Thursday, July 16, 2020

Container Logistics Delays - Port & Empty Container Depot Congestion / Stevedore Industrial Action



The challenge in keeping container freight moving through the supply chain during the COVID-19 response has become harder in recent days due to weather events, port and landside congestion & vessel schedule alterations.  In addition, this challenge will be exacerbated due to planned protected industrial action announced at DP World's terminals in Australia from next week.

Weather / Port Congestion / Vessel Schedule Changes:

Weather related events, and the impact on container vessel "bunching" in various Australian container ports, has led to numerous vessel schedule changes.  In turn, these changes put added strain on the landside container logistics task due to volume surges and shortened logistics planning timeframes.

An example is the vessel schedule rotation change announced by ANL today (15 July), with ANL Gippsland calling Melbourne prior to Sydney in order to avoid weather and port congestion on the Australian east coast.

The anticipated early vessel arrival has meant that export receivals have been brought forward, with a vessel export receival cut off of 1800hr on Sunday evening (19 July).

The effect of this late vessel schedule change is that container transport operators will need to work closely with their export clients to cart full container exports to the terminal (VICT, Webb Dock) over the weekend, thereby enduring added labour and other operational costs within the shortened receival timeframe.


Empty Container Park Delays:

Truck queuing delays are being experienced at several empty container parks in different Australian ports.  These delays are more frequent when the capacity of the park doesn't match the volume being directed to it by shipping lines (for import de-hires or export pick-ups), particularly at peak times.

When these delays occur, transport operators and their import / export clients often seek permission from shipping lines for alternative de-hire or pick up locations.  The delays are heightened unfortunately when such requests are denied, as some shipping lines have a strict "one park" policy.

An example is Oceania Container Park (OCS) in Melbourne which is owned by COCSO / China Shipping and is expected to handle all of the empty park volumes for those lines through its limited facilities.  Also, OCS recently reduced its opening hours to 6.30am to 4pm Monday to Friday in order to roster its employees to cope with COVID-19 staffing contingencies. 

Unfortunately, any added operational capacity that OCS management may have tried to add during their shorter opening hours has not assisted with truck congestion.  There are frequent truck queuing delays of approx. two hours, and truck arrival notification slots are frequently unavailable for over 24 hours in advance.

ANL Container Park (ACP) in Melbourne has also announced a similar opening hours reduction (6am to 6pm, Monday to Friday) to be implemented from Monday, 20 July to 31 August 2020.  Again, will ACP be able to increase its truck servicing capacity in the reduced hours to avoid truck congestion?

These empty container park delays aren't only confined to Melbourne.  Sydney too is suffering.  Transport for NSW recently released the anticipated NSW Empty Container Supply Chain Study, which documents the capacity "squeeze" in Sydney, and the inefficiencies in empty container management which conservatively costs the NSW container logistics chain over $49 million annually.

DP World Australia - Planned Protected Industrial Action:  

Yesterday, DP World Australia has announced that the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has advised of its intention to restart Protected Industrial Action at its four terminals in Australia (Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Fremantle).  According to DP World, the Industrial Action will include "work stoppages, limited various bans on employees working in tasks above their normal grade, overtime, shift extensions, accepting late call-ins, and ceasing advanced or delayed start times.

As previously, these actions by DPWA's employees will likely have a significant impact on terminal operations.  We hope that DPWA management can limit the impact of the stoppages and bans to the greatest degree possible, and that the parties are able to get back to the negotiation table to finalise the long-outstanding enterprise agreement.

The reality will likely be longer truck turnaround times and truck congestion at DP World terminals during the industrial actions.    

The full DPWA Customer Notice (15 July 2020) can be downloaded: HERE    

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