Japan looks to boost efficiency of its harbours
WONG JOON SAN
The maritime transport committee of Japan's Council for Transport Policy will study various aspects of its harbour operations to improve efficiency.
According to a newspaper report, the study will cover four points - deregulation, establishment of a more intensive and efficient labour system, stabilisation of cargo handling on Sundays and efficient operation of berths.
At the first subcommittee meeting, the Ministry of Transport (MOT) reported on the general situation in other countries' harbour transport sectors and the environment surrounding Japan's harbour industry.
The briefing was to familiarise the subcommittee members with the present state of Japan's harbour operations.
In its report, the MOT said the decline in the relative position of Japanese ports in East Asia in recent years was due to high costs and inconvenience for port users. It also outlined problems related to harbour transport.
The ministry said efficiency of harbour work was being stymied by the existence of numerous medium and small businesses, employing 20 workers at most.
According to the ministry, those firms accounted for 45 per cent of the country's harbour transport operators.
The MOT pointed out the necessity of enhancing efficiency by establishing a more intensive labour system that would transcend the individual firms involved.
It said cargo volume per berth at Japanese ports was limited, compared with foreign ports, and pointed out that costs needed to be cut by improving the efficiency of each berth.
The MOT also cited such issues as Sunday cargo handling and a drop in the frequency of container-ship calls at Japanese ports due to the reorganisation of shipping alliances as reasons behind the decline.
Based on the MOT report, the subcommittee confirmed the need to cut costs and improve convenience for port users.
The subcommittee will study specific measures for deregulation in the sector. However, members felt the ports needed to be stabilised before deregulation.
The subcommittee will discuss how to strike a balance between greater efficiency and greater stability, and include the findings in its interim report in October.