Thursday 1st March, 2007


Port improvements

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The port’s chief executive and acting general manager, Christopher Mendez, outlined several improvements at the port saying these had led to increased efficiency:

Developed space at Spectrum site and transferred the receipt and delivery of automobiles to that area, freeing up space on the main port compound;

Construction of a bridge connecting the port to the Spectrum site;

Auctioned off more than 300 unclaimed vehicles which had been occupying space;

Disposed of obsolete equipment such as trucks and trailers;

Added three container handlers and two reach stackers to its equipment fleet to improve its ability to move containers around the storage yard;

nPurchased 15 trainers which are used to transport the containers to and from the ships

Got Portia Management Services of Liverpool, UK with eight managers including a chief executive officer, chief operating officer, chief financial officer and a marketing manager to manage and restructure its operations and begin the culture change and improvement of systems on the port;

Implemented a computerised terminal management system (CTMS) which has helped vessel planning, yard planning, gate management and truck turnaround times.

A new feature of the CTMS system to be introduced in February will permit speedier billing and the electronic receipt of manifests from the Customs and Excise Department. Mendez said the port will “have a bill in the customer’s hand within two days” of the completion of the ship. The new feature will permit staff to tally containers and their locations with hand-held devices;

Implemented a new tariff structure removing overtime weekend recoverable tariffs as a move to make costs more predictable

More equipment

Mendez said the port would acquire more equipment this year:

In March/April it is expected to buy another 12 tractor/trucks which transport containers

In August will take delivery of five rubber-tyred gantry cranes (instead of two which it had received approval to buy this year)

Mendez said these cranes handle the delivery of containers to the vessels and receipt of containers from the vessels as well as the movements of the containers in the yard, indicating that they are an important element in the productivity cycle on the port.

He assured business executives that they will see a big improvement in port productivity with the arrival of the new cranes.

Future acquisitions

In 2008, the port will acquire:

six more tractor/trucks

n ten tractor trailers

A ship-to-shore gantry crane

These were just a few of the measures taken and listed for implementation this year and next year which Mendez said would dramatically improve efficiency at the port.

Power to the people

According to Christopher Mendez, the port’s chief executive and acting general manager, the “final and most important piece of the puzzle” would be new work rules still being negotiated with the trade union—the Seamen and Waterfront Workers Trade Union—which, he said, would create an environment where workers can produce and get a level of comfort from their jobs.

Mendez said the port is implementing a “five-in-seven work system,” meaning that dockers would work five days out of a seven-day week.

“We will remove the institutionalised overtime. The industry is a seven-day industry and people will be required to work five in seven of those days. We intend to compensate employees for this change.”

Mendez said new work methods are also being introduced which will involve multitasking and the introduction of shifts to ensure continuous work loading and unloading vessels.

He said the port is emphasising permanent employment over casual employment which he said was at the heart of changing the psyche of the port worker from seeing the work as a “hustle” to seeing it as a job.

“We will emphasise permanent employment so that employees know that at the end of the month they will receive a salary which is predictable and not based solely on whether a ship arrives at the port.”

He said the hustle mentality has contributed to a psyche which has not helped the port. He added that performance-based bonuses will be implemented.

According to Mendez, the changes and additional equipment have resulted in:

a safer work environment

faster vessel turnaround times

reduced truck turnaround times

He appealed to port users to help by sticking to the rules of planned delivery, mainly by requesting their containers 24 hours in advance and submitting the handling information in a timely fashion.

Stressing that the inter-island ferry and cargo service was not being ignored, Mendez said the second inter-island fast ferry, the Incat 60—which has already been christened the T&T Spirit—was scheduled to arrive in T&T in July at which point there would be two state-of-the-art ferries in service: the T&T Express and the T&T Spirit.

He disclosed that the Panorama and the Warrior Spirit, the two dedicated cargo vessels, are able to handle all the cargo needs on the service. Indeed, he said the Warrior Spirit by itself is capable of carrying all the cargo required by Tobago, “so there is no issue of not being able to get cargo to Tobago.”

