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Japan port

Blog: ‘In the land of Kaizen– my reflections from Japan!’ – by APM Terminals CEO, Keith Svendsen

I’ve recently had the pleasure of visiting APM Terminals Japan and our terminal in Yokohama. Yokohama continuously tops the charts when it comes to efficiency and is – year after year – named the world’s most efficient container port.
This does not come as a surprise to anyone who has visited the port and our terminal there. This exemplary performance is a result of a perfect mix of operational advantages and a human element, brought by our dedicated and highly engaged staff, whom I enjoyed spending some time with. They are doing an amazing job in a fast-paced market where the bar for efficiency and productivity is placed very high.

APM Terminals Japan is the closest terminal to the entrance of Tokyo Bay. It has the geographical advantage of being the last port of call on Eastern shipping routes and the first port of call on Western shipping routes on the Asian side of the Pacific. It is also Japan’s largest and most advanced container terminal and the only one capable of handling vessels of 14,000 TEU and above. Shipping afficionados can therefore admire the view of big vessels with Mount Fuji in the distance.

But we’re not in this business (just) for the great views – we’re in it to support the growing need for reliable port logistics and to create solutions that support businesses, economies and communities. I had a great pleasure of discussing the needs of Japanese businesses with the President of Mitsubishi Logistics Corporation Mr. Masao Fujikura and do a Gemba visit at Toyota Industries Corporation (TICO) in Nagoya, where I also met with their senior management team. I also met with the President and CEO of one of our major shipping line customers, Mr. Takuji Nakai from Ocean Network Alliance (ONE). There was a red thread in all these discussions – efficient logistics plays a key role in their supply chains, especially during times marked by supply chain disruptions, unforeseen events and greater than ever unpredictability. It is also clear that decarbonization of the supply chains are needed and we discussed concrete ideas on how we can help this transition speed up.

To better cater for the needs of our customers and their end customers, we have been developing our terminal in Yokohama. In 2020, APM Terminals Japan won a tender for a 10-year agreement with the Yokohama-Kawasaki International Port Corporation (YKIP) to increase existing berth capacity at the terminal by adding two additional deep draft berths (MC3 and MC4), giving APM Terminals as the only terminal operator in Greater Tokyo area the capability to handle vessels up to 20,000 TEU. The development increases terminal handling capacity from 1.1m TEU to 2.4m TEU and creates a world-class integrated terminal with superior ocean capabilities and the opportunity to further develop landside products. I discussed our development projects with the Director General of Yokohama Port Mr. Hiroya Nakano and with the President & CEO of Yokohama-Kawasaki International Port Corporation (YKIP) Mr. Shinya Hiromi, as well as with Mr Gen Natakani, special advisor to the Prime Minister, whom I met in Tokyo. We are very privileged to enjoy the great cooperation with our institutional stakeholders in Japan and I was happy to reconfirm to them our strong commitment to make Yokohama a success.

Last, but not least – as a practitioner of LEAN, I couldn’t have been happier to spend some time in a place where this philosophy originated from and learn from the best. Our own APM Terminals Way of Working is strongly influenced by these principles, and I have certainly brought new ideas and insights from a fruitful stay in Japan.