The trucking fraternity has not taken kindly to an announcement on Friday by Transnet Port Terminals (TPT) that it will impose an appointment only system for trucks at the Pier 2 Container Port Terminal, in Durban, from April 1.
At a presentation at the Container Terminal, regional manager Thula Dlamini said a similar appointment system would be implemented at Pier 1 at the beginning of June once the necessary “appointment technology” and a check facility had been developed.
Both Pier 1 and Pier 2 are notorious for massive traffic backlogs. Previous attempts at truck staging and implementing appointment systems have failed.
Transport company owners and operators have, however, declared that nothing has changed and accused TPT of “moving the deckchairs on the Titanic while not looking at the coming iceberg”.
They said truck delays of as much as 48 hours would continue and said the terminal operator needed to first attend to its own planning system failures and equipment breakdowns and shortages before a system such as this could succeed.
Dlamini said the problem that TPT was experiencing was that truck and container transactions were not spread evenly over a seven-day week. This resulted in some days of the week being highly pressurised while others were quiet.
He said the goal of the new system was to achieve truck turnaround times (gate-in to gate-out) of 35 minutes and 0% staging time.
He pointed out that statistics for the past year indicated that the busiest day was Thursday and the quietest days were Saturdays and Sundays.
Between January 2016 and February 2017, the number of trucks handled was 1 500. The largest number of containers processed through the gates in one day was 2 600.
He said the previous system, which combined both booked and unbooked trucks, had proved far too complex for the current working environment.
Problems unearthed during the previous system included a lack of detailed contingency plans, limited knowledge of how to allocate internal equipment, no penalties for recurring noncompliance, no clear mechanism for early and late arrivals, no workable reefer specific appointments solution and no solution for lost slot capacity due to no shows.
Dlamini noted that the new system intended to implement stiff penalties for no shows and a limited truck staging facility that would accommodate early arrivals would enable these trucks to be slotted into the empty spaces.
He said that a 24-hour helpdesk would be put in place to assist truck operators who did not have access to online booking. SMS messaging could be used to warn truck operators of any “force majeure” or advise them of adjusted time slots.
Late arrivals would be treated as standby and processed if any unused slots became available, avoiding lost capacity.
“We do foresee problems with reefers. Because we want to build a system that will not have a negative impact on the economy, we have decided that we will reserve slots for reefers,” Dlamini said.
No bookings will be required for empty containers as, while straddle carriers dealing with full containers were under pressure, there were no constraints on equipment needed to handle empty containers.
He said the benefits of the new system included a more structured operation, greater fluidity within the terminal/staging area, better use of terminal resources for the benefit of all users, volume smoothing, improved safety with people not standing in the road or walking between trucks, reduced congestion in Bayhead road, minimal industry frustration and cost savings on both sides.
Dlamini averred that, without long queues, the “allegation of bribery will go away”.
He said 23 new landside straddle cranes would be delivered by the beginning of November, starting with four in June, six in July, eight over the months of August and September and the remaining five by the end of October.
Responding to the negative feedback, GM operations: KZN containers Julani Dube, said a joint solution had to be implemented, as the current situation was helping neither TPT nor trucking companies and was impairing the economy.
“If we just leave the status quo as is, we will just be frustrating each other,” he told the audience, saying that they had homework to do and would return to further engage with “those who want to be part of the solution” within the next week.