He said 20 roll-on-roll-off trailers are being purchased to enhance the ferry service and there are plans to improve the facilities serving the inter-island ferry service both in Port-of-Spain and in Scarborough. This includes the new passenger terminal in Port-of-Spain scheduled for completion this month.

Mendez said the improvements will require land reclamation in Port-of-Spain, since “we have literally run out of land in Trinidad.”

Port promises greater efficiency

As business sector pushes for relocation

The port of Port of Spain


Paul Quesnell, right, president of the Manufacturers’ Association, with Capt Rawle Baddaloo, acting chief executive officer of the Point Lisas Industrial Port Development Corporation, during a Forum on the Marine and Aviation Industry held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain on February 8.

Port users were hoping to hear a clear-cut announcement about exactly where the new Port of Port-of-Spain would be located and when the much-heralded move to the new site would be made.

The most they would get would be a somewhat vague statement from port’s chief executive and acting general manager Christopher Mendez that the new port would be sited on lands owned by the port at east Sea Lots which are currently occupied by the fuel facility of the National Petroleum Marketing Company Ltd (NP).

What’s more, that titbit would come only in response to a question from one impatient participant at a forum on the marine and aviation industry hosted by the Manufacturer’s Association (TTMA) three weeks ago at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain.

Opening the forum, TTMA president Paul Quesnell lamented that two years ago the country was promised that the port would be relocated but the TTMA had heard nothing about this in the 2007 budget presented last October. He complained that the port is filled to capacity and there is no information on the plans to provide additional space, adding that he was particularly concerned about plans for the restructuring of the port.

Quesnell said the TTMA was very disappointed.

For some time now we have called for a highly efficient port which is critical for the survival of the export and manufacturing sector,” he said.

While conceding that there had been some “limited improvement” at the nation’s two major ports in the two years since the promise of relocation—he admitted that containers are being cleared at a faster rate—Quesnell said much more work still needed to be done “and we anxiously await word on when the nation’s port will be given adequate space and proper equipment in order to further increase efficiency.”

Quesnell would later note the irony of the fact that while Mendez could shed only dim light on the relocation issue, a request for proposals for the relocation of the port would appear in the newspapers on February 9, the very next day after the forum.

The invitation, extended by the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (UDeCOTT), said the project “would entail the designing, financing, construction and operation of infrastructural works, the construction of numerous structures on the site and the relocation of the current port operations.”

It added that UDeCOTT wanted to appoint a development manager to manage and develop the project consistent with with “world-class standards.”

To many of the participants at the forum, that summed up the whole tortured problem of the port: the unco-ordinated way that issues of its development are being handled. Many lamented the absence of any representative from the two ministries which have the most to do with the port and their use of the facility: the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Works and Transport.

Quesnell informed the attendees that both ministries had been invited.

If he could not fully illuminate the issue most on the minds of his audience, Mendez was at least able to provide them some comfort in his assurance that space was not a constraint to the efficiency of the port. He said that the Port of Port-of-Spain currently handles 320,000 TEUs, equivalent to the number of containers handled a year, and could move up to 450,000 a year at its current location.

Mendez stressed that the port’s capacity was “not directly related to space.” He said that if the port were to extend delivery times and the number of hours worked by the Customs and Excise department were increased, its capacity could be vastly increased.

Admitting that as a city port, the expansion possibilities for the Port of Port-Of-Spain at its current location were “limited,” Mendez said, “we are of the view, and this is based on our experience and on the advice of our management operator on board, Portia, that the port at its present location is quite capable, with the proper systems and equipment, of handling 450,000 TEUs.

So that while the Government has announced a relocation of the Port of Port-of-Spain, the focus of the presentation will be the initiatives to ensure that at the present location for the next couple of years until the port is relocated, that we improve the productivity and the quality of service to our customers.”






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