*This was written in 2017
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 fascinating, so when I asked her about it, she kindly offered to give me and my son Joseph a tour. Homeschool field trips are awesome! I can’t believe my "baby" son is a senior, so I’m trying to pack in plenty of cool activities 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.
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!
This was certainly educational to me. I never knew it existed. Thanks for the tour.
Now I’m wondering about what else is out there we need to discover? Joseph reminds me he only has a few months left here. We need to get busy!
Holy cow, I had no idea this existed on this scale in Mobile! It must have been fascinating to see and learn about. Chicken feet, omg, well, each to his own I guess… I bet Joseph did love it!
Hey Jenna. Yes, he loved it, and isn’t it strange how something this massive and essential to our economy goes mostly unnoticed?
That would be a great field trip. Joseph is a lucky young man.
Amazing what goes on right in our back doors.
That’s so true. We forget to investigate things close to us. Thanks Sandy.
Now if only Wendy would have let Joseph operate the crane!
Ha. I’m still worried about the car, but actually, Wendy said a lot of the drivers are younger and great at video games!
You mean there is actually some value in having video game skill? Who’d a thunk! 😉
!!!! Hand-eye coordination, just like we used to get jumping rope or throwing balls.
Apparently the USAF thinks so, because they are allowing enlisted personnel to be drone pilots. 🙂
What a great field trip for anyone, great score Leslie Anne. I’ve seen the terminals from a distance but had no idea it was as large as it is. They move a lot and it looks efficient.
Have a great weekend…….
Thanks Emily, I hope you stay dry from the storm. It looks like you’ll even get wind and rain inland where you are!