Strong cargo growth through the Vancouver Gateway continues to drive supply chain reliability initiatives at Port Metro Vancouver. Consistent with the Supply Chain Strategy program, these initiatives are focused on investments in landside supply chain infrastructure and draw extensively on data and analysis to identify and inform operational efficiencies. According to Peter Xotta, Vice President of Planning and Operations, the initiatives are needed to get the most out of the facilities currently in place. “In the last five years, our throughput has grown by about 30 million tonnes, to 140 million tonnes in 2014, so we need to use the capacity we have as efficiently as possible, and yet much of the control over those decisions doesn’t rest with the port authority. Facilitation and collaboration are the only way we can continue to move forward at the pace that appears to be unfolding.”
Ongoing reliability initiatives, as well as several new ones launched in the past year, are enhancing the fluid movement of cargo in all areas of the Gateway, including rail, marine and trucking sectors. In Delta, the new Tsawwassen Container Examination Facility is at the site preparation stage, with construction scheduled to begin next year. The purpose-built facility will use the latest technology and a progressive examination process to scan containers from Deltaport, located five kilometres away. Budgeted at $33 million, it is a collaboration between Port Metro Vancouver, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Tsawwassen First Nation. According to Xotta, Port Metro Vancouver is working collaboratively with stakeholders to further drive efficiencies, like allowing examined and cleared containers to be picked up directly from the examination facility, rather than returning to the terminal for pick up. Scheduled for completion in mid-2017, the facility will be replicated in the South Shore area once the protocols have been refined and finalized.
Another landside initiative comprises revisions to Port Metro Vancouver’s Port Pass program, involving changes to the software and technology, as well as to the system for issuing and managing the passes. The program is being updated to improve the safety and efficiency of port-related areas and improve access to authorized personnel. This work, proceeding in conjunction with Transport Canada and terminals, will include the construction of access control gates at Roberts Bank and Fraser Surrey Docks, similar to those at the McGill Street entrance to the South Shore.
A number of programs are addressing supply chain efficiency through rail-related improvements. Many of the projects completed in 2015 as part of the Gateway Infrastructure Program (GIP) have targeted rail-related inefficiencies through the construction of grade separations or through road relocations that create space for additional rail lines. “Some of the improvements will increase ability to add rail footprint, but it also gives us the flexibility to serve the terminals differently. So allowing, for example, two terminals to be switched at once, whereas today, if you’re switching one terminal you can’t switch the other. It’s things like that which allow the railways additional flexibility.”
Another new initiative exploring ways to monitor rail activity has just been launched. Proposals are being sought for a rail-monitoring system that would provide real-time information about rail movements within the Gateway. Xotta relates the initiative to one of the fundamental precepts of the Supply Chain Strategy program. “Creating visibility often draws out some logical alternatives. We can highlight what we see are legitimate or possible opportunities for change that could benefit the operation of the supply chain. We’ve instituted many things as a result of gathering data and doing that research or analysis around alternative operating strategies and working together with industry partners – like the railways.”
At the 2015 mid-year point, vessel on-time performance levels are returning to normal as issues are resolved, even as the aggregate performance for the year is likely to remain below normal. “Our hope is that the vessel on-time performance incentive program continues to provide the motivation for vessels to arrive on time,” says Xotta. “We anticipate our terminals being operated at fairly high levels of utilization, so vessels arriving on time continues to be an important component of being able to deliver good service and maximize available capacity.”
Work also continues on a marine traffic assessment of port waterways. The assessment evaluates waterways that access port facilities, particularly those with constrained operating areas like the First and Second Narrows in the Vancouver harbour. Information about vessel traffic will be collated with the long-term plans of terminal operators and shippers, with a view to potential operational changes, a process that will involve extensive consultation with other marine agencies and regulatory bodies. The data collection will be completed by the end of 2015. Ongoing review may result in changes to the way vessel traffic, including anchorage, is managed within Port Metro Vancouver.
The trucking sector has seen a number of new and revised initiatives, many related to the new local drayage Truck Licensing System (TLS) introduced this year. The new TLS took effect for the local drayage community at the beginning of February 2015. Shortly after, the first B.C. Trucking Commissioner was appointed by the provincial government. The Commissioner oversees all local drayage TLS licenses issued to container trucking companies. The Commissioner is also responsible for setting minimum compensation rates and overseeing the rate auditing program and the whistleblower phone line, called the Drayage Confidence Line. Both the new TLS and the Commissioner’s Office were implemented pursuant to resolutions contained in the Joint Action Plan, which was formulated to address many of the issues arising from the 2014 drayage sector dispute.
Under the new TLS, Port Metro Vancouver now issues Access Agreements to those container trucking companies requiring access to federal port lands. In order for a local drayage company to be eligible for an Access Agreement, applicants must have — at a minimum — a license from the Commissioner. They must also, however, meet a number of other criteria, which include minimum environmental truck standards, minimum truck age requirements for new fleet additions, mandatory minimum insurance requirements, a compliance bond, and a new Access Agreement charge that also contributes to the cost of the Commissioner’s office responsibilities.
Designed to use GPS data from units installed on all local drayage trucks accessing port lands, the first phase of the Common Data Interface system is almost complete. This phase will provide information about wait times for drivers, identifying and informing the Commissioner’s office of instances of when established standards are exceeded and the compensation is owed to affected drivers. This program will be ready to launch by the end of 2015. The second phase includes the creation of a common reservation system designed to create greater efficiency across all terminals scheduled for development in 2016.
Together with other operational efficiencies, the inclusion of night gate operations at three of the four container terminals has contributed to a 25 per cent reduction in truck turn times. Average truck turn times in June 2015 fell to 36 minutes. The implementation of night gates has played a significant role in addressing truck turn times at each of the terminals, one of the drayage sector’s fundamental issues.
With container throughput alone growing by 8 per cent in the first half of 2015, Xotta admits that providing adequate capacity to meet this demand has been a challenge. While short-term economic forecasts are uncertain, long term projections show that demand is not wavering. While the initiatives designed to facilitate the efficiency of the rail, marine and trucking sectors have helped, there remains a lot of work to do. “Even though the outlook for the economy is ambiguous, it has not impacted the efficiency projects we are working on. So at this point, it still requires a continued focus by Port Metro Vancouver to work with our stakeholders on improving service and expanding capacity at the port for the next number of years.”