Foldable Containers: a New Perspective on Reducing Container-Repositioning Costs
There is little doubt that the requirement to reposition empty containers is one of the more persistent problems in the container transport industry, and is a key factor in cutting operating costs. Empty container transport involves high costs, particularly for shipping lines, since they generally bear these container management costs. Not surprisingly, shipping lines try to reduce the costs of moving empty containers as much as they can. Most strategies are focussed on improving the instruments to match cargo with empty containers. However, due to trade imbalances transport movements of empty containers remain to some extent unavoidable. Therefore, foldable containers seem an attractive option from the point of view
of saving transport costs as well as handling and storage costs. So far, however, these containers have not been introduced successfully. In this paper we analyse why previous initiatives for foldable containers failed and discuss the conditions required for successful commercial applications. Although the economic advantages of foldable containers seem evident, we explain that these types of boxes have to cope with scepticism about technical performance, the complexity of the folding and unfolding process in particular, as well as logistical and organisational problems with using foldable containers.