Port efficiency continues to rise: BITRE

Container numbers continue to rise as does off-peak and weekend truck timeslots, Watermark report says

Port efficiency continues to rise: BITRE
The Watermark 53 report holds promising figures

The latest in-depth look at the state of container throughput at Australian ports, the Waterline 53 report, reinforces the need for ever increasing handling efficiency and attention to bottlenecks.

Container numbers growth is inexorable and continues to far outstrip gross domestic product (GDP) growth, despite the effects of the global financial crisis.

The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics report notes that "over the period January 1993 to June 2013, the GDP increased by about 75 per cent while container throughput grew by 250 per cent".

The figures for the first half of last calendar year, measured in 20-foot equivalent units (teu), showed teu exchanged at Australia’s five container ports increased by 0.9 per cent on the same period the previous year to a total of 3.2 million but there were interesting fluctuations.

Adelaide increased by 5.4 per cent, Brisbane by 4 per cent, and Sydney by 3.3 per cent but traditional powerhouse and manufacturing base Melbourne’s port recorded a  2 per cent fall, outdone only by Fremantle’s 2.6 per cent decline.

On the plus-side, productivity rose on three measures against national Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) indexes: elapsed labour rate, crane rate and ship handling rate against economy-wide labour productivity, economy-wide capital productivity and economy-wide multifactor productivity respectively.

Though unable to compete against the very largest ports worldwide, Australian ports are comparable to similar size facilities internationally, including the likes of such northern hemisphere operations as Belgium’s Zeebrugge, The US’s Savannah, Seattle and Houston and Canada’s Vancouver.

However, the port interface cost index rose "due to increased fuel costs, higher road transport costs, and to a limited extent, port charge increases".

Finally, the bureau had some positive news for state government port planners tackling congestion.

"The total number of available truck timeslots in five ports declined by 8.8 per cent in January to June 2013, as compared with the corresponding period of 2012.

"Similarly, the number of used truck slots in January to June 2013 was 6.6 per cent less than a year ago.

"An increase in the percentage of trucks that access container ports during the off-peak period leads to reductions in peak period congestion on the roads near ports.

"Usage of off-peak and weekend truck timeslots increased in five ports from 47.9 per cent in January to June 2012 to 49.8 per cent in January to June 2013.

"This increase in off-peak truck time slots usage, however, varied by container port."

The full report can be found here.

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