Title:
System for the collection and distribution of ocean cargo
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A logistics system for the collection and delivery of ocean freight which includes a carrying vessel adapted to hold a plurality of barge-like cargo modules individually suited for the carriage of containers or autos or liquid or dry bulk or deck cargo. Rather than berth at the ports served in its deployment, the carrying vessel anchors in close proximity to the origin or destination port, and floats off inbound barge modules which are immediately replaced by outbound barge modules, similarly floated on. Therefore, in a short period of time, the carrying vessel can exchange its entire cargo capacity. Harbor tugs ferry the barge-like cargo modules to and from a plurality of marine terminals for stevedoring operations. Meanwhile, the newly loaded carrying vessel is already on its way to its next port of call.



Inventors:
Fisher, Gerald M. (Long Beach, CA, US)
Krintzman, Robert D. (Los Angeles, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/000947
Publication Date:
06/27/2002
Filing Date:
10/24/2001
Assignee:
FISHER GERALD M.
KRINTZMAN ROBERT D.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B63B3/08; B63B25/00; B63B27/16; B63B35/28; (IPC1-7): B63B35/40
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
SWINEHART, EDWIN L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
TUCKER ELLIS LLP (CLEVELAND, OH, US)
Claims:

Having described the invention, it is now claimed:



1. A logistics system for the collection and delivery of ocean cargo to and from at least one terminal to a single ocean vessel, comprising: means adapted for floating at least one barge-like cargo modules onto a carrying vessel, each of which said cargo module is adapted for carrying in ocean transit at least one of the group consisting of autos, liquid, dry bulk and deck cargo; means adapted to transport the carrying vessel; means adapted for floating the at least one of the barge-like cargo modules off the carrying vessel once the carrying vessel is within close proximity of a specified destination port; means adapted for distributing the at least one barge-like cargo module off the carrying vessel to at least one terminal facility in the destination port for the discharge of their cargo; means adapted for collecting of at least one new barge-like cargo module from at least one terminal facility at the destination port; and means adapted for floating the at least one new barge-like cargo module onto the carrying vessel for ocean transit.

2. A logistics system according to claim 1 wherein a computer system enables the carrying vessel to compensate for non-homogenous loading conditions created by a carriage of cargo modules of different weight and composition.

3. The logistics system according to claim 1 wherein the barge like cargo modules have a maximum capacity of 2250 twenty-foot equivalent unit.

4. The logistics system according to claim 3 wherein the carrying ship has a maximum capacity of six barge-like cargo modules.

5. The logistics system according to claim 1 wherein the carrying vessel is capable of carrying at least three barge-like cargo modules.

6. The logistics system according to claim 5 wherein the carrying vessel is capable of carrying a maximum of six barge-like cargo modules.

7. The logistics system according to claim 1 wherein the means adapted for floating at least one of the multiple barge-like cargo modules off the carrying vessel is capable of floating three multiple barge-like cargo modules simultaneously.

8. The logistics system according to claim 7 wherein the means adapted for floating at least one of the multiple barge-like cargo modules off the carrying vessel is capable of floating a maximum of six multiple barge-like cargo modules simultaneously.

9. The logistics system according to claim 1 wherein the carrying vessel further comprises a water line and comprises ballast means for adjusting the level of the water line.

10. A logistics system for the collection and delivery of ocean cargo to and from a plurality of terminals to a single ocean vessel, comprising: means adapted for floating a plurality of one barge-like cargo modules onto a carrying vessel, each of which said cargo module is adapted for carrying in ocean transit at least one of the group consisting of autos, liquid, dry bulk and deck cargo; means adapted to transport the carrying vessel; means adapted for floating the plurality of the barge-like cargo modules off the carrying vessel once the carrying vessel is within close proximity of a specified destination port; means adapted for distributing the plurality of barge-like cargo module off the carrying vessel to a plurality of terminal facilities in the destination port for the discharge of their cargo; means adapted for collecting a plurality of new barge-like cargo module from a plurality of terminal facilities at the destination port; and means adapted for floating the plurality of new barge-like cargo module onto the carrying vessel for ocean transit.

11. A logistics system for the collection and delivery of ocean cargo to and from a plurality of terminals and in various forms to a single ocean vessel, comprising means adapted for floating a plurality of barge-like cargo modules onto a carrying vessel, each of which said cargo module is adapted for carrying in ocean transit at least one of the group consisting of autos, liquid, dry bulk and deck cargo.

