Port-Centric Logistics
Port-centric logistics refers to the range of freight transportation and distribution activities that are directly related to port terminals. Port terminals handle three types of flows, which are inbound (imports), outbound (exports) and transshipment (mostly for containers), each of which is associated to different forms of port-centric logistics. These come into two tiers:
  • Port cargo logistics (first tier). The set of activities that directly affect the load unit of the cargo handled at the port. The first is the function of storing where the cargo is waiting to be picked up or transshipped. This usually takes place within the terminal facility (for transshipment it is rare that a container leaves the terminal facility) with the dwell time an important consideration for supply chain managers to organize the pickup of the cargo. The de-stuffing (and often palletization) of container loads is an important activity that takes place at specialized facilities. Transloading is also commonly associated with de-stuffing activities as it transfers the loads of maritime (ISO) containers into domestic containers. The empty containers are then repositioned either back to the container terminal or to an empty depot. Containers are then available to be picked up for stuffing and then exported.
  • Port-related production and distribution (second tier). The set of activities that perform a level of transformation (in whole or in part) to the cargo that is either imported or exported through a port. Inbound cargo, particularly finished goods, require to be consolidated and sorted in distribution centers for hinterland customers. Outbound cargo is usually warehoused waiting to be loaded (break-bulk cargo) or stuffed (containerized cargo). For manufacturing activities that are closely dependent on global markets, either for inputs (suppliers) or for outputs (customers), will tend to be located in vicinity to port areas. The commodity sector has traditionally showed a high level of association with port terminals (e.g. petrochemicals), which has usually endured. However, the growing use of containers to transport commodities such as agricultural goods, including refrigerated goods, is conveying a new dynamic to port-centric logistics.
For accessibility reasons, port-centric activities tend to cluster in areas close to or adjacent to port terminals. A better organization of first and second tier activities is commonly leading to the setting of port-centric logistics zones. These zones have several advantages, including a better utilization level of transportation and container assets.