The move towards short sea shipping won’t be driven as much by the maritime industry as by trucking companies that are facing a major shortage of long distance drivers, rising fuel costs, congested highways and increasingly restrictive environmental regulations.

This is the opinion of Matt Tedesco, Ph.D., a Seattle-based technical and management consultant. Speaking to the Association of Pacific Ports (APP) Annual Meeting and Conference held in Seattle, WA, August 22 ’ 24, Tedesco told delegates: “The vast majority of trucking companies are competing on the basis of driver availability and capacity.

“The rates are minimal. The margins are low. And they’re competing on the basis of drivers to try and capture a market.

“One of the largest reasons a trucking company cares about Short Sea Shipping is that it offers an opportunity for them to expand their market, because there aren’t enough drivers to go around.”

Tedesco said he is presently involved as a consultant in a study with CCDoTT, other project participants and Westar Transport. The project is looking at the movement of domestic freight, as well as redistribution and feeder services for international freight on the West Coast.

Westar Transport, he said, is a mid-sized trucking company based in Selma, CA, that covers the entire West Coast, although the bulk of their business is within California.

“Because they’re a mid-sized trucking company, they’re really representative of the trucking mode that exists for the vast majority of freight,” he said. “In a lot of the discussions about Short Sea Shipping, we hear a lot about major carriers ’ the fact of the matter is that for coastal trade, particularly in California, the vast majority of that freight is being carried by a large number of mid-sized or independent trucking companies.

“Short Sea Shipping is going to be successful in moving domestic freight from the I-5 corridor onto the water.

“That’s really the target market,” he said.

In addition, Tedesco said the study is looking closely at military operations that might benefit from Short Seas Shipping operations on the West Coast.

“Many of the problems we’re facing for domestic freight are being faced by US transportation commands on a daily basis,” he said. “So there is a large opportunity for some dual-use applications.”

Why truckers are interested in short sea shipping

According to Tedesco, most trucking companies, such as Westar, see several major benefits for Short Sea Shipping:

  • 1. Trade is expanding and is expected to double within 10 years. Short Sea Shipping offers a way for truckers to meet that challenge.
  • 2. Truck and rail are running out of capacity and expanding the freeways isn’t a feasible answer at today’s construction costs. As Tedesco said, even if the freeway system were expanded to handle future traffic, there wouldn’t be enough drivers available.
  • 3. Fuel costs will continue to rise and Short Sea Shipping offers another option.

“What we would like to be able to do,” he said, “is move the trailers that are presently running on the I-5 corridor, to water, and put that cargo onto ro/ro.”

Tedesco said the type of vessel envisioned in the study would be similar to recent Tacoma-based Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE) vessels, only somewhat faster.

“(Truckers) have to be able to compete on a level of service, so we need to be able to offer next-day service. We’re talking in the order of 27 knots,” he said.

What the study is looking at is running ro/ro vessels between Northern and Southern California, providing next-day service and moving domestic freight from the roads to the water.

Tedesco said the shift from road to water would allow the trucking companies to convert all of their long haul drivers to local drivers, allowing them to dramatically increase the utilization of their truck fleet and attract additional drivers.

“What the drivers want,” he said, “is not to be wasting their time on the long hauls, not getting paid and dealing wi