Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum by the RSPB (P 10A)

UK PORTS

1.  INTRODUCTION

  1.  During the evidence taken by the Committee on 28 March 2001, the RSPB was asked whether we could name a major port in the UK that was not seeking to become more efficient and has demonstrated a desire to develop very quickly without using its existing estate. RSPB responded saying that we were aware of ports with expansion plans that appeared less efficient than other ports. When pressed on this point, RSPB suggested the Port of Southampton, although at the time we were unable to provide the Committee with any evidence to this effect.

  2.  The aim of this supplementary submission is to look at recent data concerning the efficiency of ports in the UK and elswhere and to suggest potential ways in which existing port estates could be made more efficient. However, it is RSPB's opinion that there is currently insufficient information available to establish the extent to which such measures could reduce the need for more port infrastructure development and this urgently needs to be addressed.

2.  CONTAINER PORT EFFICIENCY

  3.  The RSPB is aware of recently presented data which facilitates a comparison of efficiency between UK, European and other world ports. Some of this information has already been made available to the Committee but is reproduced here for the sake of completeness. From data published by ABP, it can be seen that in the UK, Felixstow is the most efficient container port in terms of TEU (Twenty Foot Equivalent units, a standard measure of container: a "small" container is one TEU, a "large" container is two TEU) with Southampton fourth most efficient (see table 1). However, TEU is not necessarily the best measure of efficienty because one "crane movement" can shift either a small or large container. Therefore, a port that shifts predominantly large containers will appear more efficient in terms of TEU per metre of quayside. However, when efficiency is measured in terms of containers per crane, it is clear that Felixstow is significanly more efficient that other container ports in the UK with Tilbury and Southampton least efficient.

  4.  When compared to other European ports, it would appear that Felixstowe is a relatively effective competitor in terms of efficiency. However, the Port of Southampton is less efficient (both in terms of TEU per metre of quay and containers per crane) than Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg.

Table 1

PORT PRODUCTIVITY IN 1998 (FROM THE NEED FOR DIBDEN TERMINAL REPORT TS/N1, ABP SEPTEMBER 2000)


PortTEU per metre quay Containers per hectareContainers per crane

Felixstowe
587
11,898
95,726
Thamesport
506
13,708
65,800
Tilbury (Northfleet)
491
5,769
50,000
Southampton
411
9,000
46,500
Average
508
11,274
71,432

Rotterdam (Delta)
644
4,183
102,000
Rotterdam (Home)
382
8,666
54,000
Antwerp (Hessenatie)
455
9,363
91,875
Hamburg (Eurokai)
444
10,157
71,100
Hamburg (Burchardkai)
386
7,333
68,750
Bremerhaven
317
5,208
59,524
Le Havre
171
4,737
37,500
Zeebrugge
140
4,385
47,500
Average
359
7,748
68,094

Leading 9 N American (1998)
260
4,400
Leading 3 Australasian (1998)
340
8,200
Leading 10 Mediterranean (1998)
390
10,300
Leading 4 Middle East (1998)
460
12,500
Leading 21 Far East (1998)
530
17,200
Leading 4 Japanese (1998)
411
12,577


  5.  Another source of information that paints broadly the same picture as the data provided by ABP, is the submission to the Committee from Hutchison Ports (UK) Ltd (see table 2). The measure of TEU per metre of quay should be directly comparable with the data from ABP. However, the measure of TEU per hectare is not because it is not possible to tell how many containers were involved. However, the same general conclusions can be drawn from this: that the Port of Felixstowe is one of the most efficient ports in Europe, whilst the Port of Southampton is not.

  6.  There may be many reasons why the Port of Southampton appears less efficient than that of its competitors (eg the nature of the port estate, such as the shape of the stacking area). However, RSPB is not qualified to comment on such matters, not having detailed knowledge of the port estates in question.

