Innovative container ‘blocker’ could save maritime industry “billions”

Innovative container blocker could save maritime industry “billions”

An innovative piece of equipment that enables four empty shipping containers to be lifted and transported onto quaysides as a single block could save the maritime industry billions of dollars, its inventors have claimed.

Warwickshire-based BLOK Container Systems (BCS) said its BLOK Spreader system has the potential to ease congestion in container ports all over the world, as well as reduce emissions.

With the arrival of bigger, more efficient ships, container ports are now being identified as a bottleneck in the system as a whole. With 24% of containers being handled empty, these represent a major part of the problem. BCS said its system will ireduce empty handling time by around 60%, which will free up port space and increase capacity. BCS said shipping lines will also increase their potential to ‘slow steam’, reducing fuel use and emissions.

The company was started two years ago by Martin Clive-Smith, Henry Reynolds and Selwyn Rowley, who have a combined experience of more than 80 years across engineering and marketing.

Selwyn Rowley, BLOK’s Director of Sales and Marketing, said: “As engineers, Martin and Henry have an impeccable track record and Martin is responsible for more than 140 patents and $2bn sales of container industry products used the world over.

“This is a major innovation that is going to change the maritime sector – it is perhaps the biggest step forward since the introduction of the shipping container as multiple container handling has the potential to revolutionise port handling systems.

“Ports around the world handle 679 million containers annually of which around 24% are handled empty.

“Container terminals charge at least £100 and often much more a lift, so the potential savings created by being able to move four at a time rather than one run into the billions.

“We have interest from ports around the world, as well as many country members of the International Maritime Organisation.

“We are confident that this is going to have a huge global impact.

“Ships have become bigger now and carry as many as 20,000 containers but that volume has exacerbated delays at ports and more efficient handling is required. The price of fuel is also going up and tough new environmental standards are being introduced so time savings are essential to allow for slower sailing.

The company has worked with the Coventry & Warwickshire LEP Growth Hub and Coventry City Council to help fund development of the BLOK Spreader, and together they secured a £100,000 grant from the European Regional Development Fund.

Jaymie Thakordas, account manager and business mentor with the Growth Hub, said: “The reputation and clarity of vision possessed by the BLOK Container System team is inspiring and we are excited to see just how big an impact their work can have on the maritime industry.”

Councillor Jim O’Boyle cabinet member for jobs at Coventry City Council and regeneration and LEP board member said: “This is an incredible project carried out by a highly credible team.

“We didn’t just give this grant out with the short-term in mind, and this has the potential to be a game-changer for ports in the longer term.”

Picture caption: L to R Jaymie Thakordas, C&W Growth Hub; Henry Reynolds, BCS; Martin Clive-Smith, BCS; Selwyn Rowley, BCS; James Clive-Smith, BCS and Richard Middleton, Coventry City Council