Felixstowe’s IT problems continue

The troubles of the port of Felixstowe have dragged on through the summer. What appeared to be a passing problem around the implementation of a new IT system has gradually become a threat to Felixstowe’s business. Since June container operations have slowed dramatically, making the loading and unloading of vessels very difficult.

Despite assurances that its problems are being solved, the UK’s largest container port continues to lose traffic. The port stated in its latest “Customer Update” that “Quayside productivity continues to recover with corresponding improvement in container throughput, although the pace of progress is slower than we would have liked.”

Shipping Lines have demonstrated their impatience. Although Felixstowe asserted that “the first of the services that diverted temporarily to other ports, the jointly-operated Seago, Hamburg Süd and CMA CGM Levant service, returned to Felixstowe on 23rd August, and we are discussing with our shipping line customers welcoming back more services in the coming weeks”, earlier this week MSC announced that it would divert its IPAK Europe-to-India service away from Felixstowe, substituting London Gateway instead. Over previous weeks other shipping lines, including Maersk, OOCL and Hapag-Lloyd have also diverted services.

The issue has been the introduction of a new Terminal Operating System called ‘Next Generation Terminal Management System’ or nGen. Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) have been introducing this system to its terminals around the world for over a decade so it is unclear why Felixstowe should have encountered such problems, however even the statements from Felixstowe describe a situation where almost every aspect of container handling has slowed dramatically.

There is background to this failure. Customers of Felixstowe have long complained of the difficulty of communication with the port, contrasting it with open approach of Southampton. In particular lack of visibility on the status of containers has been a frequently cited issue at Felixstowe. It all adds to a general problem of transparency at the HPH owned port, which at one time even refused to make public how many containers it handled every year.

This is all the worse as customers now have options for moving containers in and out of the UK. Notably, Felixstowe has been in a fierce competition with London Gateway, the new terminal owned by DP World. It has a location within the Hamburg-Le Havre range and so is a serious long-term rival.

It is another illustration that information architecture is not merely a support issue but addresses the strategy of the whole business. Increasing volume and velocity of information on the supply chain is all very well but numerous organisations simply are unable to keep up with the level of change required.

Source: Transport Intelligence, September 6, 2018

Author: Thomas Cullen


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