Table 2

PORT PRODUCTIVITY AT MAJOR NORTH EUROPEAN CONTAINER PORTS (FROM HUTCHISON PORTS (UK) LIMITED SUBMISSION TO THE TRANSPORT SUB-COMMITTEE INQUIRY INTO UK PORTS, JANUARY 2001)


Port
TEU per metre of quay
TEU per hectare

Felixstowe
1,069
19,684
Rotterdam
933
17,522
Thamesport
757
18,059
Bremerhaven
727
13,060
Southampton
679
14,859
Hamburg
656
14,107
Antwerp
456
9,875
Zeebrugge
362
5,823
Le Havre
263
7,255


3.  APPROACHES TO INCREASING PORT EFFICIENCY

  7.  Clearly, estimates of required infrastructure to meet predicted capacity shortfalls assumes that there are no significant improvements in the efficiency and productivity of existing port facilities. There may be a range of ways in which ports could increase throughput by changing working practices and/or introducing new, more efficient superstructure. A key issue is the "just in time" approach to the manufacture and distribution of goods. It should ensure a seamless commodity transfer from factory to shop without pausing in ports. Cars are a particular bad example of the "just in time" concept in practice. Containers are a better example with relatively short dwell times in ports. Ensuring that the "just in time" concept works better could mean a reduction in pressure for storage space at ports. However, where buffer areas for holding cargo prior to just in time delivery are needed, a strong argument can be made for siting these at ports in order to reduce road haulage.

3.1  CHANGES IN SUPERSTRUCTURE EFFICIENCY

  8.  The efficiency of ports in handling goods varies. For example, Southampton handled 320,000 units in 1992 on 45ha of storage (1.4m2 per unit). In comparison, Thamesport handled 127,000 units on 24ha (1.8m2 per unit) whilst Tilbury handled 270,000 units on 52ha (1.9m2 per unit) (MDS Transmodal 1994a). The difference is partly due to the type of cranes used. Variation also exists between UK and Continental ports (table 3). This suggests that there may be improvements to be made in throughput at Continental and UK ports, depending on the superstructure being used. For example, if productivity at Southampton increased from 500 TEU per metre of quay to 700 TEU per metre (an increase of 40 per cent) then the predicted shortfall in capacity of 3,500m quay length by 2011 might be reduced to 2,500m (MDS Transmodal 1994a)

Table 3

COMPARISON BETWEEN UK AND CONTINENTAL CONTAINER THROUGHPUT AND FACILITIES AVAILABLE (DATA FROM MDS TRANSMODAL 1994a)

  
Continental terminals
UK terminals
Overall
Mean annual units per crane
51,200
41,000
48,000
Mean annual units per metre length of quay
245
322
261
Mean annual units per ha storage (straddle carriers)
5,771
5,648
5,752
Mean annual units per ha storage (yard cranes)
6,204
8,630
6,687


  9.  The efficiency of crane handling technology is increasing with the introduction of new designs. This partly in response to concerns that the efficiency of existing crane technology (25-30 containers per shoreside crane per hour) will not be enough for the new larger container ships (6,000 TEU) (Lloyd's List 3/2/97a). The new "Octopus" system allows more shoreside cranes to work side by side on the dock (six cranes to work a 320 metre quay compared to double the length of quay required for six conventional cranes). This arrangement allows 240 container movements per hour (40 containers per crane per hour) and effectively 60 per cent fewer occupancy days for vessels alongside. The Robotic Container handling features eight cranes along a 2,000 foot quay, capable of unloading two vessels simultaneously (Lloyd's List 3/2/97a). The terminal would be able to handle more than 600,000 TEU per annum using as little as 10 per cent of the land occupied by an equivalent all-wheeled operation and 20 per cent of a grounded facility. However, such improvements in loading/unloading rates are only possible if quayside transportation systems are developed to cope with increased throughput.

  10.  Alongside the new "Octopus" system is an improved trailer transportation system that includes the construction of a 14 metre high roadway for automated vehicles with conventional vehicles move beneath. The proposed Robotic Container handling machine would include a random access racking system equivalent to an automated warehouse storage facility. There would be separate but integrated empty container storage facility which would ensure that the "top-box" is always the "next to go", minimising the operational costs for empties compared to the random access method. The system is designed to increase efficiency of each quayside crane to 50-70 containers per hour (equivalent to 602,640 containers a year) and turn round a 5,200 TEU ship in a little over 34 hours. At the Port of Singapore, tractors twice the size of conventional models transport containers four at a time to dockyards where bridge cranes stack them seven high (Slavin 1996). At Coatbridge container terminal, recent investment in 5-high front loaders means that stacking is not restricted to the traditional 3-high (Lloyd's List 10/2/97b).

