Port Metro Vancouver is very fortunate to have strong partners in both the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia. The investments and policy initiatives implemented by the federal and provincial governments have not only dramatically improved Canada’s west coast trade infrastructure and logistics flow but have also greatly enhanced Canada’s competitive position internationally.

Since 2005, an unprecedented $22 billion of public and private sector money has been invested in projects across B.C. – projects designed to move people and goods faster and more efficiently than ever before. This includes projects such as Roberts Bank Rail Corridor grade separations, South Fraser Perimeter Road and Deltaport Terminal Road and Rail Improvement Project.

These investments are being noticed and valued by customers in fast-growing economies like China, Japan and South Korea, Port Metro Vancouver’s top-three trading partners, who, in 2012, accounted for almost two-thirds of its total cargo volumes.

The results of these investments over the past few years have been tangible – increased imports and exports, record volumes in containers and bulk cargoes and shipping lines making Port Metro Vancouver their gateway of choice to North America. Nine billion dollars has been spent on gateway infrastructure in the Vancouver Gateway alone.

“While these infrastructure projects are a great foundation for continued growth in the Gateway, it’s important for both the Gateway and our commercial partners that we use the assets that we have as efficiently as possible,” says Peter Xotta, Vice-President of Planning and Operations at Port Metro Vancouver.

Recognizing current operational impediments to supply-chain efficiency and fluidity, the Port in collaboration with industry partners has launched a number of reliability initiatives involving labour, rail, marine vessels and the drayage sector. Significant progress has been made on these initiatives over the past year, with measureable improvements in performance resulting in greater stability and consistency of service provided to the Port’s customers.

Labour Stability

Five years remain in two unprecedented eight-year collective labour agreements, the first signed between the B.C. Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Canada and the second between the BCMEA and ILWU Foremen Local 514.

“This signals a different approach,” says Xotta. “These agreements are a clear recognition that stability in the supply chain, particularly labour stability, is important for us to move forward and grow the Gateway as successfully as we have.”

Co-ordinating Services Shows Results

In the past few years, Port Metro Vancouver has entered into co-operation agreements with CN and Canadian Pacific railways. These stipulated that the railways enter into service-level agreements with each of the major marine terminals in Vancouver. These agreements were designed to improve reliability through co-ordinated mechanisms and processes that improve coordination and optimize productivity and performance by all involved parties.

“The premise,” says Xotta, “was wanting to put our best foot forward with our customers and demonstrate a level of commitment among the various service providers in the Gateway.”

Dwell times are monitored daily and data is reported to both railways and other participants in the supply chain. According to Xotta, there has been a consistent improvement in service performance across the Gateway, but particularly in the container sector. Consequently, while the target average dwell for containers was originally set at three days, it was revised to 2.5 days as of January 1, 2013.

“It’s evidence that we’re making some progress and that the targets should be adjusted to reflect this,” says Xotta.

He adds that railway operators are among the participants in supply chain leadership meetings held every two months, during which emerging issues are discussed.

On the marine side, an on time incentive program was introduced in January 2013 to encourage container vessel operators to arrive in Vancouver within eight hours of their scheduled terminal berth window. By the end of August 2013 on time performance had improved by 20 per cent.

“We think it’s translating into more fluid operations and that demand for all the supporting services is much more stable and predictable,” says Xotta. “It effectively puts us in the position of continuing to improve service overall by helping reduce the peaks in demands for other resources like labour and trucks.”

Smart Fleet Truck Strategy

In 2012, Port Metro Vancouver introduced its Smart Fleet Trucking Strategy in order to assess and ultimately resolve operational challenges that were reducing efficiency and stability of this key asset, and bring about greater efficiency and long-term sustainability in the drayage sector. The strategy drew extensively on the input generated through extensive outreach and consultation sessions that were carried out with the trucking community, both drivers and companies, as well as the B.C. Trucking Association and their intermodal committee. Initial stages of the three year action program focused on generating improved information about truck movements throughout the Gateway, including at terminals, in order to provide more predictable levels of demand and match that to a supply of container trucks.

Through the Container Truck Efficiency Program, GPS units have now been installed on 1,000 vehicles, with plans to complete installation on the balance of the other half of the drayage fleet by the end of 2014. The on-line GPS Dashboard and a Twitter feed have been launched to provide operators with real-time in­formation that can help with planning transits. The Dashboard provides aggregated information gathered from GPS transponders and provides road and in-gate wait times for Centerm, Deltaport, Fraser Surrey Docks and Vanterm, as well as terminal turn times. Visuals are provided through live webcam feeds. The Twitter feed provides information about real-time roadway closures and incidents that might affect transit times.

According to Xotta, the Container Truck Efficiency Program is in the initial stage of normalizing, with consultation continuing as elements of the strategy are refined for further implementation. This will include setting time limits at terminals for turning trucks (using GPS data), an initiative in the early stages of implementation and expected to go live in the fourth quarter of 2013.

“It’s just one of the ways we’re seizing an opportunity to demonstrate that we’re focused on the very same things as our customers ,” says Xotta, “and that they’ve aligned themselves with a port and partner that shares their values, from the perspective of efficiency and reliability.”