Thursday, August 9, 2018

Container Port Continues to Suffer Delays as Problems with Terminal Management System Persist

Shippers Outraged by Intransigence of Felixstowe Management
Shipping News Feature
UK – Following up the disastrous introduction of a new Terminal Operating System (TOS) at the Port of Felixstowe in June it seems all is still not well with the container traffic at Britain's busiest box port, despite a contradictory statement issued this week. Local road haulage companies we have spoken to maintain collections of containers from the quays are running at about half the efficiency of normal service at both Trinity and Landguard terminals.

The statement issued by Hutchison Ports says that the performance of the newly installed nGen terminal management platform has been ‘stable’ with 74,000 TEU handled across the quay last week consistent with the previous week. However Hutchison admits this is lower than expectations. The company has been installing system upgrades to try and resolve the problems, with more apparently to follow. Whilst Felixstowe has repeatedly proffered apologies to its customers over the delays, not everybody is happy to accept these.

In response to the statement from the port management the British International Freight Association (BIFA) has been quick to criticise the situation pointing out that the problems range far beyond those of the hauliers, and that its membership is effectively being fobbed off as an irrelevance, having no direct contract with the port. BIFA however clearly believes that this is not the case and Felixstowe has a duty of care to ensure all concerned are not financially worse off because of its internal problems. Robert Keen, BIFA Director General:

“Our members still face significant problems at the port with shipping lines cancelling calls; or operating a cut-and-run policy, where the ship leaves before all containers that are booked are loaded, or discharged. Those members are also experiencing knock-on effects at other UK ports where vessels are being diverted, causing additional cost and disruption.

“Previously BIFA has expressed its disappointment that the port authority, which owns Felixstowe has made it clear that it does not consider BIFA members to be direct customers of the port, and would not be willing to have a discussion about possible compensation for the damage caused and the increased costs that have been incurred by those members. We have made it clear to the port authority that BIFA believes that many of its members are the port’s customer for the terminal processes that it undertakes after a vessel has been discharged for imports and prior to loading for export traffic.

“In our opinion, as the port authority produces a publicly available tariff detailing services being offered and the associated charges; and then either invoices the freight forwarder directly for these charges; or grants credit facilities, all the elements of a contract between the port authority and our members are thus in place. The port authority does not accept this line of argument and we remain very disappointed that it is not even prepared to discuss any kind of compensation for such a complete failure in customer service.”

Photo: Landguard Terminal.