standard interact together. So the standard container would include dictating the interlocking mechanism for example.

As phavoc has addressed the filled container I will not go into it other than to say having loaded more Air and Sea Cans than I care to count, I know for a fact they can and are sent out with less than 100% filled. Sometimes the weight causes this, super heavy cargo can mean you max out the weight allowance before the can is full, other times it is the agreed upon shipping time line that caused a container to be closed and sent at 80% or 90% full.

But I do agree, any star spanning empire would have to use some form of standard cargo system and it would need to cover a range of cargo needs from quite large bulk cargo to smaller shipments for it to work.
Moppy

Re: Shipping containers

Postby Moppy » Wed Oct 21, 2015 4:14 pm

This should not be restricted to ships. The containers can be loaded straight onto a train or truck/lorry and this is a huge advantage.

It also allows you to carry refridgerated etc cargo in regular vehicles as the freezer can be built into the container. No doubt this will be more important in Traveller (alien atmosphere passenger module just needs a power connection to the ship).
PsiTraveller
Greater Spotted Mongoose
Posts: 990
Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2014 11:47 pm

Re: Shipping containers

Postby PsiTraveller » Wed Oct 21, 2015 4:26 pm

An excellent book on this is Marc Levinson's "The Box". Excellent history of shipping and containerizing.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Box-Shipping- ... 0691136408

A traveller ship modified to run cargo modules could load and unload far faster than a ship hauling stuff out by hand, even if the hands are in an exoskeleton. :)

A lot of this is ignored in Traveller. A ship makes 2 Jumps a month and is unloaded and loaded in the week between Jumps.
A GM could cause all sorts of logistical nightmares for players if they wanted to.
On the other hand it could be assumed that there are standard modules in place and all traffic is loaded into a series of nesting boxes of whatever best fits a ships hold. It depends on how much realism and pain in the assery the players want to put up with.
Moppy

Re: Shipping containers

Postby Moppy » Wed Oct 21, 2015 4:38 pm

I think the one week between jumps is there to specially allow for the "problems" when operating as player characters.

It takes far less than a week to unload a contship. The turnaround time for big container ships in major ports is less than 24 hours.

PCs won't have access to this kind of gear. Their ship is small and unloaded by hand, while trying to avoid customs and hiding from whichever local gang Dave has pissed off this week.
Last edited by Moppy on Wed Oct 21, 2015 4:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Reynard
Cosmic Mongoose
Posts: 3551
Joined: Sat Jun 18, 2011 10:03 pm

Re: Shipping containers

Postby Reynard » Wed Oct 21, 2015 4:43 pm

For the longest time, we see a standard container that fits to the bed of tractor trailers or rail freight beds traveling around the countryside. When they reach a coast or a sizable river, the same container fits perfectly well on water going vessels to larger destinations. Inside those containers are more standard containers, smaller and smaller.

Seems we got it right several thousand years before the present Imperial time. I'm sure the powers to be had all that time to perfect it so even a type A trader fits into the system such as the 1.5m deck grid system.
AndrewW
Cosmic Mongoose
Posts: 4371
Joined: Fri Dec 19, 2008 11:57 pm

Re: Shipping containers

Postby AndrewW » Wed Oct 21, 2015 5:09 pm

Moppy wrote:PCs won't have access to this kind of gear. Their ship is small and unloaded by hand, while trying to avoid customs and hiding from whichever local gang Dave has pissed off this week.
Well, doesn't have to be by hand. Could have a cargo crane or something.

Also access to unloading equipment at the destination.
User avatar
Reynard
Cosmic Mongoose
Posts: 3551
Joined: Sat Jun 18, 2011 10:03 pm

Re: Shipping containers

Postby Reynard » Wed Oct 21, 2015 5:13 pm

And Traveller is loaded with specialized cargo drones and robots as the TL goes up. Also remember Highports make use of gravity or lack thereof to efficiently haul freight.
Moppy

Re: Shipping containers

Postby Moppy » Wed Oct 21, 2015 5:46 pm

In my experience, PC cargo tends to include items that are unloaded when no-one is looking and certainly not by a cargo handling robot that transmits its logs and camera feeds back to starport control. I wonder how much cargo "falls out of the airlock" of the average free trader on its way to the gas giant to refuel and back?
phavoc
Cosmic Mongoose
Posts: 4921
Joined: Tue Nov 04, 2008 6:13 pm

Re: Shipping containers

Postby phavoc » Wed Oct 21, 2015 6:24 pm

Moppy wrote:I think the one week between jumps is there to specially allow for the "problems" when operating as player characters.

