Harbour Link Blog Archive

Port Interface Problems

Posted 2012-10-24 by Harbour Link in opinion

To Our Customers – 24th October 2012

For the past two years we have worked closely with the BCTA and all other stakeholders being affected by the deplorable port interface conditions at Port Metro Vancouver’s container terminals (FSD excepted). These conditions are preventing the trucking sector from being able to secure sufficient and timely reservations to pick-up and deliver containers, and when a reservation is secured, to be able to access the port without their trucks encountering wait times of up to 3 to 4 hours to access the port’s container terminals.

While PMV has been supportive in their attempts to help resolve these problems, access to Port of Vancouver’s container terminals has continued to worsen and has now reached the stage that the frustration of many owner-operators has boiled over. Their collective frustration prompted two recent blockades of container terminals to protest the deplorable queuing conditions that prevent owner-operators from earning sufficient income to cover the cost of operating their trucks and eking out a living. Similarly, the container drayage companies are encountering huge added costs to provide services, including driver wages and fuel plus penalty fees for missed reservations imposed by the same container terminal operators that are responsible for the inordinate delays (waiting time to access and achieve the interchange of containers within the terminal) that is the root cause of the missed reservations.

The port congestion problem has worsened to the point that it is spilling over to add costs to the real customers of the port, i.e. the importers and exporters who support the port with their business and the shipping lines that call. In a nutshell, the inability of the trucking sector to secure timely reservations for inbound and outbound containers is resulting in huge storage and demurrage charges being incurred by import containers. Equally, missed sales are being incurred by exporters because of their trucker’s inability to access the port to deliver containers. In the case of exports, vessel sailings are often missed due to the inability of the container terminal to receive export containers on time, resulting in the re-routing of some shipments to different carriers and/or to different ports to meet buyer and LOC commitments. The port situation is bordering on being dire, and if not corrected will have a very negative impact on Port Metro Vancouver as a reliable port.

A significant and easily solved irritant to all carriers is the inability of TSI to address the present requirement to obtain reservations for Deltaport at midnight each day, all of which are taken within 15 minutes after midnight. This policy requires each carrier to pay for a dispatcher to be at their computer at midnight each day to secure reservations. The simple solution would be for TSI to recapture all midnight reservations for re-release to the carriers at a designated time during each business day. Add the fact that the quantity of daily reservations made available daily by the terminal operators is well below what is required to handle the volume of the port’s daily trade is forcing dispatchers and their support staff to spend most of their day searching endlessly for reservation openings and finding inventive ways to secure their reservation requirements.

To access the port to pick-up or deliver a container (full or empty) requires the truck carrier to secure a reservation for each container from the openings available at each terminal. Based on the reservations that are obtained, the carrier proceeds to plan a schedule of work for trucks to optimize daily deployment. When trucks are delayed at one terminal, the terminals collectively refuse to acknowledge that the delay problems at one terminal trickle-down to prevent trucks from achieving their work assignments for the balance of the day. So the missed reservations that result from trucks being detained at one terminal automatically results in a $25 penalty fee being assessed by another terminal for each missed reservation caused by the earlier delay.

Of even greater concern are the queuing conditions at the Port which prevent us and all other carriers from being able to fulfill our service commitments to our customers, causing service failures over which we have no control.

As previously stated, we have worked diligently to achieve the cooperation of the Terminal Operators to work together with the trucking sector through the BCTA to solve these problems. PMV officials have acknowledged they do not have the authority to compel the container terminal operators to correct these problems. As leaseholders appointed by the PMV to provide terminal services, surely an Authority must exist that requires the container terminal operators to provide acceptable levels of service to achieve the efficient movement of Canada’s trade through the Gateway, and to do so in an manner that assures equal access and service to all parties that depend on the Port for the movement of cargo.

Because of the very serious situation that exists and how it is adversely impacting the Port as a viable Gateway for the transit of containers by truck, we encourage you to attend the meeting organized by PMV which is to be held on Sunday Oct 28 by PMV at Eaglequest Coyote Creek (East and West Banquet Room) 7778, 152 Street Surrey, between 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm. Attendees are required to pre-register by e-mail to PMV at public_affairs@portmetrovancouver.com or by calling 604-665-9066. We understand the purpose of the meeting is to enable PMV to present an overview of the initiatives they intend to adopt or have already implemented to help reduce congestion at the container terminals and to obtain input from stakeholders (Terminal Operators, Steamship Lines, Trucking Companies, drivers, importers and exporter).

We encourage you to attend the above meeting to gain direct input and a more comprehensive understanding of why it is so difficult for us to always fulfill our service commitments to our customers.