12. The logistics system according to claim 11 further comprising means adapted for floating at least one of the plurality of barge-like cargo modules off the carrying vessel in close proximity of their destination port.

13. The logistics system according to claim 12 further comprising means adapted for distributing of the barge-like cargo modules off the carrying vessel to a plurality of terminal facilities in the destination port for the discharge of their cargo.

14. The logistics system according to claim 13 further comprising means adapted for collecting of at least one new barge-like cargo modules from a plurality of terminal facilities at the destination port.

15. The logistics system according to claim 14 further comprising means adapted for floating the at least one new barge-like cargo modules onto the carrying vessel for ocean transit.

16. A method for the transportation of ocean cargo to and from a plurality of terminals and in various forms by a single ocean vessel, the steps comprising: floating a plurality of barge-like cargo modules onto a carrying vessel, each of which said cargo module is adapted for carrying in ocean transit at least one of the group consisting of autos, liquid, dry bulk and deck cargo, and each barge-like cargo module having an associated destination port; transporting the carrying vehicle to a close proximity of the destination port of at least one of the barge-like cargo modules; floating at least one of the plurality of barge-like cargo modules off the carrying vessel.

17. The method for the transportation of ocean cargo according to claim 16, the method further comprising distributing at least one of the barge-like cargo modules off the carrying vessel to at least one of a plurality of terminal facilities in the destination port for the discharge of their cargo.

18. The method for the transportation of ocean cargo according to claim 17, the method further comprising collecting of at least one new barge-like cargo modules from the plurality of terminal facilities at the destination port.

19. The method for the transportation of ocean cargo according to claim 18, the method further comprising floating the at least one new barge-like cargo modules onto the carrying vessel for ocean transit.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/242,846, filed Oct. 24, 2000.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention generally relates to an ocean freight logistics system and more particularly a logistics system and method for collecting and distributing ocean cargo of various types to and from various terminal facilities and a single cargo vessel for ocean transit

[0003] Ocean transportation costs are subject to tremendous economies of scale. The use of larger and larger ships reduces the per-unit cost of moving virtually any type of cargo. In the container trades, the size of a typical ship has grown from 2,500 twenty-foot equivalent units (“TEU's”) to 6,000 TEU's. The use of such large container ships creates logistical problems for the harbors and terminals where the ships load and discharge. The size of these ships also prohibits their use of the Panama Canal. These logistical problems may be so severe as to offset the cost savings otherwise achieved by employing such a large vessel. Issues include but are not limited to:

[0004] (i) The ships spend an excessive amount of time in port due to the number of days needed to discharge and/or load so many containers. This is because marine terminals are constructed to work a ship from only one side. In the case of containers, this means that only a limited number of cranes can be employed at one time, limiting the rate at which a ship can be unloaded. The resulting delays impair the utilization of a very expensive asset and increase transit times for containers that remain aboard the vessel awaiting discharge at a subsequent port.

[0005] (ii) The draft of the largest ships exceeds that available in many harbors and at many berths. In some cases, the ships must be lightened before they can proceed to their berth. Similarly they are “topped off” offshore with the final containers being loaded from a lightening barge or smaller vessel. This increases costs and delays the vessel.

[0006] (iii) The horizontal reach of the cranes installed at most terminals is insufficient to reach across the entire breadth of the large ships. In this case, stevedoring operations must be interrupted while the ship is turned around in order to access the opposite side. This increases costs and delays the vessel.

[0007] (iv) Many terminals do not have sufficient back-land capacity to handle and store the large number of containers that the largest ships are able to discharge on a single port call. The efficiency of these terminals is reduced when they become clogged with containers.

[0008] (v) For Asian cargoes to reach the East Coast of the United States and Europe without using the Panama Canal and without sailing extreme distances, cargoes must be discharged from large vessels on the U.S. West Coast and “landbridged” to the East Coast by truck and/or rail, where European cargoes are reloaded aboard another vessel for transatlantic carriage.

[0009] Stevedoring operations for these huge ships are dependent on the number of container cranes which can be efficiently used at one time. Today's berths are equipped to work a ship from only one side, and that restricts the number of cranes that can be used. There is therefore a limit on the number of containers that can be discharged or loaded in any time period. As ships become larger, they spend more and more time idling at the dock. Not only does this impair utilization of the vessel, it adds to the transit time of the containers and their cargo.

