Booking system helps truckies

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2013
LONG WAIT: Trucks line up at the Port of Lyttelton. One driver says  he ntsGhavente has to wait between two and three hours most days to get containers loaded.
DON SCOTT/ Fairfax NZ

LONG WAIT: Trucks line up at the Port of Lyttelton.

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Lyttelton Port of Christchurch says a booking system is likely to be introduced to try to smooth out congestion for truckies upset at lengthy container processing times.

Easter has proved a busy period for the port but truck drivers said the long waiting times to pick up containerised cargo were as bad as ever.

LPC chief executive Peter Davie said it was not surprising there were delays around Easter given that the truckies had taken time off, whereas the port workers had kept operating as usual over the long weekend holiday period.

It was likely a booking system would be introduced within "months" rather than years, but he could not give a definite time frame or say if a charge would be associated with a booking slot.

The port had to spend more time talking to truckies and importers and exporters about spreading loads. Flows could not be easily predicted. "That's one of the reasons we're looking to go to a booking-type system."

Trucking Association of New Zealand chief executive David Boyce said although discussions with LPC pointed to the port wanting a booking platform, such a system would bring its own problems.

"One of the things that worries a lot of the operators over here is . . . what happens in a lot of the overseas ports with a bookings system is they actually charge you for booking slots.

"At the moment you turn up, the container gets loaded on. But a lot of the overseas ports, they'll charge you. It might be $50 for a booking slot and if you want one in the peak period, it might be double. If the transport operator can't recover that from the customer, then it comes out of their rates."

Further compounding the problem would be volume growth at the port.

"What they're saying themselves is that volume has grown quite a big percentage in the last few years, and it's expected to double over the next few years as well. If they don't get these practices sorted, it's going to be chaos."

Road Transport Association NZ general manager Dennis Robertson said truck capacity problems at the port surfaced at different times, and there seemed to be an problem over "crunch points" on Mondays and Wednesdays because of ship movements.

These crunch times meant everyone suffered. Booking systems, such as those used at Ports of Auckland, also presented issues including politicking around those slots.

Peter Fletcher, of Peter Fletcher Transport and a director of the Trucking Association, said a normal loading time for a truck was 15 to 20 minutes. But some truck drivers were waiting at Lyttelton for an hour or more because of what he saw as inefficiencies at the port.

"They don't have enough staff and they don't plan for the peaks and the troughs like we do."

The port provided trucking firms with substantial updates on ship arrival times, and container volumes about three times a week. Truckies used this as a tool to organise their visits, and the port should use the information to adjust staffing levels, he said.

Other problems included straddle carriers not being used to their full potential, holdups on documentation checks at the port and stoppages because of midafternoon shift changes and health and safety checks, Fletcher said.

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Davie, in response, said health and safety checks were required daily. In other respects, port staff were productive and worked well on problems such as badly prepared documents, he said.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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