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Circumstances surrounding the withdrawal of trucking services from KFTL

Published:Monday | August 14, 2017 | 12:00 AM

In light of the recent withdrawal and subsequent return of services by truckers to the Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited (KFTL), the Port Trailer Haulage Association would like to advise the commercial trade of the circumstances surrounding those events.

Over the last year, and, in particular, the last eight months, truckers have been experiencing massive delays at KFTL when receiving and delivering containers. The delays have been in the order of two to four hours, and this has been consistent, more often than not, over the past six months.

With a view to addressing the matter, we have had six to seven meetings with the KFTL, Jamaica Customs Agency, and the Port Authority of Jamaica highlighting the problems and expressing our frustration and dissatisfaction with the inefficient service we are receiving. At those meetings, we articulated to them that we were prepared to accept a 45 minutes turn time for the receival and delivery of containers. This led to the terminal giving some commitment to a turn time of 30 minutes. The assumption was made that Customs and the scanning operations would be about 15 minutes, thus totaling 45 minutes turn time.

Unfortunately, since those meetings, we have not experienced any consistent improvement in the service level as on the days when the receival and delivery volumes were low, the service level improved, but as soon as the volumes increased, we encountered lengthy delays.

The situation came to a head last Friday when as early as 8:30 a.m., truckers started to encounter lengthy delays upwards of five hours, with many still waiting to be processed at midnight. This was occasioned by the terminal's decision to deploy the majority of the equipment resources to shipside activities as there were some large container vessels in port.

The terminal had labour problems, as well as it seems that they were deployed to ship activity. This was exacerbated by the fact that when the workers completed their shift and left, there were no replacement workers in place. This led to even more shortage of equipment as there were no more operators available, and, at one stage, there was only one straddle carrier working between 6 p.m. and midnight.


Incensed about payment


These delays are creating a significant number of losses for the truckers as they are unable to meet delivery plans with their clients because the transfer of a container from the south terminal to the north terminal, which should take an average of 30 minutes, now takes two to four hours. Truckers are forced to hire and deploy trucks at additional costs than are required to guarantee enough moves on a given day.

Additionally, drivers are incensed as their payment is based on the number of container moves they make daily, but given the lengthy turn time, they are only able to make one or two moves per day, which makes it impossible for them to earn a reasonable income. The effects are also felt by the clients because when their containers are tied up for long periods, they incur storage and demurrage charges on the wharf side and downtime and stock-out costs on the production and distribution side.

As a consequence, the truckers, having endured so much, decided to withdraw their services on August 8, 2017, protesting the inefficient service level on the port while calling on the other stakeholders to lend support as the situation is affecting everyone.

A number of meetings ensued, and with the intervention of Dr Horace Chang, minister without portfolio, in the Office of the Prime Minister Professor Gordon Shirley, president of the Port Authority of Jamaica; Trevor Riley, general manager of the Shipping Association of Jamaica; and Mitzie Gordon Burke-Green, president of the Customs Brokers & Freight Forwarding Association, a resumption of service was brokered with the terminal, through its deputy CEO, Karen Sutherland, agreeing to a 45 minutes turn time; overnight pre-positioning of appointment containers; having a least 10 straddle carriers in the domestic area until the backlog containers are cleared up and eight straddle carriers during normal operations; and a waiver of the storage charges on the affected containers.

In the good faith and with the affected customers in mind, the truckers have returned their services at 1 p.m., August 10, 2017, with the understanding that a further meeting is to be held with the managing director of the terminal when he returns to office.