Cushman & Wakefield: Goods Distribution Industry in a State of Disruption

John Nelson - August 18, 2016

Inland ports combine containerized rail intermodal and trucking interchange with warehousing and distribution activity, offering virtually everything found at a seaport except for ships and salt water. (Photo courtesy of Cushman & Wakefield)

ROSEMONT, ILL. – The goods distribution industry is in a state of controlled disruption, according to a mid-year update on North American ports and transportation published by Cushman & Wakefield’s ports/intermodal practice group. The report, titled Ship – Shore – To Your Front Door, outlines that sector’s ongoing transition and the resulting opportunities.

Challenges and shifts, such as marine terminal closures, driver shortages, new ocean carrier alliances, Panama Canal issues and others have created an increasingly complex environment. Yet according to Cushman & Wakefield’s Kevin Turner, who leads the ports/intermodal practice group, across the supply chain there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“Times are changing,” said Turner. “Stakeholders are charting a new way forward with automation, supply chain transparency, new port labor contracts, technological advances, congressional support and stabilizing fuel costs. Occupiers and landlords are positioning with logistics partners to increase delivery metrics, alleviating supply chain bottlenecks with scalable real estate solutions.”

Inland Ports

Inland ports are steaming ahead across the country. These logistics hubs combine containerized rail intermodal and trucking interchange with warehousing and distribution activity, offering virtually everything found at a seaport except for ships and salt water. The intermodal rail ramps — facilities to lift containers from rail cars to truck chassis — that lie at the heart of inland ports have been gaining ground in recent years.

Today, the major railroads operate about 190 ramps in the United States and Canada, and others are owned by logistics companies and public agencies. Traffic on the intermodal network grows at an average annual pace of 3.1 percent (1995 to 2015), and reached 16.8 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) last year.

Inland ports range in size and scope from simple intermodal facilities to massive developments. They include sites inland from the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific Coasts, for example:

AllianceTexas: 18,000-acre multi-use site near Fort Worth, including rail intermodal and air freight facilities plus 25 million square feet of industrial space, which has generated some 44,000 jobs.

KC SmartPort: 4,000-acre site in Kansas City, with four Class I railroads and four intermodal parks that have attracted about 100 companies for manufacturing and distribution.

Greer, South Carolina: Located 212 miles from the Port of Charleston, Greer lies in the heart of Piedmont automotive manufacturing and has ramped up its volumes quickly to 100,000 lifts.

Front Royal, Virginia: One of the fi rst, located 220 miles from the Port of Norfolk, now handling about 37,000 containers per year.

Prince George, British Columbia: First inland intermodal terminal in the province, the facility focuses on containerized forest product from nearby pulp mills exported via Prince Rupert, 450 miles away.

To read the full report, click here:

Cushman & Wakefield is a global real estate services firm with 43,000 employees in more than 60 countries. The company is among the largest commercial real estate services firms with revenue of $5 billion across core services of agency leasing, asset services, capital markets, facility services (C&W Services), global occupier services, investment and asset management (DTZ Investors), project and development services, tenant representation and valuation and advisory.

— Staff Reports