Feeder operator calls for tie-ups with port firms
A tripartite partnership between a feeder vessel operator, a hub port and a regional port would cut costs and raise productivity, a shipping executive says.
Sumate Tanthuwanit, president of Singapore-based feeder specialist RCL Group, said there should be co-operation in electronic data exchange, standardised stowage planning, pre-planned nomination of connecting vessels and fixed berth 'windows'.
Mr Sumate said that, as a port user, RCL had similar objectives to those of a port.
Both wanted to handle a high volume of containers in the fastest and most economical manner, he said.
'As ports improve their operational efficiency, operators too must take measures to upgrade their vessel operations.
'A clear understanding of each other's needs and an exploration of ways to combine synergies would be of long-term benefit,' he said.
Mr Sumate said that increased co-operation among feeder operators and even joint services with carriers in alliance groupings were needed to enhance and develop operator partnerships.
Regional operators, he said, needed to work together in order to co-ordinate their sailing schedules.
'To survive the threat of direct calls and lines' own dedicated feeders, common-user feeder operators have to continue investing in modern and high-specification newbuildings,' he added.
Mr Sumate said that regional ports should form complementary working relationships between themselves before entering alliances with vessel operators.
A feeder operator should provide schedule integrity, high frequencies, fast transit by shuttle, fast connections at hubs, availability of slots and high volume at low cost, he said.
In addition, the operator must invest in modern, efficient and fast feeder vessels and be flexible in deployment, Mr Sumate said.
Ports should provide infrastructure including berths, container yards, container freight stations, landside equipment and operating systems which could be expanded or upgraded to handle throughput for feeder vessel sizes of up to 1,500 teus (20 ft equivalent units).
Where partnerships were lacking, terminals should consider allowing feeders the option to participate in the management or supply of equipment, systems or facilities, he said.
'In Bangkok, RCL has good co-operation with the Port Authority of Thailand in this area,' Mr Sumate said.
There was sufficient growth in the Asian market to benefit ports that co-irdinated their activities, he said.
He said that, excluding India, average growth in Asian traffic totalled 13 per cent a year and would reach 97 million teus by 2000.
Worldwide volume was expected to reach 188 million teus by the turn of the century, he said.
In the future the focus in the region would be mega container-operators and dedicated intra-Asian players, he said.
RCL launched a service between Shanghai and Singapore in October.
Its other two services are on the Xiamen/Hong Kong and Shekou/Bangkok routes.