Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Teething Trouble with New Port Terminal IT System Cause Road Haulage and Container Collection Delays

Some Customers Subject to Problems as Management Software Beds In
Shipping News Feature
UK – Delays at Britain's busiest port, Felixstowe, are not uncommon when the weather is bad, the exposed location on the east coast facing out to the North Sea is, unsurprisingly, often subject to the worst of the country's storms, as when the recent 'Beast from the East' struck in early March, an occurrence that even saw the more sheltered Thames side location for London Gateway suspend operations. Now however it is gremlins in a new terminal operating system which are causing delays for hauliers looking to collect empty export freight containers and others.

As was the case in September 2016 when the port simply ran out of capacity and had to issue an apologetic statement to its customers, so again Hutchison Ports have had to explain what is occurring having installed its new in house designed nGen port operating system at the weekend. The company says:

”We are aware that some customers may be experiencing delays at the Port of Felixstowe as we bed-in our new terminal operating system: nGen. The new system is operating across our container and rail terminals after a successful migration of data on Sunday 10 June. The implementation of any major system is a complex process. nGen is already in use at 25 Hutchison Ports around the world and will provide a stable, reliable and consistent level of performance for our customers for many years to come.

”We have a highly trained and experienced team, including specialists from Hutchison Ports Hong Kong, who have installed nGen at many ports around the world overseeing the implementation. We are currently experiencing system communication inconsistencies within the container yard which are having a knock on effect on yard performance. All our container yards remain open, processing over 3,800 trucks yesterday. The team are working to resolve the issues and we expect normal operations to be resumed as soon as possible. We thank you for your cooperation and understanding during this time.”

It has been reported locally that the inadequacies of the new system have resulted in some severe delays and cancellations across all areas of port operations, including rail, road and shipside container moves. Speaking to the Handy Shipping Guide, Paul Davey, Head of Corporate Affairs at Hutchison Ports (UK) said:

”While we are still handling the same number of containers as usual we are working hard and getting over the initial teething problems. Delays are the exception not the norm and we apologise to anyone affected. Felixstowe is open for business and the staff are getting used to the new system.”

Having spoken to some of those delayed in Felixstowe it seems the major problem is actually the collection of empty containers, in many ways the worst scenario as drivers are scheduled to leave the port for export collections, many of which are for booked times. One operator with interests in Felixstowe tells us that drivers applying for boxes are being refused as the paperwork doesn’t tie up.

Such a problem necessitates a visit to the Customer Services desk where queues can be between 20 and 70 drivers deep. This can mean 3-4 hour delays with no refreshments or apparently facilities of any sort and tempers are occasionally fraying at the extreme delays.

Photo: One from the archive. The Zhen Hua 23 which successfully delivered two new remote control ship-to-shore gantry cranes from China recently, shown beached after her previous similar mission almost a decade earlier to the day when the ship dragged her moorings in the eastern gales that year, causing her to crash into the quay bringing down two older cranes at the port’s Landguard Terminal.