Container vehicle bookings declining: Waterline report

Productivity up but container traffic growth also on way down, as is rail handling

Container vehicle bookings declining: Waterline report
The Waterline 59 report cover


Systems aimed at giving coherence to container port landside logistics are losing their share, the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) has highlighted in its latest figures.

BITRE’s most recent report, Waterline 59 that measures January-June 2016, shows stevedores are getting containers moved around but through bulk runs and "the ad hoc or opportunistic pickup and delivery of containers outside pre-booked slots".

Such systems were put in place early in the decade to bring some discipline to landside container handling and trucking but the decline has coincided to a certain extent with that.

The share of  twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) handled by trucks operating under the vehicle booking (VBS) or truck appointment systems (TAS) in the five ports fell from 66.5 per cent in January-June 2015 to 62.6 per cent.

At Melbourne, the share of VBS/TAS truck-handled TEU fell from 75.8 to 68.5 per cent between January-June 2015 and the same period in 2016. At Brisbane, the share declined from 69.7 to 63.2 per cent and at Fremantle from 62.4 to 56 per cent.  

The balance of TEU handled outside the VBS/TAS and rail systems increased in the five ports from 27.1 per cent in January-June 2015 to 32.4 per cent in the same period of 2016.

The largest increases in this indicator occurred at Melbourne, from 24.2 to 31.5 per cent, and Brisbane, from 26.8 to 33.4 per cent. As of January–June 2016, the balance of TEU handled outside VBS/TAS and rail systems stands at 30.1 per cent of all TEU handled by the five ports.

The total number of truck timeslots used in the five ports declined 4.2 per cent in January–June 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. In the same period, the number of truck slots available increased by 3.1 per cent.

Usage of weekday evening truck timeslots declined by 8.1 per cent across the five ports but usage of weekday night slots increased by 6.6 per cent.

Another scheme put in place, this to avoid road congestion, is container transport by rail, and the story is similar.

Driven mostly by major eastern ports, the five-port average percentage of TEU handled by rail slid from 11 per cent in March 2014 to 9 per cent in June 2016, with the largest fall, from 12.7 to 8.9 per cent, in Sydney.

The figures come against a backdrop of slowing container throughput growth, which fell 1.4 per cent.

Despite these somewhat disconcerting performances, productivity was a winner.

Average truck and container turnaround timesimproved by 4.9 per cent and 5.5 per cent respectively in January-June 2016 compared to the same period in 2015.

Sydney experienced a marked improvement, with truck and container turnaround times declining by 17.8 per cent and 20 per cent respectively, while Fremantle also posted decreases of 11.1 and 10.4 per cent respectively.

However, Brisbane experienced a 10.3 per cent increase in average truck turnaround time and a 9 per cent increase in average container turnaround time.

The wharf interface saw the benefit of newer and bigger cranes, with the TEU per hour crane rate, elapsed labour rate and ship rateimproving by 17.2 per cent, 9.6 per cent and 10 per cent respectively, compared to the same period in 2015.

Average lifts per ship-hour at berth increased 6 per cent, from 39.3 to 41.6 and average lifts per stevedore-hourimproved by 6.4 per cent from 42.7 to 45.4.

But the average cost of ship visits rose for all sizes rose between $15 and $19 during the 12 months measured.

This rise is part of a trend rise that began in 2009 after nearly 20 years of cost falls.

The full report can be seen here.

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