Truckies find port waits frustrating

Lengthy queues to collect containers from Lyttelton Port remain a frustration for Christchurch truckies.

Trucking firms say while Lyttelton Port is developing plans to improve its container facility, waiting times are stubbornly high.

Lyttelton port chief executive Peter Davie says the port has reduced queue times to an average 40 minutes, though he acknowledges this is still too long.

Truckies last week said they had to wait up to two to three hours for some container calls. They say an acceptable handling turnaround would be 18-20 minutes, a time being achieved by Port of Tauranga in the North Island.

Davie on Friday said the port hoped to get the waiting time down even further in the next week or so as it looked to improve efficiencies.

The port was working to keep excess containers outside the shipping yard unless they were due to be loaded onto ships, and to better co- ordinate shipping visits.

"We've got delays but the delays are well down on what they were . . . we want it down to 20 minutes."

In the meantime, the mood of some truckies remains at boiling point, say industry representatives.

Trucking firms yesterday met to discuss the issue with David Boyce, chief executive at NZ Trucking Association; Dennis Robertson, general manager of the Road Transport Association (RTA) and Simon Carson, RTA area representative for Canterbury and West Coast region.

Carson said some truckies stressed by the delays were choosing to quit their jobs with individual firms, creating hiring difficulties for some operators. Peter Fletcher, of Peter Fletcher Transport, said the recent delays were significantly impacting his 70 staff and fleet of 47 trucks. Potentially it was costing the region millions of dollars in lost revenues. The holdups had not improved.

"They're not going to fix the problem till the end of March," was his estimate.

Robertson said there had been a meeting with the port and the two associations on Thursday, with some goodwill being shown to solve the logistical problem.

The main issue was extricating individual containers from a crowded container storage area. Some straddle carriers used to do the work were breaking down, and the computer system managing the work wasn't good enough, he added.

Truckies were getting stressed by the ongoing delays, which were leading to financial heartache.

Boyce said trucking firms were starting to charge clients directly for waiting times , which would, in time, flow on to the consumer.

Port of Tauranga, which has invested $21.6 million in a 50 per cent share in PrimePort Timaru, had already taken away market share from Ports of Auckland and could potentially enter the Christchurch market, Boyce added.

"There would be nothing to stop Port of Tauranga setting up a transport hub in the south of Christchurch."

Davie said the port had moved on, with the use of 4.5 hectares of reclaimed land at the port for empty container storage, allowing more productive handling at the main container area.

He has not ruled out the possibility of another site to complement the port's inland operation at Chapman's Rd.

The Press