When Omega was founded in 1997, the intention was to concentrate on this service. By definition, cabotage is, “the re-positioning of empty containers, from an area of surplus, to an area of shortage”. This can be done via vessels, trains or trucks. Omega specializes in road cabotage (trucks). Transporters find the surplus availability of empty containers very useful for the following reasons:
- The additional tariff gained for using the empty container, whilst less than that of a full container, is still very useful. Sometimes, a load or part-load becomes more attractive to a transporter, with the added revenue of an empty container.
- The container can provide excellent security for a load in transit. Vehicles designed to carry “open” loads, can immediately be converted into “closed” vehicles with the addition of one or more empty containers.
- Transporters have to be watchful of remaining within permissible axle loading in South Africa. If one tries to load a super-link with a 23 ton full container, with no weight on the front trailer, the transporter runs the risk of inviting a fine for overloading an axle, even if the vehicle is technically not overloaded.
To container operators, the advantage of cabotage is reduced re-positioning costs. Therefore, cabotage is very much a win-win situation for all concerned.
Currently, Omega is most active between the ports of Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Johannesburg and Harare. Occasionally projects are undertaken to and from other centres in the region, such as Bloemfontein, Blantyre, Kitwe, Lilongwe, Lusaka, Walvis Bay and Windhoek.
Although any size or type can be moved, the frequency depends on the needs of the transporters, and the availability is dependent entirely on the needs of the container operators. These needs are often seasonal. This makes cabotage a very dynamic industry, with rates changing hourly at times, in accordance with the laws of supply and demand. This service requires the dedication of a special type of person, and is currently being handled by Chaz Whitfield, our Operations Co-ordinator.