We are being asked by Customers – Lines, Carriers and Cargo Owners when can we expect to be back to normal operations? Regrettably there is no single answer for this as it depends upon so many factors, a number beyond our control.
There are a number of reasons for the situation we find ourselves:
- We have restricted yard capacity as a consequence of building for automation to come on stream in late 2019. This is a project that we cannot defer due to the commitments we have made to invest in this major capacity and technology project;
- We were already experiencing some yard congestion just before the accident due to a number of the larger North Asia Services being delayed due to bad weather – something out of everyone’s control;
- After 2 weeks of disruptive service during the accident period there has been no break in the shipping or volume demand to allow us to recover and as a consequence of the accident there is understandably greater caution in the yard with regard to straddle driving;
- As vessels get delayed, both at our Terminal but also at other Ports, efforts are made to restore lost schedule time by omitting Ports and moving cargo between ships. This is adding to our congestion challenges where we are now regularly seeing yard utilisation sitting between 110-120+% on a daily basis;
- We are operating with a very tight labour supply, as I am aware that many other industries are experiencing, and with the back to back nature of vessel schedules we need to provide adequate rostered time off for staff to manage fatigue which limits our ability to keep up with the demand on the ship side of the operations and road/rail demand;
- We already see import volumes are remaining strong and with recent weather events over the last weekend in North Asia, vessels yet to arrive will be delayed seeking contingencies to regain lost schedule time. This just puts us back into the cycle of a heavily congested yard and much lower levels of productivity.
We do appreciate that this offers very little comfort to the wider supply chain and our customers. We are continuing to evaluate ways in which we can relieve the pressures and help with increased flow of containers out of the Terminal yard but there are limited opportunities. We have explored more use of rail and have seen some increase to services but for every container we have to move to/from the rail grid is upwards of 2-3 moves for a straddle which are better served handling containers direct to/from truck.
The road community has been doing a phenomenal job trying to manage the various priorities and demands of importers and exporters requirements whilst also fitting in with our own limitations. Unfortunately we have to maintain a limit to the VBS slots and continue to manage bookings manually against priorities – specific export vessel cut offs, laden import active reefer and hazardous containers and then any other imports where we can provide additional slots based on labour resourcing each shift.
We are sorry but unfortunately there is no quick fix to this situation and realistically we would expect to be in this mode of operation for the remainder of the import peak period.
We will continue to provide these updates which we hope are at least keeping you informed however we do appreciate offer little solutions for the short term.
General Manager Commercial Relationships