Anytime I get to wear a hard hat or safety vest, I know it’s going to be a fun day. This is my friend Wendy R., who is the General Manager of Operations at APM shipping terminal in Mobile, AL. Her job always sounded interesting, so one day I asked about it, and she kindly agreed to take me, along with my son Joseph, on a field trip. Homeschool is full of benefits like this, and I can’t believe he’s a senior, so I’m trying to pack in lots of cool things before he leaves next year. I think this tour scored big cool points with him!
Living in this area, we see the terminal from a distance, and know it’s there, but most of us have never seen exactly how it operates. Wendy was the right one to show us around, because she’s so incredibly knowledgable about every single detail of the operation. She was quoting facts, figures, weights, times, distances and so-forth so fast, I couldn’t write it all down. Every truck driver or tractor operator we passed waved to Wendy, and she knew them all by name. In a nutshell, APM moves a huge amount of cargo into the port and ships out an equally huge amount.
With the addition of a large Wal-Mart hub coming to Mobile soon (and have you heard about Amazon as well?), Wendy knows she and her crew will be even busier. The train runs beside APM making loading rail freight part of the overall operation. Air freight is sent out through the Mobile Regional Airport.
The cranes themselves are massive — 165 feet above the ground and must pass a month-long inspection before they are accepted for use. Like a well oiled machine, APM moves an average of 38 crates per hour.
This is a photo from APM showing how large the facility is. I wish Joseph had taken this photo, but security is pretty tight, so you can imagine what they would have thought of a teenager and his drone.
An interesting connection is that Malcom Mclain, who invented the modern method for loading and unloading ships in a safer and less expensive way with standardized container sizes, has ties to the Fairhope/Point Clear area. You can read more about his amazing life and invention in this Forbes article by Marc Levinson HERE.
For efficiency, APM can load and unload a ship at the same time. Fun fact: the #1 export from our area is frozen chicken feet and tail bones. It seems China has a large need for their favorite and unique snack. AirBus, based in Germany and France also uses APM to transport forms they use here in their Mobile plant to construct their airplanes. We saw several of those being loaded onto trucks. APM also handles components for the Hyundai plant in Montgomery.
Because of the recent hurricane in Houston and the storm action in Miami and Savannah, APM in Mobile is seeing an upswing in traffic. Wendy said their terminal handles around 200,000 crates a year, but Savannah’s rate is in the millions. APM is part of Mersk based in the Netherlands, and Wendy has traveled there several times.
Here is an article written by AL.com’s Michael Finch that explains more about APM and their recent expansion and addition of two more gantry cranes.
Most of the employees receive on the job training, but there is now a college degree in Supply Chain Management at Auburn University and it will also soon be offered at The University of South Alabama. APM works closely with both programs and offers internships to the students.
A big thanks to Wendy, and Congratulations to APM on operating such an impressive terminal in Mobile!