US dockyard productivity half global average, quarter that of top performer

05 December 2014Shipping News

A NEW report from Drewry Shipping Consultants in London has found that US lags the global ports productivity by wide margins. 

US YARD performance, measured by TEU per hectare per year, is less than half the global average, and only a quarter of the world's top performer, reported UK's SeaTrade Global.

North American, and in particular US container terminals, need to take steps to improve the intensity of infrastructure and equipment use, continued the new report from Drewry Shipping Consultants in London. 

"This will require substantial investment and the cooperation of employers and the unions. The alternative is potentially huge macro-economic costs of further port congestion in future years," it said.

"These analyses are distinct from typical service-level related measures such as crane moves per hour," said top Drewry analyst Neil Davidson. 

"Instead, they reflect the performance of the most important and expensive infrastructure and equipment assets in a modern container terminal," he said.

Not surprisingly, the report's findings underline the fact that ports with a higher proportion of transshipment cargo perform better than those where gateway movements predominate.

"US terminals handle very little transshipment (a reflection of the relatively high handling costs in the US, themselves a consequence of high labour costs). 

"In addition, the gateway traffic handled by US terminals is mainly imports, and import traffic tends to have longer dwell times in the yard than exports, and more complicated handling requirements," said Mr Davidson.

"It seems unlikely that US terminals will markedly change their traffic mix in the foreseeable future, so this factor has to be regarded as immovable."

Average US terminal size, at 25 per cent smaller than the world average, means that fragmentation of North American terminal capacity is another issue dogging US progress. 

US working hour practices also come in for criticism, and are a far cry from the uninterrupted 24-7 operations of many of the world's better performers. 

Mr Davidson suggests an increase in terminal automation could dramatically improve the situation in the US.