DP works on 'teething problems' as Mather packs his bags

DP World Sydney General Manager James Mather has resigned, as fallout continues over port problems

By Rob McKay | November 11, 2010

DP World Sydney General Manager James Mather has resigned, the stevedore confirmed today.

The man in the eye of the storm surrounding an upgrade of DP World’s Port Botany terminal operating system will be replaced by the man who is overseeing the upgrade.

"Richard Johnstone, Director Business Systems Solutions, will be overseeing the PBT Operations as caretaker General Manager over the coming weeks," a DP World spokesman says.

He adds that the move was not related to the problems with the upgrade, which has caused five days of trucking delays that today have stretched to five hours, according to the NSW branch of the Australian Trucking Association.

The denial was met with scepticism in the industry.

The move came after Sydney Ports Corporation (SPC) joined the chorus of criticism that included the liner shipping industry.

SPC CEO Grant Gilfillan indicated at an industry gathering his displeasure at communication over the upgrade and was quoted in today’s Australian Financial Review as saying that he had "sought explanations from the highest level at DP World and the information has not matched what the transport sector has told me".

DP World today denied that there had been a lack of consultation with the SPC.

The stevedore broke its silence publicly about the upgrade late yesterday.

"The implementation of the N4 system is a significant investment and a represents a critical upgrade to DP World’s Sydney terminal," the spokesman says.

"The N4 system replaces an outdated system that would have presented an unacceptable risk of a total shutdown."

He says DP World has taken steps to ensure the upgrade has caused as little disruption as possible and that it regrets "the teething problems".

According to the spokesman, DP World employees have been working around the clock to resolve issues as they arise.

"The problem has been identified as a data misalignment between the new and old systems," he says.

"These have had to be corrected manually which has led to some delays. Other than on Monday, no truck slots have been cancelled at the terminal."

Since the implementation of the new system on Sunday, the spokesman says more than 3000 trucks have been cleared.

"There has been regular communication to the industry prior to the upgrade and during the issues of the past few days," he says.

"DP World apologises for the delays and the inconvenience that has been caused."

The spokesman says DP World had to carry out the upgrade to meet current and forecast volumes at the port.

The statement failed to mollify a furious ATA NSW, which branded the issue as stemming from traditional stevedore "arrogance" that refused to recognise the interrelationships of the supply chain and the harm caused when consultation was not properly undertaken and when things go wrong.

"This type of problem should have been detected and rectified before implementation – it is a common problem when systems transfer data that there is correct alignment," the ATA NSW’s Mike Moylan says.

Moylan says delays have cost the industry "hundreds of thousands of dollars" and told DP to "get their facts right" because time zones were cancelled Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

"If DP World has only serviced 3000 trucks since Sunday then it is well below what is needed at this time of year to move the increased volumes and it clearly shows the lack of regard for other stakeholders," he says,

"There was only one communication on the progress of the system implementation and intermittent advice on ranks and delays without anything specific on key matters.

"To date, there has been no clear arrangement by DP World to waive all storage, wrong zone and no show fees in other words no sign of any good faith."

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