High cube containers – where to from here?


From January 2019, the movement of containers exceeding a height of 4.3 metres will become illegal. High cube containers measure 2.9m, and when transported on the back of a normal transport vehicle, exceed the height of 4.3m.

The moratorium implemented in 2011 will end in 8 months’ time.

The facts are simple.

Double-decker buses have a travel height of 4.6 metres – and cargo is people so if they hit a bridge a lot of people would be decapitated. Yet a high cube hitting the same bridge is somehow worse than that?

If even one person was put into real and present danger – why the moratorium on high cubes   (official and unofficial) for over 20 years? The cost of transportation is kept down because transporters use super-links and decked tri- axles ie, breakbulk one way/container the other or vice versa.

Because of the above vehicles being used – even skeletal trailers (container only – no deck) because of the higher payloads have increased the height to 1.5-1.6 height from floor to deck/container locks over many decades.

Warehouse ramps have standardised on higher ramp heights (approximately 500 000 plus). They can use dock levels to adjust for slight height differences - but if the trailer is lower than the ramp they will have a major problem because dock levellers cannot go negative to ramp height.

We already have extremely high logistics costs when compared to other international trading nations (mainly because our production heart lies 600 kilometres away from our harbours).

The present travel height of high cubes exceeds the safe rail height when moved by rail – as a speeding train going through a tunnel may, due to centrifugal forces, snag the container corner on the tunnel wall and derail the train. Yet we do not hear the NDoT telling them to upgrade and correct – only road.

No nation can afford to upgrade all their container-carrying trailers – ANYWHERE in the world – for no valid reason.

The myth that this will increase employment somehow – and not lead to increased cost in the logistics chain – and somehow is a desirable thing to happen is a reflection of their poor grasp of reality.

The transporter cannot afford it, the clients cannot afford it, the people cannot afford it and South Africa cannot afford it.

It is a non-starter – as we have answered every one of their concerns. It’s time to take the egos out of it and end this nonsense – our country deserves better.

Kevin Martin has written a series of articles providing background facts and figures on high cubes which you will find in our Knowledge Library.

Kevin Martin, CEO of Freightliner Transport Durban, has been involved in every sector of road transportation since the early 1970s - from liquid and dry bulk to dangerous goods and refrigerated cargoes, locally, nationally and over-border. For the past 20 years he has been extensively involved in harbour transportation to and from the Port of Durban. A past executive board member of SAAFF – KZN and Harbour Carriers division chairman – he continues to mentor and impart his knowledge to assist road transporters, shipping lines, port authorities, terminal operators and local and national authorities.


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