[0010] The prior solutions to the aforementioned issues are costly and environmentally undesirable. Dredging harbors to accommodate deep draft ships always impacts marine ecosystems and often involves the handling and disposal of contaminated spoils. Schemes to make cranes available on both sides of container ships typically require dredging in addition to enormous infrastructure costs. Additional waterfront real estate for terminal expansion is, for all practical purposes, non-existent. In many ports, these infrastructure issues are simply economically or otherwise insurmountable.

[0011] When prior solutions are undertaken, the associated infrastructure costs are passed back to consumers by way of the harbor tariffs imposed by the governmental agency that sponsored the dredging or construction. The addition of such costs, mitigates the economies of scale that otherwise would have been achieved through the use of the larger vessels.

[0012] The present invention addresses these and other drawbacks of prior art approaches to the logistics of collecting and delivering ocean cargo, whether it be containers, cars, or dry or liquid bulk.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0013] According to the present invention there is provided a logistics system for the collection and delivery of ocean cargo through the use of multiple cargo modules, each in the form of a barge, each of which is loaded and unloaded at one or more terminal facilities and consolidated aboard a single large vessel by means of float-on/float-off mechanism for trans-ocean carriage.

[0014] In the preferred embodiment, the system comprises a module-carrying carrying ship and six 2150 TEU cellular container modules or comparable car carrier, break-bulk, bulk, or liquid cargo modules. The carrying ship does not berth at the ports served in its deployment. Instead, in close proximity to the port, it ballasts down and floats off the inbound modules which are replaced immediately by outbound modules. In just 24 hours the carrying ship exchanges its entire capacity of 12,900 TEU's. Harbor tugs ferry the discharged modules to marine terminals for stevedoring operations while carrying ship is already on its way to its next port of call.

[0015] An advantage of the present invention is the provision of a collection and delivery system that allows ocean cargo to be processed simultaneously and in parallel by numerous marine terminals, improving cargo transit times.

[0016] Another advantage of the present invention is the provision of a collection and delivery system that allows the carrying vessel to spend a minimal amount of time in port as it does not need to wait in port for the cargo modules to be processed by the terminals.

[0017] Another advantage of the present invention is the provision of a collection and delivery system which achieves economies of scale in ocean transportation without the need for improvements to existing port or harbor infrastructure.

[0018] Another advantage of the present invention is the provision of a collection and delivery system which achieves economies of scale in ocean transportation involving use of the Panama Canal beyond that available with vessels sized to transit the canal.

[0019] Another advantage of the present invention is the provision of a collection and delivery system which achieves economies of scale in ocean transportation without the need for improvements to existing terminal facilities or infrastructure.

[0020] Another advantage of the present invention is the provision of a collection and delivery system which improves the efficiency of existing terminal facilities because it collects and delivers amounts of cargo in manageable-sized lots that do not exceed the terminals designed or practical cargo handling capacity.

[0021] Still another advantage of the present invention is the provision of a collection and delivery system in which the cargo modules can be used to provide additional terminal storage capacity while they await the arrival of the carrying vessel.

[0022] Still another advantage of the present invention is the provision of a collection and delivery system that facilitates vessel-sharing alliances by two or more ocean carriers by allowing individual carriers to share vessel costs while maintaining and processing all cargo through their own terminal facilities.

[0023] Still another advantage of the present invention is the provision of a collection and delivery system that facilitates vessel-sharing alliances by allowing the individual members of a vessel sharing alliance to maintain their brand identity and direct control of the cargo as it moves through the terminal.

[0024] Still another advantage of the present invention is the provision of a collection and delivery system in which the cargo modules can be used as feeder vessels for the consolidation or delivery of cargo to multiple ports in a certain geographic region.

[0025] Yet another advantage of the present invention is the provision of a collection and delivery system that allows various kinds of cargo (container/auto/bulk) to be carried aboard the same vessel without the need to physically re-configure the carrying vessel.

[0026] Yet another advantage of the present invention is the provision of a collection and delivery system that minimizes the need for terminal to terminal movements of empty container chassis by members of a vessel sharing alliance.

[0027] Yet another advantage of the present invention is the provision of a collection and delivery system that minimizes the environmental impact that a carrying vessel has upon a port by minimizing the time the carrying vessel spends in proximity of the port.

[0028] Yet another advantage of the present invention is the provision of a collection and delivery system that allows a vessel too large to transit the Panama Canal to make use of the Canal by virtue of the waterborne transit of the cargo modules only.

