Examining the delays impacting shipping firms and ports

Author: Cassandra Madden

There are many issues that impact the maritime sector, none more than now with the Covid-19.  When I was studying a maritime master’s degree at university one of my research topics, of which I wrote a thesis, was about the delays at container ports. Also how delays impact their productivity. These delays range from bad weather that slows down shipping right through to berthing issues at ports. One factor impacts another: cause and effect. Delays impact the wider supply chain.

Some of the delays experienced include:

  • Technology issues (i.e. machinery problems, lack of automation or issues because of automation, when a glitch happens with technology it slows down operations etc.)
  • Resource capabilities (i.e. lack of available resources such as cranes, berths for ships, lack of land space to house containers etc.)
  • Weather (i.e. bad weather impacts shipping because a ship might be damaged, must slow down at sea, unable to berth etc.)
  • Staffing issues (i.e. not enough staff hired to cater for sickness or labor strikes, staff lack training to competently preforming their jobs leading to human delay factors)
  • Landside logistics issues (i.e. road congestion due to traffic, rail congestion, processing speeds etc.)
  • Seaside logistics issues (i.e. water channels where ships are not able to enter at low tide, delays caused by congestion, not enough water channels etc.)
  • Legal delays (i.e. delays with clearance and paperwork (for which digital solutions are supposed to be speeding up processes))

It is easy to see how each of these delays has a run on effect and causes another. The aim is for maritime businesses to work together, collaborate, to reduce and prevent delays as much as they can to help speed up their productivity. These delays cost businesses money.

To reduce delays, many innovations and business improvements are needed. As an example, digital solutions to speed up the processing of paperwork including customs clearance and bills of lading. Another example, improved quality of maritime training to reduce human errors. Port expansion is another way a company can plan and reduce delays, but in countries where they have no land to expand they have to come up with other ideas, including faster processing, the building of new ports or redirecting their ships to other ports. Some delays are not to be avoided including bad weather, but these impacts can be reduced with good policy making and rules in place. How can businesses have better rules that have the appropriate steps to manage delays that occur due to foul weather?

If a business plans for their port expansion, innovates with technology, and has steps in place to mitigate any delays they are close to improving their productivity and turnaround times.

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About the Author: Cassandra Madden

I am a maritime professional, innovator, history researcher and writer. I started the business CassLea Maritime in 2016 to offer consulting services and to innovate within the industry.

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