Faster, Safer and Greener

Toyota’s North American-produced vehicles now travel to Puerto Rico on industry-leading liquified natural gas vessels

March 26, 2019
Let It Roll -- TLS worked with Crowley, its long-time business partner, to tweak the angle of this ramp -- helping to reduce damage to vehicles during loading and offloading. 

Mention climate change in the context of the automotive industry and, on cue, a discussion about the viability of alternative fuel vehicles inevitably follows.

But what about the carbon consumed transporting those vehicles from where they’re made to where they’re sold?

Toyota Logistics Services (TLS) thinks about that issue. A lot. And, more importantly, they’re doing something about it.

Speedy Delivery -- The new liquified natural gas-powered vessel can complete the journey from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, in less than half the time of conventional methods. 

Less Time, Less Carbon
Consider, for example, TLS’ collaboration with Crowley Maritime Corporation. For more than 25 years, Crowley has played a key role in helping Toyota transport vehicles assembled at its North American plants to Puerto Rico via a port facility in Jacksonville, Florida. Until recently, twice a week, TLS loaded some 100-200 vehicles on barges that Crowley towed or pushed to San Juan. The 1,300-mile journey could take up to six days, depending on the weather.
Last July, Crowley made history when it debuted the industry’s first liquified natural gas (LNG) combination container/roll-on roll-off “ConRo” ship. The 720-foot vessel can transport up to 2,400 20-foot container units, 300 refrigerated containers and 400 vehicles in ventilated garages. Thanks to other design innovations, such as a sleeker bow and a computer-controlled propeller, its can cruise at speeds of more than 22 knots (roughly twice the speed of a barge). That cuts the travel time to just 2.5 days.
Perhaps most importantly, the new vessel is much more environmentally friendly. Compared with the status quo, it emits 92 percent less nitrogen oxide, 35 percent less carbon dioxide (as calculated per shipping container) and eliminates all sulfur dioxide and particulate matter.
“This new ship is helping us to better serve our distributor in Puerto Rico,” says Marlon Brown. “It’s a great example of why it’s so important for Toyota to develop close working relationships with its key business partners. This isn’t something we could have done on our own.”
Tight Quarters -- The new ship can carry up to 400 vehicles at a time. TLS helped establish the guidelines for lashing the units to the deck and protecting them with foam padding, reducing damage en route.

Damage Control
As is often the case, though, Crowley’s success with the new ship would not have been possible without its relationship with TLS. Since that maiden voyage, Laura Pedace — a senior analyst in TLS Export Marine Quality Operations — has spent time in Jacksonville sorting through various kaizens to ensure Toyota’s vehicles not only get to Puerto Rico more quickly but also safe and sound.
So, for example, TLS offered Crowley guidance on lashing vehicles in place in the ship. They also recommended increased use of strategically placed foam padding. And they asked Crowley to modify the angle of the ramp used to roll the vehicles on and off the vessel.

“Imagine you’re driving down a steep hill that flattens out at the bottom,” says Pedace. “If you’re not careful, you’ll scrape the bottom of the front bumper. That’s one of the changes we were able to implement.”
Collaborative Effort -- TLS' Marlon Brown (second from left) and Laura Pedace (center) join Crowley representatives for a group photo before the new ship's maiden voyage.

In true Toyota Way fashion, many small changes can add up to a big difference. In the new ship’s first two months of operation, Toyota vehicles were experiencing a damage rate of 3.6 percent. But over the ensuing three months — after the kaizens kicked in — that dropped to a far more acceptable 0.19 percent.

Those improvements have been incorporated into Crowley’s second LNG vessel that was pressed into service in January.

“The big picture is that TLS is doing its part to help reduce Toyota’s carbon footprint, in keeping with the objectives of the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050,” says Brown. “This is a win all around, especially for our customers in Puerto Rico.”

By Dan Miller 

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