[0029] Still other advantages of the invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon a reading and understanding of the following detailed description, accompanying drawings and appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0030] FIG. 1 shows a comparison of the present invention with a conventional 6,600 TEU vessel making a typical voyage;

[0031] FIG. 2 is a side view of the carrying ship loaded with barge-like cargo modules as contemplated by the system of the present invention;

[0032] FIG. 3 is a top view of the carrying ship loaded with six barge-like cargo modules;

[0033] FIG. 4a is a side view of a self propelled 2250 TEU barge-like cargo module;

[0034] FIG. 4b is a top view of a self propelled 2250 TEU barge-like cargo module;

[0035] FIG. 5 is a side view of an unpowered barge-like cargo module;

[0036] FIG. 6 is a side view of a barge-like cargo module having a 5,000 car capacity.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0037] In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention, a carrying vessel and a plurality of barge-like cargo modules are utilized. Each cargo module is capable of carrying roughly either 2150 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) or 5,000 autos, or 25,000 tons of bulk or break bulk cargo, or a combination thereof. The carrying vessel suitably accommodates multiple cargo modules.

[0038] Rather than berth at the ports served in its deployment, the carrying vessel anchors in proximity to the port and sinks itself into the water by taking on ballast. When the carrying vessel is lowered in the water, the inbound cargo modules are floated off and replaced by outbound cargo modules. Therefore, in a short period of time (less than twenty-four hours), the carrying vessel can exchange its entire cargo capacity. Harbor tugs or power units ferry the cargo modules to a plurality of marine terminals for processing. Meanwhile, the carrying vessel is already on its way to the next port of call.

[0039] The carrying vessel is indifferent to the nature of the cargo aboard the individual modules. The multiple modules may comprise any mix of container modules, auto modules, liquid or dry bulk modules, deck cargo modules or combination cargo modules. It should be appreciated that the carrying vessel and cargo modules are constructed to facilitate the interface therebetween. For instance, appropriate structures are provided for safe and efficient float-in/float-out procedures. In a preferred embodiment, the cargo modules of the present invention are sized such that they are compatible with existing harbor and container terminal infrastructures.

[0040] In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention, a computer system (e.g., a personal computer, a client/server system, and/or Internet web-based system) is utilized to control the ballast system of the carrying vessel to permit the collection and discharge of the cargo modules as well as to maintain acceptable levels of stress in the carrying vessel's hull structure. For example, the computer system is used to monitor the ballast tank levels and drafts of the carrying vessel as well as to control the ballast system pumps and valves. In addition the computer system will monitor the levels of bending stress, shear stress and torsional stress induced in the carrying vessels hull by non-homogenous loading of cargo modules. The computer system will compute the optimum distribution of ballast so as to minimize hull stresses while adding the minimum amount of additional weight so as not to impair the carrying vessels hydrodynamic performance.

[0041] The present invention provides a cost effective means to achieve economies of scale without the need for additional harbor infrastructure and without the need for the carrying vessel itself to transit the Panama Canal. With the size and rapid port turnaround provided by the carrying vessel of the present invention, it can be operated at a lower cost per unit of cargo than the largest conventional container ships.

[0042] Moreover, the present invention significantly improves terminal throughput. The invention's provision for dividing the cargo into manageable parcels for parallel processing at a plurality of independent facilities allows the terminal facilities to operate more efficiently. Loading and discharging can occur throughout a period of many days while the modules wait for the next arrival of a carrying vessel. The additional time used to process the modules does not impact the utilization of the carrying vessel nor the transit time of the cargo that remains aboard the carrying vessel for a subsequent port call. While awaiting the arrival of a carrying vessel, the cargo modules provide additional storage space for cramped terminals.

[0043] Furthermore, the present invention facilitates the vessel sharing that is common within today's carrier alliances. The present invention also enables members of a carrier alliance to service one or more cargo modules barges at their own terminal facilities, even though the ocean transportation was provided aboard a shared vessel. Carriers that charter a cargo module are thus able to differentiate their service and maintain their brand identity while still enjoying the capital cost advantages available through vessel sharing. The present invention allows a member of a carrier alliance to retain direct control of its client's cargo as it moves through the terminal system, allows carriers to meet the wharfage minimums typically guaranteed to port authorities, and eliminates terminal to terminal movement of empty chassis necessitated by vessel sharing arrangements.

