Containerchain performance dubbed 'outstanding'

Early days for empty container park technology but trucking operators praised for ensuring smooth introduction

By Rob McKay | September 12, 2011

Melbourne’s on-line empty container booking system is underway after a three-month delay and the surmounting of regulatory hurdles.

The paperless system, Containerchain, involves nine major empty container parks and aims to impart an industry-wide level of information visibility to empty container management.

It was formally announced in August last year and the impetus for it was gained in a container logistics industry process started early last year and driven by the Victorian Transport Association.

The process began in response to the growing chaos in the container logistics sector following the global financial crisis, when the port and the parks became clogged as shipping lines stored empty containers, the informal free-for-all system buckled and transport operators began suffering fines for late container returns that they had little or no control over.

While its proponents had wanted the system, which uses Maximas software,
to "go live" in May, shipping industry concerns that it might have competition ramifications saw the concept referred to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for approval.

The first ECP cab off the rank was Port Melbourne Containers (PMC), which on Saturday thanked container transport operators (CTOs) and truck drivers "for assisting to make the first days of Containerchain run very smooth".

"The park managed the normal quantity of container pick ups and returns whilst servicing multiple bulk runs and at no stage did the park experience congestion and trucks flowed well through the park all day," the park says

The company says 98 percent of trucks arrived with their "notification" having already been prepared.

"This is an outstanding achievement by the CTOs considering it was the introduction of a new system," the park says.

The process of CTOs creating the "container return advice" or the "container pick up advice" in the Containerchain system before the trucks’ arrival at the park "made servicing the driver at the gate very quick and frustration free for all concerned and provided the opportunity for fast truck turnaround times".

The park also noted that 70 percent of containers returned to it had not required the driver to bring a copy of the "delivery order" as Containerchain had pre received the container return details from the shipping line involved.

While the start of the system was praised gate process times were still affected by drivers requesting paper copies of the "gate in receipts" or "container pick-up receipts" which, the Containerchain system should automatically send copies of to the nominated email address within the relevant Containerchain accounts.

"PMC would like to advise CTOs that in light of the fact that a few CTOs experienced ‘first time’ user indiscretions, any ‘Notification Cancellation Fees’ incurred by CTOs on either the 8th or 9th of September will be waived," the park says.

"It is important to note that all ‘Conditions of Entry’ as detailed in the PMC Carrier Access Arrangement will apply from Monday the 12th September. It is strongly recommended to read this document as it contains the answers to lot of questions the CTOs have been asking."

VTA Deputy CEO Neil Chambers, who says the introduction "has gone very smoothly", understands only two of about 400 trucks could not be serviced in the first day and the park had been able to handle daily peaks with much less drama.

The system had "always been a hard message to sell", due to the extra work involved and the feeling among many operators that there was "no value in it", Chambers says.

There was also a residual concern amongst operators that though it had worked well very early on with one park, how the system would behave when nine parks went ‘live’ was still an unknown.

However, Chambers was in do doubt that greater transparency and certainty and better truck turnaround times was the prize that, if realised, would make the struggle worthwhile.

Last week at Freight Week, he had urged container shipping line group Shipping Australia’s Chief Executive, Llew Russell, to push for 100 percent involvement of the lines in the system.

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