Good time to be in the container business

Market conditions are strong for container and chassis leasing because demand for international shipping containers is high, says Martin Tuckman, CEO of Interpool (www.interpool.com), a lessor of intermodal dry freight containers.

When new container costs go up, Tuckman notes, railroads and ocean lines tend to renew their long-term leases. Costs have gone from $1,400-$1,450 per container to something closer to $2,000 per container, says Tuckman, and about 78% of Interpool's current customers have been rolling over their leases rather than returning and replacing containers and chassis.

To supplement its fleet, Interpool, which claims a 50% market share, has been acquiring chassis from ocean lines and leasing them back to the carriers. Current utilization of chassis by Interpool's Container Applications International group is over 90%, says Tuckman. Utilization was in the 80% range in the prior year, and below that in the past.

While containers are mass produced, chassis production involves discrete manufacturing, explains Tuckman. This makes fleet planning a little more complex. Interpool assesses current container demand and tracks shipbuilding projections when it places orders for containers and chassis.

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