As a number of recent developments highlight, India’s carmakers continue to pursue containerisation as an option for internal distribution and logistics.
In January, for instance, Indian logistics provider Adani Logistics began rail shipments of Maruti Suzuki vehicles destined for export, using Kar-Tainer's five-car exterior loaded cassette solution to ship the vehicles between its Delhi manufacturing plant and the Indian port of Mundra.
Two separate shipments of the Kar-Tainer system, totalling 135 sets, had been delivered to India by the end of January, with a further order – described as ‘significant’ – destined to follow.
Meanwhile, employing Cronos Containers’ containerisation solution (pictured), Volvo Logistics is commencing an export service from Europe to India. Although no Indian customers have yet been signed up, the plan calls for the containers bring back Indian vehicles intended for export, rather than returning empty.
Quite apart from considerations of damage avoidance, shipping by container in India can offer practical benefits as well as cost advantages, notes Vir K. Kotak of Mumbai-based J.M. Baxi Group, one of India’s largest private logistics players, and a business with extensive rail interests. Under Indian law, the maximum number of vehicles that a road-based transporter can carry is nine, he explains – although seven or eight is a more usual load factor, he suggests.
“The trucking industry in India is highly disorganised and fragmented, and auto manufacturers would need tens or hundreds of vendors to fulfil their shipping requirements,” he says. “And that’s in addition to the hassle of tracking individual transporters across the country, where road conditions and individual state regulations can be difficult to deal with. What’s more, the transit time is typically several days – and every time the driver breaks the journey, the chances of a ‘break-in’ are high.”
But containerising the vehicles, and shipping by rail or coastal container vessel becomes a distinctly practical possibility, he points out. “A single container‑train, for instance, can carry between 180 and 270 vehicles – depending on the mix of models – and as well as facilitating easier multi‑modal operations, the chances of accidental damage, theft and vandalism are almost negligible.”
It’s an argument that’s proved highly persuasive to NYK Line India, which has announced a joint venture—CONYK Cartrac—with the Container Corporation of India (CCI).
Noting that Indian Railways wouldn’t give permission for privately-owned specialist car transporter wagons, and that just 2% of Indian vehicle movements were made by rail, the two companies decided to pool their resources, explains Shailendra Ranjan, Mumbai-based senior manager in the inland project division at NYK.
“We saw that there was an opportunity to offer automakers a full door-to-door service—with NYK providing the ‘first mile, last mile’ components, and CCI handling the rail requirement,” he says. Ultimately, the intention is to offer added-value services such as pre-delivery inspections, although feasibility studies remain to be done.
Specialist vehicle containers have been ordered from Trans-Rak International, adds Ranjan, with the intention of services commencing in May. Trials have been carried out with Ford, Maruti and Hyundai, and two routes are planned: Delhi-Chennai, and Delhi-Pune. Maruti and Honda are located near Delhi, while Tata and Volkswagen are close to Pune.
For more analysis on shipping vehicles by containers, reading upcoming feature on cars in containers in the forthcoming April-June issue of Finished Vehicle Logistics.