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Metals reluctance often keeps logistics at status quo

Keywords: Tags  Michael J. Smolenski, Coil-Tainer Ltd., Rick Jocson, Raildecks Inc., Myra Pinkham

Michael J. Smolenski, president and chief executive officer of Coil-Tainer Ltd., West Chester, Pa., is surprised his company hasn’t faced more competition in the past 15 years, during which it has shipped coils in containers via ocean carriers for metals companies.

One reason is the nature of the metals industry, Smolenski said. “It is such an old industry, and one where the people aren’t quick to change. On the whole, the mentality of the metals industry when it comes to shipping their products is ‘if it isn’t broken, then why fix it?’” Companies generally say that if they can ship coil from their production plants to customers now, there’s no reason to look for a new way of doing so, he said.

There also are very few innovations that allow metals to take part in the growing truck-to-railroad intermodal transportation market, despite its advantage, according to Rick Jocson, chief executive officer of Calgary, Alberta-based Raildecks Inc.

The resistance, however, isn’t all on the shippers’ side, Jocson said, noting that the barriers to entry in providing such innovative transportation products are significant, given the sizable development investment and costly testing that must be done first.

But Smolenski and Jocson see an advantage to overcoming such challenges, and they also see growth opportunities in introducing the metals industry to the world of containerized transport. Both companies not only have cultivated their own market niches, but they also are looking to expand.

Jocson said that Raildeckswhich only recently entered the market with its 53-foot-long, 120-inch-wide truck-to-rail intermodal container--has developed 45-foot and 48-foot versions of its product with an eye toward entering the international and maritime transportation businesses later this year.

Meanwhile, Coil-Tainer, whose container pallets are currently used to transport steel and aluminum coil via ocean carriers, is looking to develop a system similar to its Coil-Tainer pallet for transporting steel sheet in containers. Its pallets were recently approved for use by the Canadian National Railway Co. to move coils intermodally. Smolenski said the next step is for the company to seek similar approvals from U.S.-based Class 1 railroads.

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