Shipping shortcuts put Southeast Asia in the express lane

YANGON/BANGKOK -- New types of cross-border ground shipping services are emerging in Southeast Asia to support the growing multinational production networks here.

Many Japanese automotive and electronics companies have supply chains spanning the Greater Mekong region, which has seen a rapid increase in the outsourcing of manufacturing processes once concentrated in China. Better courier services within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are likely to speed up this division of labor.

Japan's Nippon Express, for instance, has launched regularly scheduled truck transport -- a rarity in the region -- originating from Bangkok. The service connects points on a 1,600km route between Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, and a 1,500km route between Bangkok and Hanoi.

Each truck carries goods from multiple customers, accommodating low-volume consignments from small and midsize companies. The trucks operate on a set schedule, departing even if not full of cargo, so customers can ship goods regularly for a predetermined price.

Until now, trucks in the region have normally operated when orders are available for shipment rather than on a fixed schedule. Customers with only small consignments would have to wait for irregular consolidated shipment services.

Thailand is home to many Japanese automotive and electronics factories. As Thai labor costs rise, manufacturers are moving some operations with lower added value to neighboring countries, aided by the ASEAN Economic Community arrangement, which e....

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