Find out what our port operations teams do to keep your products moving

Today’s challenging market conditions mean the role of our port operations teams around the globe has never been more important. Find out how they actively solve and pre-empt potential issues to keep your products moving despite unprecedented disruptions.

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Ensuring our vessel, terminal and cargo operations are carried out in a safe, compliant and cost-effective way to meet the needs of customers around the world is the job of our port operations teams.

Coordinating between stevedores, terminal operators and port authorities, our port operations teams play a pivotal – and proactive – role in minimising the impact of potential disruptions on customers’ supply chains.

Effective port operations are crucial in ensuring products arrive at the scheduled time in the expected condition with no additional costs, comments Kim Buoy, SVP logistics services, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Oceania.

WW Kim Buoy

While each RoRo operation differs, the goal of the port operations teams is for the outcome to always be predictable, adds Mike Derby, SVP port, terminal & stevedoring operations Americas. “When a vessel arrives in a port, anywhere from 50 to 150 people jump into action to ensure their piece of the operation takes place safely and on time. At each step of the way, the port operations teams stand ready to adjust plans and keep things running smoothly. Staying three steps ahead at all times is key for these adjustments to keep the operation on course.”

Acting quickly and decisively to any given situation is a must, meaning no two days are the same. From overseeing the safety and security of products during all handling activities to planning and monitoring vessel loading and discharging and ensuring that labour is correctly allocated based on volumes and expected departure times, the responsibilities of the port operations team are varied and vital.

Working collaboratively to solve supply chain challenges

Problem solving is a key part of all successful port operations – and doing so involves close communication between all stakeholders to ensure the needs of customers across the breakbulk, equipment and automotive sectors are met says Mary Carmen Barrios, SVP ports, terminals and stevedoring ops for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

WW Mary Carmen Barrios

Masaki Kunimatsu, port and cargo operations, Japan agrees that close contact is key to avoiding unnecessary loading delays and ensuring quality standards are upheld. “We engage with customers to ensure their product packing meets with our safety standards as well as on technical matters to give them all the necessary guidance about our requirements well in advance of shipments,” he says.

While providing feedback on safe loading procedures, the port operations teams can also coordinate mechanical services if there are issues with non-starting vehicles and machines during loading operations, for example.

“If a machine or vehicle won’t start there is the risk that it will need to be transported back to the port of loading, adding cost and time implications,” explains Buoy. “But early intervention and collaboration means we can order a mechanic to start working on the unit as soon as the vessel arrives at its destination so the problem can be solved, and the unit discharged.”

Remaining responsive to an unpredictable market

Navigating the current market remains challenging. “The collapse and subsequent surge in consumer demand during the pandemic has led to significant shortages of manufacturing components, order backlogs, delivery delays and limited transportation and terminal capacity,” says Barrios.

Restrictions introduced at terminals in response to the pandemic, such as changes in working hours and distancing measures, together with labour shortages, have also at times undermined the smooth handling of products, she adds.

Using their knowledge and experience, however, the port operations teams are able to remain flexible and adapt to situations as and when they arise.

Masaki Kunimatsou

The recent conflict in Ukraine has also tested the team’s agility and problem-solving abilities. Barrios explains that the port operations teams studied all the available options to redirect products, “investigating alternative solutions and providing feedback and market intelligence for decision-making.”

It’s important to shift plans and adapt to new concepts to succeed – and to be able to articulate those ideas clearly and effectively, she continues. “Being analytical and detail oriented is also important to identifying problems and making informed decisions: assess the situation, ask crucial questions, consider possible solutions and then plan a course of action.”

Predictability is a big concern for our customers right now, adds Buoy. “There are so many factors that we cannot control, such as weather, quarantine and the port infrastructure of terminals we don’t operate ourselves. But the more we can reduce ‘down-time’ within the areas we can control, and have plan B, plan C and plan D ready for when we face uncontrollable issues, the more benefit our customers will have in terms of predictability – of costs, time and the availability of equipment.”

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