According to a report just released by the Journal of Commerce (JOC), there is good news when it comes to port productivity. Overall, nine out of the top ten U.S. ports posted improved numbers. Across the globe, there was the same level of improvements for vessel berth performance at the leading international ports.
For the purposes of this study, JOC classified productivity as the average of gross moves per hour, during each specific vessel call. To calculate the gross moves, JOC added up the amount of loadings, unloadings and repositioning performed. That figure is then divided by the number of hours a particular vessel is stationed at the berth. Armed with this information, port operators and vessel companies can pinpoint areas where improvements can be made.
To compile the facts in this report, the JOC used data collected from 17 ocean carriers. These carriers represent up to 70% of the globes total vessel capacity. The data points include the following:
- Vessel name
- Terminal name
- Port Country
- Berth Arrival
- Berth Departure
- Number of lifts on, lifts off and restows
In total, these figures represent 12,500 vessel’s ports of call throughout the Americas and 63,500 international ship calls between January and June of 2013. However, the improvements did not come as a surprise to industry analysts as the combination of bigger container ships, advanced technology and refined operating techniques all contribute to increased productivity.
A perfect example can be found at the Port of Oakland. Here, crane operators working for SSA Marine, routinely handle 35 to 45 lifts an hour, per crane. This average occurs during the night shift when there is less interference from traffic. As a point of comparison, the dayshift at Oakland has been clocking in an average of 28 to 30 moves per hour.
Another key factor in improving productivity is crane density. Most terminals will utilize the exact number of cranes needed to get a vessel in and out of the port. Usually, that means one crane for each set of 1,000 moves. At a large terminal such as Los Angeles-Long Beach, there could be as many as six cranes working on a single vessel.
In Asia, labor costs are lower, which translates into the ability to operate around the clock, opposed to the normal 16 hour shifts at an American terminal. That is around 50% more work hours than the average U.S. Port. Clearly, it explains how the top 10 most productive ports are located in Asia. These include Qingdao, Ningbo, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Dalian in China and Busan in South Korea.
Although the Asian ports can clock more man-hours, this does not necessarily translate into increased productivity. A review of the compiled data shows that the U.S. ports are on par with their Asian counterparts; welcome news as U.S. manufacturers consider returning some of their assembly plants back to America.