Companies want 24/7 operations, but not yet

Trucking companies support 24/7 operations at Port of Melbourne, but say it can only be successful if freight volumes increase

By Michael House

Trucking operators are supporting a push for round the clock operations at the Port of Melbourne, but say it can only be successful if freight volumes increase.

The general manager of operations at Chalmers Industries, Craig Webster, says while running a continuous operation will save money, he believes now is not the ideal time to commit to such a scheme.

"If you can successfully run 24/7 operations it will result in making a profit, but with the recent decreases in volume [at the port] due to the global financial crisis, it has made it difficult to try and justify labour over two full shifts," Webster says.

"What we are currently finding is that we have had to downsize our afternoon shifts purely because of volumes decreasing, but when volumes get up again we can think about getting back into it."

Webster’s comments echo those made by the general manager of Australian Freight Container Service (ACFS), Adam Holland.

ACFS currently runs 24/7 operations at Sydney’s Port Botany and has plans to do the same in Melbourne once demand increases.

"It [24/7 operations] has to be volume driven. If the volumes are there we will operate 24/7, but you can’t have a lot of operators competing for dwindling numbers of containers," Holland says.

"There is no point paying a guy for eight hours and he only picks up two boxes [during those eight hours]."

Webster says other factors need to be rectified to make 24/7 operations viable, including offloading unused containers to free up vehicles.

"You can’t dehire containers after hours or on certain times of the weekend, and this is definitely the missing link," he says.

Webster’s and Holland’s comments follow the launch of the Victorian Transport Association’s (VTA) cost optimisation model aimed at encouraging 24/7 operations at the Port of Melbourne.

VTA Deputy Chief Executive Neil Chambers says the problems surrounding container returns is something the association is looking at.

"We need to have a better understanding of the peaks and troughs of empty container return and then we can begin to work on a better system of container returns with increased information visibility in the future," he says.

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