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Services Help You Minimize Cost of Moving Empty TEUs


From the March 2000 edition of Managing Exports

A sad reality of international trade is that an estimated 21% of all containers moved by ocean vessel are empty. The total "repositioning" expense resulting from this amounts to some $5 billion annually-costs that come directly out of a shipping exporter's bottom line. Since your company can expect to pay $400 to $500 per box on "empty movements," keeping such costs to a minimum is crucial to remaining competitive. While some of this waste (an empty TEU is the most expensive "freight" there is to ship) is unavoidable due to trade-lane imbalances, export pros can now find relief in a new technology that matches up empty TEUs with paying cargo.

Three Automated Services

  1. Purchase, NY-based Greybox Logistics Services, owned by Transamerica Leasing, offers an alternative to container repositioning by coordinating TEU interchange between all shipping lines. Contact: (914-697-2951; fax: 914-697-2690;; Web site:

    Greybox collates members' imbalance data in its computerized bulletin board, to facilitates interchanges. All data transmission is confidential and secure, and members are alerted by e-mail when a match is found. Cost to the shipper is a fixed price depending on container type (a dry-van TEU is $1.30 per diem plus a $50 per move fee). The company estimates a cost reduction to shippers of $250 to $500 per interchange over the expense of repositioning. Greybox has access to a pool in excess of 9,000,000 TEUs (inspection criteria meets IICL5).

    San Francisco-based International Asset Systems' InterBox is an Internet application allowing global exchange of TEUs in a secure, business-to-business transactions environment. Contact: (415-989-7699; fax: 415-358-4500; e-mail:; Web site:

  2. InterBox uses known market making, trading mechanisms such as bid and ask, and offer and counter-offer in an online system. Members can establish economic trading value and set individual trading preferences in a secure and neutral environment. Cost to the shipper is a $100 monthly user's fee plus minimum $10 per transaction fee.

  3. Members log in and define their worldwide needs: location, equipment type, quantity, and economic value. They then search and post to the database for complementary requirements. InterBox supports transactions involving interchange of owned or leased containers, one-way repositioning, empty repositioning, and the direct interchange or on-hire of leased containers. When matches are found, the member accepts or counteroffers. The system automatically e-mails members to alert them to potential matches.

    SynchroNet Marine has access to 50% of world TEU capacity. Contact: (415-440-2428; fax: 415-440-2326, email:, Web site: SynchroNet uses innovative Internet and database technology to help shippers reduce the costs of empty positioning and the need for short-term box leases. Joining the system is free and all trade lanes throughout the world are covered.

  4. The AsiaMax Service is specific to the Pacific Rim market and US Overland Service helps international carriers cheaply evacuate boxes from the inland United States. There is a fixed transaction fee without additional cost (except for overtime use of a container) of $30 per transaction for each party. Shippers sign on to the system to make open offers and counteroffers. Features include realtime information exchange and transaction administration and cargo-based tracking and container steering capabilities.

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