Making the most of equipment
Equipment pooling might not necessarily be a terminal operator’s first choice as obviously they would prefer to be busy handling containers, “but if you have a terminal whose equipment has idle periods and next door the terminal is busy, it can be a win-win – they need some equipment, and you want some revenue", says Dimitris Pachakis, principal engineer at Royal Haskoning DHV.
“If you need some equipment to handle an unexpected peak and your ‘neighbour’ isn’t busy, it would make sense.”
Mr Pachakis says he has heard of a few situations where equipment sharing can work. “For example, where there is a contiguous quay wall, you can move a quay crane from one facility to another. But you would have to have clear arrangements in place regarding what and how you charge for such an arrangement.
“You have to work out what you are going to do concerning labour – who is going to drive the crane? In some ports, labour comes from a common pool rather than being tied to a particular terminal, so this would make it simpler.”
There are also instances of using a terminal storage yard to store containers from another terminal, he says. “But again, there has to be an agreement.”
Mr Pachakis believes there is some efficiency to be gained by pooling equipment – and that can happen within the same terminal, or between terminals. “A terminal isn’t – usually – busy all the time, so if you share equipment, you can utilise it better. An example of pooled resources inside the terminal is when the RTGs and tractor trailer units are not assigned to one ship-to-shore crane but serve all working cranes. The former arrangement originates in the days when the planning was manual, whereas the latter works well when the TOS is planning the container moves. The pooling arrangement achieves better utilisation of the container handling equipment.”
Quite apart from port equipment, empty containers can be pooled, he points out. “If you store empty containers in the port, that means trips to the port to collect them, fill them and bring them back when they are booked in a vessel. If empty containers are pooled at a depot away from the port, nearer to where they are needed, then you can pick up the empty containers when you need them and only bring them to the port when they ought to be there, i.e. when booked on a vessel. The same thing can happen with the import containers after they have been emptied out; they can stay in the depot instead of the port.”
Overall, he says, important factors to consider when pooling equipment include: who is responsible for every piece of equipment, and when; how is the transfer of responsibility handled; and if I use somebody else’s crane, am I responsible for any maintenance or repair issues during the time it works on my ship? “Clear responsibilities must be worked out and agreed.”
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