Kolkata Port congestion

untitled.jpgThere was this news item about vessels which planned to skip Kolkata Port [ Kidderpore Dock System KDS] and unload their containers at Haldia. This was because of congestion at Kolkata Port due to slow rate of unloading and loading of containers at the terminal. This was because of the equipment at the Ports.

It is known that as India’s economy has grown. Hence the number of containers flowing through all the ports in India has increased and continues to increase.

Loading and Unloading Issues
Kolkata Port witnessed an increase of 9.58% in TEUs this year versus last year. Kolkata Port unloads containers at an average rate of 1000 TEUs per day [ assuming a 35.48% Idle Time; as per http://www.kolkataporttrust.gov.in . A post -Panamax ship carries about 5000 TEUs and this means 5 days of unloading at the Port.

Contrast this with JNPT in the Mumbai Area, [ Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, http://www.jnport.gov.in]] which handled ~360000 TEUs in October 2007, with 3 berths which translates to 4000 TEUs per day per berth! [ assuming By the way, JNPT can handle Super Post-Panamax container ships with ~100000 TEUs capacity.

Any decent port [ example, Karachi] having 4 quay side cranes, assuming a very modest 20 container moves per hour and assuming 20hours of work per day, can handle 1600 TEUs per day. [ 4 cranes x 20 container moves per hour x 20 hours per day = 1600 TEUs per day]. Thus a post-Panamax vessel gets unloaded in 3 days.

So, low quay-side productivity could be one reason for the Port congestion.

Systemic and Comprehensive View

However, to solve the problem, a comprehensive and systemic view of the problem has to be taken.

The port has to be considered as production line and capacity at each of the ‘workstations’ has to be balanced. So while unloading capacity is enhanced, the number of trucks to carry the containers to the staging/storage area has to adequate so that it does not become a bottle neck. Similarly, the cranes that have to unload the container and place it in the storage/staging area has to be perform at the same rate as the unloading for it to not become a bottleneck.

For the faster unloading time to become customer meaningful , the customs clearance, taking the container to the customer premises by road /rail has to be hastened.

This will involve a complete analysis and lead time mapping of the end-to-end process. The process would start while the vessel is in the high seas. What activities can be done even before the vessel arrives. Can documents be submitted to the customs? how can the number of crane handlings be reduced? How can containers be staked in the yard so that lateral movement distance is minimal and number of crane movements are minimized. Are the road and rail connectivity adequate? What are the other delays? How can they be minimized?

This would need a multi-organization team – Port, Customs, Railways, Stevedore Unions, Transport Operators etc.-effort to implement.

Kolkata Port should adopt revised metrics to measure it’s productivity and efficiency. What gets measured gets done!

Modern Port Measures

Element of Terminal Measure of Productivity Measure
Crane Crane Utilization
Crane Productivity
TEUs/year per Crane
Moves per Crane-Hour
Berth Berth Utilization
Service Time
Vessels/year per Berth
Vessel Service Time (hrs.)
Yard Land Utilization Storage Productivity TEUs/year per Gross Acre
TEUs/Storage Acre
Gate Gate Throughput Truck Turnaround Time Containers/hour/lane
Truck Time in Terminal
Gang Gang Labor Productivity Number of Moves/man-hour

Source: Container Terminal Productivity: Univ of South California:Hanh Dam Le-Griffin and Melissa Murphy

Being customer meaningful
The changes have to be customer meaningful. What this means is that the customer should get a shorter lead time for exports and imports. It should lead to lower costs and delays. Timeliness and reliability of container shipments passing through Kolkata port should improve.

This will help improve India’s LPI rank which currently stands at 39.

Kolkata Port has been sanctioned money to modernize it’s container terminals.

It should use this opportunity to form a clear direction and goal and sail towards it. Alongwith the infrastructure it should revamp and re-engineer the end to end processes so that it results in sustainable and tangible improvements to the Port’s customers.


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