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A new era for supply chain logistics

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Read time 3 min.

The global economy relies on the efficient import and export of goods via maritime trade. With more than 90% of international trade conducted by sea, shipping is vital to the health of national and international supply chains. Despite the reliance on sea trade, there has been limited innovation in the loading, unloading and distribution of standardized containers from cargo ships in the past 50 years.  

In that time span, ship capacities have skyrocketed by 1400% from an average of 1,530 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) to more than 22,000 TEU, resulting in congestion that forces ships to wait for weeks at times before entering seaports. In February of 2020, ships entering the Zhoushan port in China experienced wait times exceeding 60 hours and throughout 2021 billions of dollars of goods have been anchored off the coast of Los Angeles waiting to be offloaded. 

An increase in shipping volume is just one of the reasons behind port congestion, the other is port infrastructure ill-equipped to handle surging  demand. The result is a slow offloading process, where containers occupy high-value coastal real estate to be sorted and eventually distributed, with little to no visibility or predictability for supply chain and logistics companies. Delays caused by current congestion prevent just-in-time supply chains from supporting an on-demand economy and increase the prices consumers pay for everyday products. 

Enter, the HyperPort

In 2018, HyperloopTT and HHLA announced the creation of the HyperPort joint venture to address port congestion with hyperloop technology and port automation. After two years of work and more than 20,000 detailed engineering hours, the critical components of the system have reached design maturity and can be seen in a newly released video depicting a functioning HyperPort system

The system autonomously loads and unloads standardized shipping containers to reduce congestion and increase operational efficiency. Once loaded, specialized capsules sustainably connect seaports to in-land ports at airplane speeds, relocating the majority of port operations to the hinterlands from the quayside. As a result, ports can increase capacity while decreasing their footprint, returning high-value coastal real estate to the surrounding communities.

Integrated first/last-mile mobility solutions create an end-to-end shipping ecosystem capable of reducing distribution times from hours to minutes and providing logistics companies with real-time tracking of cargo.

Integrating with current port infrastructure

Engineered to current industry standards, the HyperPort is a plug-n-play solution designed to seamlessly integrate with existing port infrastructure. Multiple potential terminal configurations adapt the system to individual port’s specific needs and space constraints. The system’s enclosed operating environment and elevated terminals eliminate at-grade crossings and weather impacts to increase distribution reliability and speed while ensuring worker safety.

Specially designed HyperPort capsules exit the low-pressure tube infrastructure through a series of airlocks to enable top-loading. Each capsule is capable of accommodating the weight and dimensions of two 20-foot containers or one 40- or 45-foot standard or high cube container. Once loaded, capsules re-enter the near-vacuum environment to sustainably transport cargo at airplane speeds on the ground.

A single line HyperPort system is capable of moving more than 2,800 TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) daily between seaports and distribution hubs. Transporting containerized cargo hundreds of kilometers in minutes enables the just-in-time supply chains needed for an on-demand economy and increases port profit by expanding capacity and decreasing dwelling times.

HyperPort capsules, infrastructure and system components are undergoing optimization in preparation for commercial deployment and are expected to be a critical piece of an evolving global logistics industry, which is estimated to grow to $12 trillion by 2023.

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