Harbour Link Blog Archive

The Growing Challenges of Port of Vancouver's Reservation System

Posted 2011-07-15 by Harbour Link in opinion

Our Thoughts Regarding Improvements to the Current Reservation System

The limitations of the reservation systems at the Port Metro Vancouver Gateway are creating growing challenges for the trucking sector to secure timely reservations to facilitate the seamless flow of containerized cargo in and out of the port.

The challenges include:

1. The frequent inability to secure reservations to pick-up and deliver containers for customers to meet their daily supply chain requirements.

2. The inability to obtain reservations on short notice. It is commonly necessary to work three or more days ahead to secure reservations, which makes it difficult to pick-up or delivery containers for customers without receiving a minimum of 3 days prior notice.

3. The inability of the reservation system to provide time windows for reservations to enable a truck to deliver and pick-up containers as a two way container movement. Achieving two way container movements helps optimize truck utilization, operational performance and to reduce traffic congestion. Presently a small portion of container movements are completed as two way container moves. The result is: trucking firms are frequently required to dispatch separate trucks to the port to pick up and delivery containers, which could be accomplished in one truck cycle if the reservation system was modified to allow two-way coordination of reservations.

4. To find a workable solution to the present requirement for the trucking sector to log on at midnight each day to secure reservations in order to serve their customers.

5. To find a solution to reduce/eliminate the frequent gate line-ups at the container terminals that often prevent a truck carrier from meeting the reservation time windows for the pick-up or delivery of containers. Trucks are frequently caught in a line-up, waiting to access the container terminal and when the truck finally reaches the terminal gate, the truck is turned away because the time window of the reservation has expired.

We are working closely with industry associations and other stakeholder groups to lobby PMV and the terminal operators to address the reservation issues and strongly support bringing a stakeholder task group together to find workable improvements to the present reservation system to improve efficiencies for all parties involved.

Our thoughts for an improved reservation system include the following:

1) We believe a workable reservation system must provide sufficient reservations to accommodate the daily traffic demand of the container trading community and enable truck carriers to achieve productive two way container movements for trucks i.e. permit each truck on the entry leg to deliver a laden export container or empty container and on the egress leg to pick-up an import container or empty container whenever possible.

2) The reservation system should be able to match requested reservations in a manner to optimize two-way in/out movements as much as possible for truck carriers.

3) On occasions when the daily demand for reservations exceeds the capacity limitation of the terminal, the reservation system must be able to accommodate the unfulfilled reservation requests automatically for the next business day.

4) Reservation requests for import containers should be by specific container number/bill of lading number and be issued by the reservation system after the release of the container/bill of lading by the shipping line and after arrangements have been made by the truck carrier for the in-bond transit of the containerized goods and/or a clearance release by Canada Customs, DFAIT and other government departments.

5) Reservation requests for export containers should be by booking note number issued by the shipping line.

6) Reservation requests for the pick-up of Empty Containers should be by the corresponding export booking number/release number issued by the shipping line.

7) Reservation requests for the delivery of Empty Containers to the terminal should specify the quantity of empty containers and preferred time slot for which reservations are required.

8) Reservation requests for export cargo should be permitted up to 7 calendar days in advance of the Earliest Receiving Date (ERD) of the nominated vessel.

9) The cancellation of reservations should be permitted up to the day prior to the reservation -without penalty.

10) Providing a reservation has been issued for an export booking, the reservation system should provide swap flexibility to enable the truck carrier to utilize the secured reservation for an alternate valid booking note number when, due to reasons beyond the truck carriers/shippers control, the original shipment covered by the reservation becomes unavailable for the reservation time slot provided.

11) The reservation system should permit same day reservations to accommodate the transfer of cargo between the port and the railheads (CP & CN) and for all perishable containerized cargo, as well as for the transit of containers by long haul trucks which originate from or are destined to points outside of the Greater Vancouver - Lower Mainland.

12) Because of the dynamics unique to long-haul trucking, the reservation system should provide sufficient flexibility to the “time window” for long-haul trucks versus the “time window” permitted for local trucks.

13) To ensure the integrity of the reservation system, the reservation system should contain provisions that hold both the terminal operators and truck carriers accountable for their commitments and obligations to the reservation system.