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Mon 13 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

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Congestion chaos

The past few months have witnessed a stream of the region's ports holding up their hands to admit that congestion was continuing to clog up their terminals and leading to delays in cargo movement.

The past few months have witnessed a stream of the region's ports holding up their hands to admit that congestion was continuing to clog up their terminals and leading to delays in cargo movement.

Jebel Ali Port, for example, reportedly felt the finger of blame from other members of the logistics industry for its contribution to increasing delays along the supply chain. Accusations were made over berthing delays of between 24-30 hours for larger vessels, and up to 90 hours for feeder vessels.

For its terminal operator, industry giant DP World, the suggestion that the port is already approaching its full capacity should normally be cause for celebration. However, some infrastructure issues clearly need sorting out if the operator is to avoid potentially losing short term business and long term reputation.

Jeddah Islamic Port was also reported to be experiencing a congestion crisis, leading to many commercial vessels being diverted to alternative nearby ports.

Again, the reasons behind this were cited as the increasingly commercial activities in the region, together with the lack of enough unloading facilities.

It is evident that ports in the region need to rise up to the challenge of congestion and ensure that the most top-notch facilities and infrastructure are in place to prevent the loss of business in their respective regions. Speeding up the movement of cargo is essential in order to cater to the demands of this increasingly competitive industry.

Perhaps a lesson or two could be gleaned from Khorfakkan Container Terminal (KCT), believed to be one of the fastest container terminals in the world. This summer saw KCT receive the massive 8600 TEU, 339 metre-long, 99,000 DWT ‘Hyundai Brave' vessel.

As usual, the terminal ensured that the quick and efficient handling of the vessel was up to its usual high standards, achieving productivity figures of 155 moves per hour to permit the ship to leave on time for the Far East.

The key to its success? As well as accrediting the staff at the terminal, Gulftainer points to the relationship it enjoys with both its line customers and agents for its consistently speedy track record.

Port congestion is not a new issue for the sea freight industry both in the region and elsewhere in the world. However, in light of the vast improvements in port efficiency being demonstrated across the Middle East over the past 10 years, the region needs to step up its game to cope with the phenomenal success it is experiencing.

After all, reducing port congestion is not so much about how big the terminal as how efficiently it is managed and run. Bringing together all the different players involved in the process, from the shipping lines and agents, to the port operators and freight forwarders, may well help this process.

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