Feature / 05 Mar 2023

Clearing the backlog

After more than two years, global port congestion times are finally showing signs of improvement.

According to the latest Ports and Terminals Insight by maritime research institute Drewry, waiting times have vastly improved across ports in Africa, Middle East and South Asia. Similarly, facilities in Europe, Asia and Latin America have also shown marginal improvements.

However, while pre-berth waiting times remain much higher than in late 2020, Drewry expects port waiting times and congestion to return to pre-pandemic levels over the course of this year.

“The return of more normal port waiting times is good news for both GAC and our customers, but we are still facing a number of geopolitical, inflationary or environmental challenges that can impact freight demand and prices,” says Lars Hardeland, Group Operations Director – Shipping.

“It is vital that we, as a leading ship agency, remain alert and ready to meet any challenge that affects vessel demand, and continue to develop our digital tools to monitor and impact vessel turnaround timings. These include our turnaround index which is currently being piloted at certain ports.”

Lars Hardeland

At such times, the role of the ship agent is more critical than ever. GAC has demonstrated its credentials as a leading example during a period of severe disruption by tailoring its ship agency and related services to support customers’ needs to stay informed and minimise port turnaround times.

It combines port call volumes through a ship’s services node – a hub, enabling customers to maximise their margin by accessing a value chain that goes beyond traditional agency services. This includes primary day-to-day services and secondary services such as vendor management, cost management, rebates, digitalisation and training.

“Shipowners and charterers want shipping and logistics partners that can provide visibility, reliability and adaptability to circumvent ongoing supply chain and port congestion issues,” adds Lars.

“We have worked hard to expand our global footprint and services over the past two years. From monitoring port conditions and supporting loading and unloading operations, to staying up to speed on port authority requirements and optimising our operations, GAC proved itself as a reliable partner, supporting our customers and driving their success regardless of the challenges they face.”

One way in which GAC has innovated has been the launch of its Pegasus portal, which gives customers real-time information about port infrastructure, services, mishaps, accidents, delays and turnaround times.

With access to data on more than 220,000 vessels and ports around the world, customers can anticipate port congestion, pick the best alternative routes and make informed voyage decisions based on efficiency, time and financial considerations even before booking shipping services.

To further aid efficient operations planning, customers can also tap on GAC’s Hot Port News bulletin which monitors and provides daily updates on port conditions worldwide.

GAC has also embraced digitalisation to boost the efficiency of the way it handles documentation, including automated data scanning of passports for crew changes to streamline the process, reduce manual data entry errors, minimise delays and strengthen compliance with regulations.

Working with an effective and organised ship agent was a must while the shipping community was suffering the effects of port congestion. GAC gave its customers peace of mind by minimising vessel turnaround times to keep businesses moving. And even as port congestion eases, the lessons learnt will set GAC in a good stead to tackle any challenge head on and continue to adapt its leading ship agency services to the needs of shipowners, their vessels and crews.

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