SJV TRUCKING/SJV EXPRESS: CALIFORNIA’S MARINE 5 HIGHWAY
BY STAS MARGARONIS
New coastal Marine 5 Highway container ships sailing between Stockton/Oakland and Long Beach/Los Angeles could be the answer for San Joaquin Valley (SJV) exporters and importers facing growing delays and congestion at the ports of Oakland, Long Beach and Los Angeles. The Port of Oakland is increasingly challenged in handling larger container ships, shippers say, because there simply aren’t enough container cranes to efficiently off-load bigger ships. Larger ships are making more calls at the two Southern California ports, so more containerized truckloads are traveling from Long Beach/Los Angeles (LA) along California’s I-5 freeway to the San Joaquin Valley and other Northern California destinations.
It is estimated that 1,600 imported containers per day are trucked into the San Joaquin Valley from Oakland via the I-580 freeway.
Shippers are also paying more because harbor trucking costs have risen by 50% to 100% in the last year to compensate for congestion at California ports.
The answer is to deploy small Marine 5 Highway container ships sailing from Long Beach/LA to Oakland/ Stockton so as to reduce I-580/710/5 freeway congestion and expedite container service for San Joaquin Valley (SJV) shippers.
The ability of SJV truckers to pick up and drop container loads at the Port of Stockton is a big attraction for Joe Antonini, president of Antonini Freight Express based in Stockton, California. Truck turn times at Stockton are much faster than at congested major California ports. Driving times for San Joaquin Valley shippers and truckers are much faster accessing Stockton rather than traveling to and from Oakland, Long Beach and Los Angeles. Less delays in traffic and faster turn times at the Port of Stockton increase profitability for trucking companies, drivers and shippers, Antonini said.
Thus, the Marine Highway system of replacing long-haul trucking using coastal container ships between Long Beach/LA and Stockton creates an improved profit margin for SJV truckers.
This is one of the opportunities offered to truckers and shippers by the Marine 5 Highway/San Joaquin Valley Express.
New, U.S.-built coastal container ships can deploy state-of-the-art, fuel-efficient marine engines saving shippers and truckers time and money. The Marine 5 Highway ships will also reduce truck emissions along California’s I-580/710/5 freeway corridors.
The difference in using long-haul trucking versus ship can be understood in one simple example. One ship carrying 337 containers needs approximately a 13,000 horsepower engine to haul its cargo. On the highway, 337 truckloads @ 375 horsepower per truck require over 125,000 horsepower to pull and fuel the same load.
The projected import and export market to and from the SJV could be as high as 500,000 forty-foot containers per year. In addition, Swift Transportation says it moves 500 fifty-three foot truckloads per day of primarily imported freight from Southern California distribution centers to Northern California, Oregon and Washington. Some of this freight could go by Marine 5 Highway ships.
It is proposed to deploy 2 x 1000 twenty-foot unit container ships, built in the United States (possibly in California), as a pilot project with each vessel carrying 337 forty-foot unit containers. The ships would sail between Long Beach/Los Angeles and Oakland/Stockton. Each ship would be capable of carrying 26,286 container loads per year. These represent long-haul truckloads that would be shifted off I-580/710/5 freeway corridors. The reduction in emissions per truckload could be as high as 80%, according to a Port of Stockton report.
Last year, the M-580 tug/barge service demonstrated the ability of waterborne transportation to reduce costs compared to long-haul trucking between the San Joaquin Valley and the Port of Oakland. Joe Antonini demonstrated the time and cost savings for SJV truckers because the M-580 service reduced the distance that truckers had to travel when picking up and delivering containers at Stockton, instead of Oakland. This meant faster turn times and higher profitability for trucking companies and drivers. An obstacle to success was container handling productivity in Stockton and double-handling container charges at the Port of Oakland. Without these two encumbrances, the service would have been a success-especially after 2014 California port congestion drove long-haul trucking rates higher.
 Port of Stockton estimate 5/20/15
 Freight forwarder estimates and port data
 Port of Stockton, “Air Quality/Greenhouse Gas Technical Report for the Short-Sea Shipping Project” (2010)