Thursday, February 21, 2013

MP's Show Enthusiasm for Freight, Logistics and Container Shipping Jobs and Facilities

Ministers Out and About and Impressed by Infrastructure Development and Ex Military Employment Scheme
Shipping News Feature

UK – Say what you like about the current crop of British politicians those representing the transport sector certainly seem to be putting themselves about again this month with ministerial visits to two of the country’s major container shipping ports, a leading logistics park and the launch of a new scheme to place ex-forces personnel into work in the freight and logistics sectors.

Stephen Hammond MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport visited the Imperial War Museum for the formal launch of the government-funded Military Work Placement Scheme (MWPS) operated by Skills for Logistics. The scheme is designed to fund companies to provide nearly 1000 work placements to ex-forces personnel into 2013. The current ratio of 30% job offers to placement represents a significant endorsement of the Scheme, which began in November, by employers. These jobs range from Senior Director positions through operations management to driving. Mick Jackson, CEO of Skills for Logistics (SfL) commented:

“We are seeing fantastic enthusiasm for the MWPS following its formal launch. We have received eenormous support from employers with over 2000 registers placements. Companies include Kuehne + Nagel, TNT, Norbert Dentressangle, Boots and DHL. Employers clearly want to get involved in the scheme and have access to the excellent resource offered by men and women leaving the armed forces. There is demand for work placement opportunities across the whole spectrum of logistics roles, from warehousing to driving; traffic office to import/export.

“Creative and real value adding solutions are being driven by large logistics companies, which have allowed us to get a real feel for how we can better engage military leavers in Industry. This pilot scheme ends on 31 March and we see enormous benefit for a longer term scheme from April. Alongside the large companies wishing to get involved in the scheme, we are also building on work that we have carried out in local areas with local hauliers and logistics operations. The Logistics Sector as a whole has a requirement for skilled labour, particularly to fill acute driver shortages; skilled labour exists within the Armed Forces but does not or cannot transfer effectively into civilian job roles. It is this market failure the scheme seeks to address. This programme is well on the way to transforming our sector by providing a bridge between employers and skilled ex-service personnel.

“We can give service leavers the chance to translate their military experience into civilian language and to provide the bridge to civilian employment through our modern Logistics Guild, a free-to-join member network, run by its members for its members; to share ideas, offer support, guidance, development and jobs. For personnel on a placement, every bit of experience will be logged and tracked on their personal locker, which will help towards the development of their skills as they move into logistics roles.”

The program is an important part of SfL’s aim to help UK Logistics companies address their current and future skills requirements and remain competitive. As well as providing service personnel with sector specific information, advice and guidance, helping them to identify how their skills match roles in the logistics sector, SfL will facilitate win-win opportunities for service personnel and logistics sector employees to come together through a structured 2-week work experience. All participating service personnel benefit from a guaranteed job interview and feedback at the end of the two weeks. Employers gain support to plan and deliver structured work experiences that enable service personnel to find out about work in the sector and provide ample opportunities for them to demonstrate their worth. SfL Implementation Specialists, using a structured Work Placement Framework, will provide guidance and support.

Stephen Hammond MP also turned up at Britain’s latest container port earlier this month to watch London Gateway installing some of it new state of the art fully automated stacking cranes (ASC’s) which have been purchased to insure against the sort of weather non automated equipment cannot deal with. The reliability offered by fully automated ASC’s that are able to operate in adverse weather conditions comes as welcome news to hauliers who are often required to deliver containers to warehouse or distribution centres within a 15-minute ‘window’. A port operations stoppage can cause immense disruption, as time slots can be lost, adding unnecessary cost, delays and frustration across supply chains.

By their very nature deep water ports are vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather and the Thames side site can be a bleak place in the winter months. Having the equipment capable of dealing with almost any conditions, coupled with the proximity of the planned logistics park and railhead terminal should go some way to proof London Gateway against the sort of hold ups less well equipped facilities traditionally encounter. Stephen Hammond spoke of the immense scale of the project and said he regarded the development as an ‘astonishing example of how UK plc can bring together the best of the best to plan, design, finance, construct and operate world-leading port infrastructure’.

Another MP doing the rounds was Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin who travelled to the North East to learn more about the region’s port and logistics capabilities. Mr McLoughlin visited PD Ports, owners and operators of Teesport, the region's premier container port, before moving to Wynyard Park, and the new 840,000 square foot supercentre operated by Clipper.

During the visit, the Secretary of State was able to see the journey of consumer goods from dockside to shop floor ready, first hand, providing an opportunity to see the value added by the specialist operators located in the region. His visit started at Teesport, where goods arrive into the region for onward national distribution from major importers such as Tesco, Asda and Taylors of Harrogate. The minister took in a tour of the port’s extensive facilities including Teesport’s container terminal, which has recently benefitted from a £16.7 million infrastructure investment and the steel slab handling operation, the success of which we reported on last year and now nearing its 2 millionth tonne milestone for SSI UK, since the plant reopened in 2012.

The visit then continued on to Clipper’s supercentre at Wynyard Park, which accepts and deconsolidates imported clothes for Asda, via Teesport. Here they are prepared for the shop floor and then transported on throughout the country to the three George UK regional distribution centres. Mr McLoughlin said:

"Cargo centres such as Teesport and Wynyard Park are crucial to the UK economy. PD Ports and Clipper are working closely together to bring jobs to the North East, as well as bringing innovation to the sector by streamlining the distribution process. I was impressed to see the scale of operations at both facilities and interested to learn about their contribution to the regional economy and national transport strategy."

The confidence shown in the Clipper operation was emphasised by Chris Hall, National Transport Manager for Asda Distribution, who said:

“The Wynyard supercentre has proven itself to be an invaluable partner to our business and the success of the bespoke solutions they have created for us has brought about significant cost and efficiency savings to our operations. The strategic position of the new site and its close proximity to the terminal infrastructure has been invaluable in supporting our growing clothing business. So much so we took the unprecedented step of signing this ten year contract for Clipper to provide deconsolidation solutions at the new Clipper Wynyard site.”