Fremantle Port steps up supply chain campaign


WA Port Operations Taskforce pushes for extended operating hours at container parks as part of initiatives to streamline peak period throughput

Fremantle Port steps up supply chain campaign
Fremantle Port steps up supply chain campaign

By Anna Game-Lopata | August 7, 2012

Western Australia's Port Operations Taskforce is
ramping up efforts
for extended operating hours as part of initiatives to streamline throughput in the lead-up to this year's peak season.

Fremantle Ports Senior Transport Analyst Michael Pal says container imports through the Fremantle terminal last December increased a massive 30 percent on the same time in the previous year.

While year on year average growth in container trade through the port has historically been 6 percent, Pal says in June, growth was 10 percent, which suggests the minimum growth
to be expected at
Christmas.

Pal says to avoid gridlock over the period, the port’s operations task force, of which he is a member,
convened its annual working group in July instead of October.

"Last Christmas importers and retailers shelled-out hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra fees because of delays caused by capacity constraints from the wharf through to the delivery of the products to shops around the state," Pal says.

Pal says the port has been looking at a broad range of changes to the supply chain to ensure a smooth process for exporters and importers receiving their goods.

Widespread changes to operating hours is top of the agenda for the working group, which comprisies the container park industry, transport operators, the Customs Broker Forwarders Council and the Retail Traders Association.

Pal says modelling undertaken by the port
based on an expected
container import increase of 10 percent, shows without a change to operating hours there will be a significant deficit in the sheer ability to return empty containers.

"There is a disjoint in opening hours between container terminals, importers and exporters and empty container parks, so we are asking all the stakeholders involved to consider opening longer hours to match the container terminals during the peak period," Pal says.

"We are working with empty container park operators on the issue, but also asking importers to consider ways to process arrivals outside the normal nine to five or seven to three hours, for example to allow extended warehousing processing."

Pal says if despatch teams can’t be mobilised to work longer hours, an alternative could be "as simple as giving a transporter a key to the site" to allow the drop-off of containers out of hours.

He
confirms there will definitely be some form of change in of empty container park operating hours this peak season and says the port is currently working through what that change will be in practice.

"It’s a fine balance between flexibility and discipline and there is often a trade-off between the two, so we need to work through with the container parks on how to ensure the best results," Pal says.

"Repatriation of empty containers needs to take place earlier and more often so we’re in touch with shipping lines about that.

"Extending operating hours and meeting maximum throughput rates has a significant benefit in allowing transport operators to get containers back."

While the recent shortening of time without incurring cost to move and return containers is another complication not previously dealt with at peak times, Pal says he
is not in a position
to comment on the introduction of container detention fees.

In its statement, the WA Port Operations Task Force says costs to importers for not meeting the new timeframes will start at $60.00 per day per container, unless alternatives are found.

"Importers during the coming peak season will need to factor these extra costs into their business," the statement says.

The working group is also calling on importers to bring forward their orders to avoid bottlenecks caused by a surge in container imports
in December.

"The longer importers leave it, the more likely containers will be arriving in that period where the port experiences a spike in demand," Pal warns.

"There’s only so much infrastructure at the port to handle the peak, so taking action now to bring forward orders is advisable."

Pal adds Fremantle Port is also looking at a series of other initiatives to improve throughput at peak periods.

Since last year, it has introduced a notification system for empty container parks, distinguishing itself as the second region in Australia after Melbourne to implement such a system.

"Identifying additional storage areas within the port area for empty containers when peaks occur is one of a number of initiatives to reduce the risk of congestion, Pal says.

We are also establishing
alternative buffer areas as key empty container park operators
are considering utilising other sites within the port area."

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