It takes far less than a week to unload a contship. The turnaround time for big container ships in major ports is less than 24 hours.

PCs won't have access to this kind of gear. Their ship is small and unloaded by hand, while trying to avoid customs and hiding from whichever local gang Dave has pissed off this week.
Don't forget that jumps are not perfect, and the arrival time of a ship is unknown. For a gaming perspective not necessarily a killer, but for scheduled runs you have to assume longest time frame for a passage, and then work your schedules from there.

The bigger container ships have anywhere from 12k - 18k TEU (a 20ft container), some even more. Ships have been growing by leaps and bounds in the last decade. But unloading 6k - 9k containers in 24hrs, where the typical dock has 5 cranes, is not gonna happen. A ship takes 3-5 DAYS to unload (assuming no strikes or anything like that!), more as the ship becomes bigger. It's still a mechanical / physical job. Trucks with empty trailers pull up, container has to be picked up and moved, then loaded exactly onto the trailer. It's fast, just not THAT fast.

PC's will have access to other types of gear. In one of the supplements MGT put out it mentions a "mule" that is a partial cargo mover. Plus there's mention of overhead crane gear in a cargo hold to move a container. With the ability to manipulate gravity it makes it a lot easier for smaller cargo movers to physically move a container. If you were a GURPS collector you'd have seen one of the cover illustrations showing a grav forklift loading a freighter at a downport. Orbital movement should be easier, but not necessarily faster because of the increased need for safety and, of course, the vagaries of zero-G.

Planets with large, regular freighters servicing them may utilize a LASH concept, where smaller containers are pre-loaded into a much larger container, and then that is dropped off at an orbital sight while another one is loaded. I suspect regular cargo runs might have as little as 48hr in-system before they are leaving and going to the next port. The delay would be sufficient time to allow for everything to come together as well as time to perform maintenance and such. You could squeeze that even further, but the crew might want a day off every so often. Replacement crews could help with that, if you treat them like aircraft or train crews.

There's a neat site at Hofstra U that gives an overview of some of this:

https://people.hofstra.edu/geotrans/eng ... ships.html
Moppy

Re: Shipping containers

Postby Moppy » Wed Oct 21, 2015 7:01 pm

phavoc wrote: The bigger container ships have anywhere from 12k - 18k TEU (a 20ft container), some even more. Ships have been growing by leaps and bounds in the last decade. But unloading 6k - 9k containers in 24hrs, where the typical dock has 5 cranes, is not gonna happen. A ship takes 3-5 DAYS to unload (assuming no strikes or anything like that!), more as the ship becomes bigger.
"Strongly suspect" your information is outdated - a lot has changed recenttly - or refers to smaller ports. The big ships can't dock at the US anyway due to their size: they are limited to the Europe-Asia route via Suez or around the Cape of Africa.

24 hours and under is the expected turnaround time for the big ships in a major chinese or european port.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30696685
> It usually takes about 24 hours for a port to deal with loading and unloading the largest vessels

https://www.porttechnology.org/technica ... the_world/
> its profile in 2011 has totally changed as it reached the first rank for the number of calls and an average turnaround time of 0.96 days, compared with 5.8 days in both 2006 and 1996.

Consider also that you aren't unloading the entire ship when it comes in and that containers can sit at the port for a week or more until a truck/lorry picks them up.

edit: Found some actual data for you for different ship sizes. http://ciw.drewry.co.uk/release-week/2015-12/

In table 2 they give the number of cranes needed to turn around 19K TEU ship in 24 hours and it's 8 cranes at 35 crane moves per hour. A quick check on the nearest large ship container port to me ( Felixstowe, UK) gives 50 crane moves per hour and 8+ cranes on an 800 meter (2 ship) berth (although I don't know what kind of cranes those are: all cranes look the same to me).

edit2: Remember a container is two TEU if 40 or 45 foot. :P So It only says 'containers exchanged' and the TEU value of those containers equals that of the ship. But not sure what an 'exchanged container' is. It could exchanged between ship and shore (which would be a complete unloadiing) or for a different box, which would be replacing half of the ship's cargo.
Condottiere
Warlord Mongoose
Posts: 8612
Joined: Mon Sep 23, 2013 8:23 pm

Re: Shipping containers

Postby Condottiere » Thu Oct 22, 2015 2:50 am

Modules can contain containers, the difference is that it can be dropped once, possibly exchanged, and if the ship is tanked, it's good to go.

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 47 guests