Thursday 14th February, 2008

 

Plipdeco’s Roger Traboulay

Turning things around at Pt Lisas port

 
 
 
 
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BY SANDRA CHOUTHI

[email protected]

The Government has given no precise timetable on its plans for the construction of a mega port east of Port-of-Spain. However, its stated intention to replace the existing Port-Of-Spain port with a modern facility is enough reason for the smaller port at Pt Lisas to begin getting its act together.

Roger Traboulay, newly installed president of the Pt Lisas Industrial Port Development Corporation (Plipdeco), is the man who will have to advance Plipdeco’s plans for the modernisation of the Pt Lisas port.

And he sees the Uriah Butler Interchange and Port-of-Spain’s skyscrapers as strong indicators of the Government’s intent to carry through with its plans for the relocation of the city port.

“If you look at the interchange, for instance, at the Churchill Roosevelt Highway, that took a lifetime and got very messy politically, it’s still being built.”

In 2007, Pt Lisas port moved 140,000 containers or 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs), compared to the Port of Port-of-Spain’s 400,000 TEUs.

Traboulay said that the Port-Of-Spain port —managed by the English company Portia Management Services—has been adding cranes and being smart about its use of space.

“Plipdeco is doing some of the things Port-of-Spain is doing.”

Before Traboulay joined Plipdeco, the board agreed to borrow TT$100 million for a package of equipment including a ship-to-shore gantry crane, rubber-tyred gantry cranes and an assortment of other cranes.

The major item in the package, a US$10 million ship-to-shore gantry crane, was unloaded this week and its installation is to begin this weekend.

“A port always needs as much space and cranes as it could get,” Traboulay said, adding that, “Berth 5 was built but was not equipped with the number of cranes it should have.

“As a bigger port is being built, Plipdeco would need to know where it fits.”

Ticking off some of the priorities which will demand his attention, Traboulay said Plipdeco has received approval to reclaim 3.5 hectares of land.

Having more storage space lowers costs for importers and consumers and being able to locate a container by computer improves efficiency, he said.

“We can move containers around. We know where the containers are at all times. Everything is on one big spreadsheet.

“It’s all done with GPS on the computer.”

The turnaround process

During a mid-morning drive through the Pt Lisas port in Traboulay’s black PCF company Benz, the president pointed to container trucks lined up in “fish-bone style.”

The new arrangement is part of the thrust to greater efficiency.

“Before, trucks were all jammed up and hustling and horns honking and disorganised.”

While the Port of Port-of-Spain has turned to Portia Management Services in its drive to modernisation and efficiency, Pt Lisas has retained SSA Marine of the US.

SSA’s job is to steer the port to greater efficiency, and to train its managers.

“We are the smaller port, but operationally, we try to be an efficient port,” Traboulay said.

As part of this effort , Pt Lisas has reduced the number of empty containers stored on its compound by almost 50 per cent, from 2,500 to 1,200.

Increasing the penalties charged consignees for unclaimed containers penalties helped to reduce the pileup.

Traboulay said due to the number of empty containers on this side of the world, shipping lines will put containers anywhere they can because they are looking for free storage. The port is now much stricter on the amount of time containers are allowed to remain on the port.

Safety issues

Plipdeco has instructed importers of used cars that its workers would only offload vehicles that are partially suspended.

Traboulay said importers have been told that if the trunks of vehicles being imported could be lifted up and they have wheels attached, port employees will handle them.

“We made sure that at no time our guys were ever under the car, that they were trained, supervised, and we used a forklift to suspend the arch, so after you suspend the car below, you use the forklift to hold it up before we unshackle.”

He said long rods are used to knock out shocks and cut ropes if workers have to enter an area of a container that’s considered unsafe.

Those practices were presented to the Occupational Safety and Health Authority (OSHA) two weeks ago.

The offloading of used cars was made an issue after the Port of Port-of-Spain told importers that the practice of having the cars suspended inside containers was dangerous for port workers.

Traboulay said Plipdeco submitted its procedures to OSH, which made some recommendations, and signed off on them saying, “go ahead and continue unloading cars.”

He said Plipdeco has unloaded about 2,000 containers over the last five years or so without an issue.

“Pt Lisas being an industrial port handling very heavy cargo, the guys here saw handling a car as no big deal.

“But you don’t want something to go wrong and people saying you’re not being careful with safety. Up to this morning, OSHA said go ahead.”

He said OSHA realised that the position it took was a bit tough and it got quite a lot of negative flak for it.

“I was trying to have a more balanced, open-minded approach to it. If you stop the importation of (foreign used) cars in this manner, the price goes up.”

