Port initiatives now working

The Port Authority is well on the way to implementing fully the eight key initiatives announced in December by the Leader of Government Business and Chairman of the Port Authority, McKeeva Bush.

The initiatives are designed to accelerate distribution and collection of post-Ivan cargo.

Since December, the volume of containers processed by the port exceeds 74,000 tons, almost 100 per cent in excess of pre-Ivan figures, placing an overwhelming pressure on the port, said Port Director Paul Hurlston, via a press release.

Identification of an off-site location near to the industrial park for the storage of light cargo was No. 1 on the new initiative list.

With the lease of 4.5 acres of land behind CUC, this was achieved in late December and has provided much needed space for cars and trailers.

The second measure involved hiring additional staff to expedite collection of goods and to cover additional operational hours. Two weeks ago, 96 staff members were added to the existing 110, effectively doubling the port’s workforce. Double shifts are now in place, allowing work to continue throughout the night, and the outside container yard at the Cargo Distribution Centre operates around the clock.

Measure three extended the CDC’s collection hours to 10pm, Mondays to Thursdays. The inside warehouse is now open Monday to Friday, 8am-midnight, and 8am-4pm on Saturdays. The billing office opens Monday-Thursday, 8am-8pm.

The fourth measure, intended to ease delays at the CDC, involved the separation of cargo of major importers, who can now pick up goods directly from the port providing they make prior arrangements. This will be fully streamlined over the next few weeks, when the expansion of the port area is completed.

Measure five entailed appealing to the public to collect containers or face the possibility of auction of unclaimed goods. Staff is now assigned to contact customers when goods arrive, so they can be collected in a timely manner. Port Director Hurlston explained that they work on a case-by-case basis with customers and understand that it is not always easy to arrange collection, especially of larger items. But, while everyone is reluctant to enforce the provision, if goods are not picked up after 30 days, port regulations allow for goods to be auctioned.

The current ten-day grace period-increased from the pre-Ivan five- on levy of late charges is being maintained.

One of the last measures – that of purchasing additional equipment for port operations – is well under way with nearly $2 million already being spent on new items. Five of eight trucks ordered have arrived and are in use, along with 10 of 20 new truck chassis, one crane, one big fork lift truck and three small fork lift trucks.

The final initiative, to fast track the expansion of the CDC’s site to ease congestion and provide better separation of containers, is also in the process of being implemented. Plans, which should be finalised within the next few weeks, are underway to lease land from AL Thompson on Portland Road.

Mr. Hurlston emphasized, however, that while progress is being made, containers are still coming in faster than they can be processed by the Port or collected by the private trucking firms that distribute them. Private brokerage firms are also having difficulty collecting goods consigned to them – as they simply cannot meet the demand for increased storage space at their premises. Already this month, 5,800 containers have arrived-an almost 100% increase over pre-Ivan figures.

Complicating those situations is the increasing number of containers carrying goods for multiple consignees. Clearance of goods under those conditions can keep two people busy for up to five to eight hours.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel, Mr. Hurlston concluded: ‘By implementing these initiatives with the support of the Chairman of the Port Authority, we are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel.’

He asked for continued patience, however: While the Port is instituting radical changes, ‘People must understand at the same time that life has changed since the hurricane. ‘

The Port Director, however, ended on an upbeat note, though with a continued appeal to the public: ‘We are currently working towards the goal of a one-week only delay from arrival to collection — but we also need the public to help us by collecting their goods in a timely manner.’

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