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BYLINE: Peter T. Leach
The ships can carry anything that moves on wheels, so the roll-on, roll-off industry is virtually carrying everything, everywhere. As the emerging markets of China, Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Middle East and parts of Africa continue their rapid growth, the ro-ro industry is growing in sync with their needs for agricultural and construction equipment, heavy trucks and any equipment that is classified as high and heavy.
As these markets continue to boom, the ro-ro industry is undergoing dramatic changes. First, it has become dominated by the major car carriers, which enjoy escalating global trade in autos and trucks.
Second, the car carriers, which used to have a steady and predictable three-way trade between Japan, the U.S. and Europe, are now seeing their markets fragment, as carmakers outsource production to distant locations around the world, including the emerging markets. The car carriers therefore are calling at ports in precisely the emerging markets where demand for heavy equipment is growing the fastest.
These trends have enabled the car carriers to select the most profitable shipments of heavy equipment bound for the emerging and developed markets they serve. And they can charge almost whatever they want to get the machinery where it's needed when it's needed.
"They cherry-pick their project cargoes and high and …