TOKYO -- Forced to rethink its domestic product distribution by the severe truck driver shortage, retail giant Aeon has come up with a novel idea of teaming up with manufacturers and jointly shipping goods by sea.
As the first step, the major retail group will team up with Sapporo Holdings and transport beverages using a regular sea freight service connecting the port of Shimizu in Shizuoka Prefecture and the port of Oita in the namesake prefecture, starting around the end of this month. This arrangement will allow Sapporo to send soft drinks from a plant in central Japan to the southern island of Kyushu. Aeon will be able to catch the ship on the way back to Shizuoka, sending its private-brand beverages made in Kyushu.
This joint shipment will enable the partners to send goods in steady quantities and save on shipping costs. They expect to move 110,000-120,000 cases each per year through this channel. The volume translates to 30% of the private brand beverages that Aeon ships from Kyushu to Kanto, the eastern Japan region centering on Tokyo. For Sapporo, the figure would be 10% of the soft drinks that it sends to Kyushu from Shizuoka. The cost savings are estimated to come to about 15% for Aeon and some 6% for Sapporo.
Aside from helping to ease the shortage of long-haul truck drivers, the joint sea freight initiative is expected to slash the carbon footprint by half when compared to truck shipments.