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Plipdeco president: Govt must reinvest in nation’s ports
The Government of T&T must reinvest in the nation’s ports to increase capacity and provide the tools for enhanced operational effectiveness and profitability in wake of the Panama Canal expansion which is scheduled for completion in three years, says Ashley Taylor, president of the Point Lisas Industrial Port Development Corporation (Plipdeco). He said any failing by the state to employ proactive systems would see competing ports in the region achieve strategic advantages in terms of attracting transshipment cargo and positioning themselves to establish complementary services.
Completion of the Panama Canal, would see larger classes of vessels deployed into the regional shipping lanes thereby negatively impacting local business, he said. Taylor said government needs to make important decisions in the short term on the scope of expansion, sources of funding and what form any strategic alliance or equity position would take for T&T to stay competitive.
Taylor told Sunday Guardian that utilising appropriate technology is the backbone of any modern port operation and Plipdeco had invested considerable resources in raising the standards of its technological infrastructure. The upgrades have not only facilitated a smoother operation, he said, but provided appropriate data for faster decision making and has also made information available to stakeholders that reduces their level of manual input and increases their efficiency.
“The most topical concern has consistently been productivity in terms of container moves per hour. While Point Lisas has seen a 30 per cent improvement over the last three years, performance is still considerably below some international benchmarks which are in the region of 30 moves per hour. This apparent underperformance is traceable to a multitude of reasons that have varying impacts on achieving targeted performance,” he said.
Taylor added: “Equipment reliability is one such factor. Most ports tend to see a spike in performance whenever there is a replacement en masse of old equipment. The downside of this is that in the periods immediately preceding replacement there tends to be a collective drop in equipment fleet reliability and consequently productivity as the equipment approached the end of their useful lives.
“Some ports adopt instead a phased ageing programme so that the equipment themselves can be replaced on a phased basis. When this is done there tends to be a higher level of consistency in the level of productivity. Plipdeco’s strategy has been to focus on the latter as seen by its systematic process of equipment acquisition for example the planned acquisition of a reach stacker in the first quarter 2013 and later on in the year a replacement mobile harbour crane.”
Achieving operational effectiveness to stay competitive to keep up with the demands of stakeholders must be twined with profitability and the requirement for adaptability in the face of the prevailing trends in the global maritime sector said Taylor.
Although Plipdeco has seen a 300 per cent increase in containerised cargo over the last decade and now handles approximately 45 per cent of the country’s domestic containerised cargo and 90 per cent of break bulk cargo–the operations, T&T ports are at a cross roads, especially in light of growing operational demands from its clients, especially shipping lines.
Plipdeco has been challenged with equipment reliability due to age and the challenging air environment at Point Lisas, Taylor said, but there have been improvements in skills development in the maintenance team and revisions to the maintenance programmes. To maintain an acceptable level of reliability, the company now has arrangements with the original equipment manufacturers to provide technical staff to do annual assessments on the equipment and give training.
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