[0044] In accordance with the logistics system of the present invention, the expensive carrying vessel can discharges and reload in less than 24 hours. Any terminal delays are borne by unmanned barge modules. This greatly improves the utilization of the large capital asset.

[0045] In the preferred embodiment, the present invention simultaneously loads or discharges up to six barges. Modules at separate terminals dramatically speeds up throughout to customers, reduces handling costs, speeds up ship turnaround time, and provides a cost effective means to achieve the economies of scale of the larger ship without the additional cost of handling or harbor infrastructure. This is one of the reasons the present invention has a dramatically reduced cost per TEU which is below that of the largest and most efficient conventional container ships either on the water or on the drawing boards.

[0046] Harbor tugs ferry the barges to port. By using barges instead of a single large ship for loading and unloading, the present invention is compatible with existing cranes and channel depths. The barges are simultaneously loaded and unloaded at multiple facilities.

[0047] In addition, the present invention enables each carrier to display its own brand identity while facilitating vessel sharing. Each module carried by the carrying ship is separately chartered by and serviced at the carrier's own terminal facility and each carrier retains direct control of its customer's cargo as it moves through the terminal system. Thus, with the present invention a carrier can maintain its own brand of service while still enjoying the capital advantages of vessel sharing of the carrying ship and its charter hire.

[0048] Furthermore, the carrying vessel carries loaded “feeders” to the most convenient and cost-effective location for each carrier from which they continue to move to the ultimate destination without the cost of additional handling, without the cost of infrastructure at an interim terminal, and without the cost of the “mother dock” operation.

[0049] An example of the advantage of the present invention is shown in FIG. 1. FIG. 1 shows a comparison of the present invention with a conventional 6,600 TEU vessel making a typical voyage. As can be seen from FIG. 1, the transit times for the vessels are identical, however, because of the lower port time of the present invention, the present invention performs the trip seven days faster, resulting in cost savings. It should be noted that not only is the system of the present invention faster, the present invention is transporting 12,900 TEUs compared to the prior arts 6,600 TEUs for the same voyage.

[0050] FIG. 2 shows a side view of the system contemplated by the present invention. The carrying vessel, generally designated 200, has a fore side 201 and an aft side 203. Near the fore side 201 is a forward superstructure 205. Approximately two-thirds the distance between the fore side 201 and aft side 203 is a midship superstructure 207.

[0051] The forward superstructure 205 has a navigational deck 209 generally utilized for steering the vessel and a plurality of decks 211 wherein the crew's quarters, galley, and other necessary supplies may be stored. A passage 215 is available for crew members to travel from the forward superstructure 205 to the midship superstructure 207. At the bottom of the vessel 200 is a water ballast 217. As shown in FIG. 2, the ballast 217 is one single tank; however, it is also contemplated that the ballast 217 may be comprised of several tanks. The several tanks may be filled to various levels in order to compensate for stress in the carrier vessel's 200 hull, The levels within the ballast 217 may be controlled by a computerized system (not shown) comprising a computer and sensors. Deck cranes 219 are available for loading cargo onto the deck of the carrying vessel. Finally, barge-like cargo vessels 221 are shown within the carrying vessel 200.

[0052] As can be seen in FIG. 3, the carrying ship may carry as many as six barge-like cargo vessels 221 simultaneously. FIG. 3 shows the top view of the carrying vessel, generally designated 300. Anchors 301, are provided near the fore side 201 of the carrying vessel 200.

[0053] FIG. 4a shows a side view of a self propelled 2250 TEU barge-like cargo module 221. This cargo module has a propeller 401 and an exhaust means 403. As shown in FIG. 4b several stacks of TEU's are situated across the length and width of the barge-like cargo module 221. In FIG. 5 is shown a side view of an unpowered barge-like cargo module. FIG. 6 shows a side view of a barge-like cargo module having a 5,000 car capacity. Ramps 601 are utilized to move a vehicle (not shown) from one level to another.

[0054] It will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art that numerous variations and/or modifications may be made to the invention as shown in the specific embodiments without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention as broadly described. The present embodiments are, therefore, to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive. Other features and aspects of this invention will be appreciated by those skilled in the art upon reading and comprehending this disclosure. Such features, aspects, and expected variations and modifications of the reported results and examples are clearly within the scope of the invention where the invention is limited solely by the scope of the following claims.