by Jodi Summers
Since Hanjin Shipping Co. vessels filed for bankruptcy in early September, around 15,000 containers from the South Korean ocean carrier have trickled in through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, weeks behind schedule. Now empty containers are cluttering warehouse yards and parking lots across Southern California. Since Hanjin’s ships no longer making the trans-Pacific trip, the company’s containers aren’t needed to carry goods back and forth.
The ports and many of their terminals in Los Angeles and Long Beach are turning away empty containers because they say they lack the space to store them. Port authorities estimate that over 700,000 used shipping containers are stockpiled on prime waterfront real estate without a significant use, purpose, or typical method for disposal, making them ideal construction modules.
Sounds like a housing opportunity, does it not?
Shipping container architecture has evolved as a form of housing design using steel intermodal containers (shipping containers) as structural element, because of their inherent strength, wide availability and relatively low expense. A container is often referred to as a TEU, or twenty-foot equivalent unit. A standard TEU is approximately 20 feet long and 8 feet wide. The most common height is 8 feet 6 inches, an ample ceiling height.
Shipping containers have been called an ideal building material as they are designed to carry heavy loads and to be stacked in high columns. Made of steel and wood, this product is stronger than conventional framing, stackable for creating levels and is readily available. They are also designed to resist the harsh environments encountered by on ocean-going vessels or getting sprayed with road salt while transported on icy roads. As all shipping containers are made to standard measurements and as such they provide modular elements that can be combined into larger structures. They also keep building costs way down. Containers may be purchased from major transport
companies for as little as US $1,200 each. Hanjin may be having a blowout sale!
Beyond the containers, logistics companies note that many remained attached to port chassis – the wheeled trailers that trucks used to get containers off the port docks. They stayed there for weeks because there were no Hanjin employees to unload the containers and no place to put the containers. According to our sources, these chassis, which are vital to port operations, delayed the container deliveries for all shipping companies.
“It’s going to add additional cost that will negatively impact the profitability of Christmas,” said Mark Hirzel, a manager with freight broker A.N. Deringer Inc.
Ahh, the legalities of bankruptcy, everybody suffers.