He said the port doesn’t want stock where supervisors suspect the cars are facing the front of the container.

“If it’s banged up, we stop. If it’s opened and not stored how we told them to bring it in, we stop and say we’re not unstocking this container.

“If we see something broken or shifted before we go there, we just back off and say we are not doing it any more.”

Scanning US-bound Cargo

Traboulay said that prior to Carnival, US Customs officials visited the Pt Lisas port and the Comptroller of Customs about adding scanners for containers destined for the US.

The installation of scanners is one of the measures the US has insisted on post-9/11.

“We’ll have to get X-ray machines and have to make sure that any container going to the United States has to be scanned.

“If it’s not scanned, then that cargo has to be sent to a port that has that capability—which might be Puerto Rico or Jamaica, for example—before it gets to the United States.”

The year 2012 is the deadline given for the installation of the scanners.

Exports to the US, though, are limited.

Traboulay estimates that a quarter of the Pt Lisas/Port-of-Spain ports’ TEUs might be exports, and of that, about one-eight may go to the US.

 

New glassworks to begin production in 18 months

Peake Industries Ltd is constructing a US$40 million glassworks plant at Hamilton Siding, Wallerfield.

The plant will be fired with natural gas.

Production is expected to begin within 18 months.

Construction is underway on lands leased for 30 years to the Peake Group of Companies by the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources.

The land was leased after much government lobbying and an extensive search for land on industrial estates.

The plant will make bottles to be filled with beer and rum for local and regional markets.

It’s understood that the plant will have about half the production capacity of the ANSA McAL-owned Carib Glassworks in Champs Fleurs.

An industry official said with companies such as Solo are importing bottles from Central America and the St Lucia-based bottlers of Heineken are getting their bottles from Holland, so there is a need for the production of bottles in the region.

 

‘A big challenge’

On a drive around the Pt Lisas port, the new president of the Point Lisas Industrial Port Development Corporation (Plipdeco), Roger Traboulay, above and left, points out the many improvements made by the port in its bid to improve its efficiency..
Photos: Rishi Ragoonath

San Fernandian Roger Traboulay, 42, has been president of the Pt Lisas Industrial Port Development Corporation Ltd (Plipdeco) for just under four months.

Previously managing director of Peake Technologies group, Traboulay admitted that joining Plipdeco was an “odd decision” as he was certainly “very comfortable and solid” in a progressive, solid company, “enjoying myself.

“I was always attracted—like most engineers—to see what the industrial estate and the energy sector was all about.”

Traboulay said even though Plipdeco is not an energy company, he was aware that it had changed its top management and that a turnaround was in effect.

“That sounded quite challenging. It’s a big challenge because coming out of a comfort zone, I’d drive five minutes to work and drop my (two) kids (off to school) in the process, to come down here. I live in Port-of-Spain now. It’s a big change.”

Among the positions he held in the Peake group was that of director/general manager of Peake Industries Ltd, which manufacturers and exports air conditioners.

Traboulay joined Peake in 1988 when the T&T economy was in a downturn.

“You’re in a recession, so you’re happy to get any job.

“Even though I did electrical engineering, they had asked for an air conditioning engineer.

“I applied for everything, so when they responded, I was so happy and I went to work there.”

He stayed for 19 years.

An electrical and computer engineer by training, Traboulay joined Peake as a project engineer.

His job involved the design and installation of commercial/industrial air conditioning systems for hotels, airports and hospitals in T&T and regionally.

The July-September 2007 issue of the in-house publication Plipdeco News, credited Traboulay with expanding Peake Technologies’ sales and capacity, improving operational efficiency and introducing new technologies.

“Internationally, Mr Traboulay has extensive experience in procurement, logistics, export and distribution throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia,” the report read.

It continued: “Mr Traboulay has always had a keen eye for new business. He helped the Peake Group to develop the blueprint to construct a new glassworks plant which is now under construction.”

He has worked with the Government lobbying for approvals and concessions for the air conditioning and glass plants, and was involved in free trade negotiations involving Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.

Traboulay has an executive masters in business administration from the University of the West Indies.—Sandra Chouthi

 

‘Port is small but operational’

 

Plipdeco: Improving profitability

Unaudited consolidated financial statements for the nine months ended September 30, 2007, for the Pt Lisas Industrial Development Corporation Ltd show:

  • profit after tax and excluding fair value gains of $12.5 million
  • that was a 13 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2006
  • group turnover increased by 15 per cent or $22.9 million due to an increase in port revenue resulting from higher container throughput and increases in general cargo handled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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