  11.  Another development in dockside transportation is the trailer-train concept. A single tractor can now move multiple units in a train of trailers. The Port of Rotterdam currently uses the Busicar trailer system whilst three of Europe's other largest containers ports are now committed to the concept (Lloyd's List 3/2/97b). Felixstowe has begun to use twin sets and is reported to be introducing three trailer sets during 1997. However, the concept has yet to catch on more widely due to the cost of buying inter-linked trailers and a special tractor to tow them. The system is also considered inflexible though it is under further development.

  12.  Gains in productivity are not restricted to the lo-lo sector. For example, the installation of larger grabs, a pan feeder and the upgrading of conveyor belt speeds has increased efficiency and throughput at Clydeport (Lloyd's List 10/2/97c).

3.2  CHANGES IN WORKING PRACTICE

  13.  Changes to the way ships are berthed has been shown to greatly increase productivity and throughput. For example, at the Port of Singapore, shipping lines were allocated their own berths and a computer programme assigned ships according to priority, draft and yard cranes available. On average 75 per cent of ships were docked on arrival and 65 containers per hour were handled. However, a new system allows allocation to any available berth, including those of smaller shipping lines—the virtual port. On average, 95 per cent of ships docked as soon as they arrived and container handling rate has increased to 78 per hour (Slavin 1996). However, there may be pressure from shipping lines to retain dedicated berths. At the port of Rotterdam, Maersk have demanded exclusive facilities (Lloyd's List 30/1/97). The port's view is that the requirements of other users must also be considered. However, big carriers like Maersk can in effect demand what they like. Similarly, at Southampton, Honda has recently been given a dedicated terminal (Berth 202) that has had to be doubled in size to cope with the increased traffic (Lloyd's List 15/10/96).

  14.  Improvements in capacity can be achieved through the reorganisation of ro-ro parking facilities. The Port of Dover is reorganising car parking which will increase capacity from 500 to 800 trailers (Lloyd's List 4/3/97). At Southampton, ro-ro facilities have in effect been operating at 25 per cent over capacity compared to some other ro-ro ports. This is achieved by the practice of "block" parking rather than "random access" parking vehicles.

  15.  The onward transportation of goods from a port can also affect port productivity and throughput. For example, by switching more goods to rail transport from road, greater throughput can be achieved because trains can move 24 hours a day whilst the time lorries are permitted on the road without breaks is restricted. Use of rail for onward transport of port goods may well be increasing. Approximately 25 per cent of containers moved through SCT already move by rail (Lloyd's List 27/1/97). However, the extent to which goods should be moved out of ports into other holding areas is a matter for debate. It can be argued that a port is essentially a buffer stock area between different modes of transport. The fact that an act of stevedoring takes place between two modes of transport at the port arguably makes it the ideal site to hold cargo, in order to avoid double handling.

  16.  One of the factors which has increased pressure on port land especially for holding goods is the abolition of the National Dock Labour Scheme in 1989 and the fact that receivers have ceased to be concerned about poor industrial relations in the ports. The reduced threat that their cargo could be "locked up" by industrial action at ports has removed the need to pull cargo out of the port into intermediate holding areas. Cargo can now be processed, sorted and re-packaged within the port without using registered dock labour. The effects are most evident in the case of imported cars, which are now held in large numbers on the quayside.

  17.  Increased efficiency and productivity by investing in new superstructure, cranes and trailer systems, and by adjusting or adopting different working practices might have a significant impact on the capacity of ports in the future. However, it is not known how far this can go, or the economic costs to the ports industry in new investment. There is a need to establish:

    —  To what extent can ports reduce demands for more infrastructure by increasing the efficiency of existing superstructure (eg cranes)? What is the scale of improvement (if any) using existing technology?

