Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Transnet Container Shipping Back On Track

Post Strike Recovery Continues after Restructuring
Shipping News Feature

SOUTH AFRICA – With the end of the damaging port strike which we reported in May, Transnet, the parastatal responsible for the country’s rail and port interests advise us that they have instituted several management changes and a restructuring of its planning and operations structures in the Western Province which they credit for an increase in productivity and performance in the Cape Town Terminal since the end of June.

It took the terminal operator Transnet Port Terminal (TPT) just two weeks from the end of the strike to clear the backlog of vessels. Gross Crane Hours (GCH), which along with TEU throughput is the common measure of productivity in the container handling business, has improved from an average of 22 to 25GCH, with a peak in performance during the week ending 16 July when the terminal achieved 28 GCH.

GCH is a crucial factor in container shipping, which requires fast and efficient movement of containers by crane operators to reduce the overall cost of doing business. Transnet has set a target of 28 GCH for all container terminals as part of its quantum leap strategy, which calls on employees to make massive improvements in their performance to meet customer and shareholder expectations.

Ship Working Hours (SWH) had improved from an average of 39 to 42 SWH. Ship Working Hours is the number of containers that have been moved by the number of cranes working on the vessel in one hour. It is a key performance indicator for customers.

Stack occupancy at the terminals had stabilised at 50%, which is a reflection of good throughput control of containers handled. A figure below 65% signals efficient operations. This is significant considering the terminal’s current refurbishment programme which has put pressure on its stack capacity. Truck turnaround times had improved from over 30 minutes on average to 23 minutes to enter and exit the terminal for loading or offloading of containers.

Velile Dube, the new Western Province Terminal Executive responsible for all TPT terminals in Cape Town and Saldanha, has been credited for a number of the changes. Dube brings solid experience to his position, having served as TPT’s general manager for total quality management and continuous improvement until recently. Mr Dube said the merger of the Cape Town container and multipurpose terminals, which always operated as separate entities in the past, now allowed TPT to plan holistically, make better use of infrastructure, equipment and facilities, and ensure that customer service and performance across the port were consistent.

“We are now looking at berth availability and available infrastructure for the entire Cape Town Terminal, rather than at two separate terminals. So a container vessel can now come into the port and be berthed at either terminal, with the same TPT management and operations teams working to serve customers across the port,” he said.

The Cape Town Container Terminal has been under pressure during its R5.6 billion, five-year expansion and construction programme which commenced in January 2008. The multipurpose terminal is able to handle containers diverted from the container terminal and also boasts bulk and cold store facilities. Dube has also separated the planning and operations departments, which were previously the responsibility of one individual.

Brenda Maqgwaka is now chief operations manager for the container and multipurpose terminals. Until recently she was responsible for operations and planning only at the container terminal and Hector Danisa, who served as business unit executive at the Cape Town multipurpose terminal a few years ago, has now returned to Cape Town as Assistant Terminal Executive for the Cape Town Terminal, reporting to Velile Dube. Danisa brings a wealth of experience in terminal management, having worked in various facilities including Durban Car Terminal, Port Elizabeth terminals and the Ngqura Container Terminal.

Oscar Borchards, formerly in charge of the Cape Town container terminal as Business Unit Executive, now heads up planning for the Western Province terminals of Cape Town and Saldanha as Regional Business Planning and Performance Manager. In Cape Town, Verdus De Jongh has been appointed as Acting Chief Planning Manager for Cape Town Terminal. He boasts 35 years of experience in the field. Engineer Ms Babalwa Mandla is also the new project manager overseeing the expansion project at the Cape Town container facility.