DP World in firing line over port delays

Trucking operators blast stevedore DP World over the running of its port terminal, as increase in congestion hits hard

DP World in firing line over port delays
DP World in firing line over port delays
By Brad Gardner | July 30, 2010

Stevedore DP World is under fire from the trucking industry as congestion levels at its Sydney port terminal increase and operators face lengthy delay times.

Johnston’s Transport General Manager Mike Moylan has called for improvements to management of DP’s Port Botany terminal, claiming some trucks are being delayed for up to four hours at a time.

Moylan says congestion in and around the port has increased over the last month, affecting turnaround times and the ability of operators to meet pick-up and delivery timeframes.

"This has been going on since June. There’s a real problem," he says.

"It’s hard to plan as a carrier…There are occasions in June [and] July where it’s been three to four hours."

DP World has acknowledged a congestion problem at the port, saying it has been caused by a rise in volumes in recent months and a significant drop in freight being carried by rail.

"DP World is working with the industry to deliver increased efficiency," a spokesperson for the stevedore says.

"DP World met with industry representatives on Monday and we meet regularly to discuss port issues as part of the Port Botany Landside Improvement Strategy (PBLIS)."

According to DP World's latest statistics, the average truck turnaround time in June was 54.8 minutes – up from 43.9 minutes in May.

However, one carrier who spoke to ATN on the condition of anonymity says his average turnaround time at DP’s terminal was 79.6 minutes in June compared to 43.6 minutes at Patrick.

Statistics from the trucking company also show individual days where trucks were held up for more than two hours at a time.

Moylan says DP’s statistics are not an accurate reflection of the problems at the port because they do not factor in the time spent by trucks waiting outside the terminal gate to enter.

"They’re only capable of measuring gate to gate. If they keep you outside that’s not measured," he says.

As the due date for the implementation of PBLIS at the terminal nears, another carrier has also criticised DP’s management.

Declining to be named, the owner of the small company that operates close to the port says the terminal is not staffed effectively at night to resolve problems.

He says his company struggles to meet schedules on some days because of delays by close to two hours at times.

"In the last month it has been very poor performance by DP World. It’s pretty frustrating," he says.

Conversely, the transporters which spoke to ATN cited an increased improvement in turnaround times and efficiency at Patrick’s terminal.

The managing director of a Sydney company says more timeslots are being introduced by Patrick’s, leading to fewer queues and an increase in vehicle movements.

He is particularly critical of management at DP World's terminal, saying the industry is not kept informed.

"You’ve got a terminal manager out there who doesn’t consult," he says.

Operators are also unhappy about DP’s decision to scrap its ‘tagging’ system, which allowed two-way running by permitting trucks to deliver an export container to the port and then leave with an import.

However, DP World says it is looking at alternatives to ensure two-way running continues.

"Sydney is an import dominated terminal and so two-way running cannot be facilitated on many occasions, however, we are looking at what systems changes can be made in order to make two-way running easier," the spokesperson says.

The stevedore has also rejected assertions by the industry that a rise in equipment failures has led to more delays. The spokesperson says failures do occur but there has been no increase in recent weeks.

During its meeting on July 26 with the NSW branch of the Australian Trucking Association, DP World discussed two-way running, turnaround times, equipment failures and claims it was favouring shipping lines over road transport.

According to the spokesperson there is no evidence DP World preferences shipping.

"This claim is regularly made by the transport industry but is without basis. Our priority is to operate an efficient terminal and this cannot occur if the landside is not operating smoothly," the spokesperson says.

The meeting followed a July 20 gathering of the Sydney Ports Cargo Facilitation Committee to discuss issues and to ensure the port is running efficiently in the lead up to the Christmas period.

The meeting included representatives from the steverdoring, road, rail and shipping sectors.

Sydney Ports CEO Grant Gilfillan says all parties in the supply chain must work together to make sure the port runs smoothly.

During the meeting, Gilfillan says representatives discussed road and rail infrastructure, throughput volumes and stevedore resourcing plans.

The Sydney company that spoke to ATN says it is vital DP World improve its services before the Christmas rush otherwise "we’re all going to be rooted".

"It’s just ridiculous. It’s ongoing. I think they’ve lost the plot," the managing director says.

Gilfillan also highlighted the need for improvements to the running of empty container parks.

"For Sydney Ports [Corporation] to meet the growing throughput of containers we need an industry agreed strategy to improve capacity and efficiency in our empty container parks," he says.

Gilfillan says work is underway on a plan and is being coordinated alongside PBLIS.

Announced by Ports and Waterways Minister Paul McLeay in April, PBLIS will be introduced from the end of September.

Stevedores will need to pay a trucking operator $25 for every 15 minute delay, $100 if a slot is cancelled within two hours of the agreed access time or $50 if the slot is cancelled outside the two-hour timeframe.

Trucking operators will also feel the pinch, with McLeay ordering them to pay $50 for a late arrival and $100 if their trucks do not show up.

McLeay says the reform is designed to improve turnaround times and landside efficiency at the port.

"These new regulations will be the first step in introducing greater transparency and accountability between stevedores and transport carriers, with the overall objective of making the entire land supply chain more efficient," he says.

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