    —  To what extent can the application of new superstructure, cranes, trailers and warehouses increase efficiency and productivity, and reduce the demand for new infrastructure? Is the technology proven? How much will it cost port operators?

    —  To what extent can changes in working practice, such as ending exclusive berths for shipping lines, reduce demand for more port facilities? What draw backs are there?

    —  How much "extra" capacity can be gained by rearranging existing parking areas or adopting different approaches to parking? What are the draw backs of practices such as block parking of cars?

    —  Would an improvement in the "just in time" approach reduce pressure for increased space at ports? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using ports as holding areas rather than immediate onward transportation of goods to the market or to inland storage areas? How can more rapid onward transport of goods be achieved?

    —  How much spare capacity could be created by increased stacking of containers (eg increasing height from three to five, seven or even nine containers)? Is there scope for more stacking of other goods? What are the infrastructure implications and costs of doing this? What other environmental issues would need to be considered?

3.3  CHANGES IN TECHNOLOGY

  18.  In addition to changes in superstructure efficiency, port productivity may be increased through the further application of "information technology". For example, at the Port of Singapore, £3 billion is being spent on automating the terminal in order to maintain competitiveness (Slavin 1996). The proposed new terminal will be able to handle five million containers with a work force of just 500. A computer system "Portnet" allows shipping lines to complete paperwork electronically before arriving at port. Small ships can turn round in as little as four hours, whilst bigger ships take up to 12 hours. Electronic tagging, recognition and tracing of containers allows for efficient "paper free" movement of lorries. The new automated container port will allow containers to be stacked nine high. Problems with ordering of containers (the top one is always the "one to go") are overcome with new computers.

  19.  Of course, the application of IT is not cheap. At Singapore, the costs of increased efficiency are passed on to the shipping lines. Port tariffs increased by an average of 10 per cent and the length of free storage time for containers reduced from 14 to nine days. Although the shipping lines do not like these changes, moving containers more quickly saves them time so within reason, the shipping lines are prepared to pay, although some defections to other ports are predicted.

  20.  In the UK, some ports are investing heavily in new IT. For example, the Port of Bristol is investing in fibre optic communications systems within the port and bar-coding technology that reduces the time taken to process a car from two minutes to 40 seconds (Williams 1996). The Port of Southampton is also investing in technology—SPIN (Southampton Port Information Network) which is moving the port towards a paperless business (Lloyd's List 31/1/97). The port is also trialing a one-stop paperless entry system for lorries arriving at SCT known as SCT Advantage. This allows operators to provide information electronically so that they are processed more quickly. Similarly, the Coatbridge container terminal is investing in new information technology designed to improve billing, space booking, tracking and stock control (Lloyd's List 10/2/97b).

  21.  Information technology and the introduction of more powerful and intelligent computing systems may be able to increase capacity at ports by increasing traffic flows and facilitating new or different working practices. However:

    —  To what extent would increased use of more complex IT help increase port efficiency and reduce demand for more space by facilitating faster throughput?

    —  To what extent can IT facilitate other technological advances such as increased container stacking and automation of cranes, berthing procedures etc.?

4.  REFERENCES

  Lloyd's List (15/10/96) New facilities open as Southampton hits top spot for cars

  Lloyd's List (31/01/97) Paperless entry at Southampton

  Lloyd's List (27/01/97) Berth 207 boosts SCT quay length

  Lloyd's List (03/02/97a) New proposals would leave it to the robots

  Lloyd's List (10/02/97b) Freightliner seas container growth

  Lloyd's List (10/02/97c) Clydeport profits up despite slip

  Lloyd's List (03/02/97b) European giants will catch the trailer train

  Lloyd's List (04/03/97) Ferry terminal to be upgraded

  MDS Transmodal (1994a) The future of Southampton Docks: Dibden Bay port development. Report for Hampshire County Council, May 1994

  Slavin (1996) Virtual port of call. New Scientist, 15/6/96: 40-43

  Williams N (1996) Opportunity docks. In: Folio: for Bristol & Bath, March 1996, no 17

Duncan Huggett

6 April 2001


 
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