Why Vehicles are Delayed at Docks
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Working Party Suggests Remedies in Interim Report
DLLAYS-at Liverpool and Birkenhead docks are dealt with in the interim report of a working party, issued by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board at the request of the Ministry of Transport.
The party comprised two representatives of the dock board, two of the ship owners, one of the railway companies, the chairman of the North Western (Western) Area of the Road Haulage Association, and the Regional Transport Commissioner. Without specific terms of reference, it adopted the following:— " To consider delays to transport at the Liverpool and Birkenhead docks, to examine their causes and to recommend methods by which such delays can be mitigated."
The report states: "The great majority of the export cargo arriving by road is handled with reasonable promptitude and no complaint is made nor is there occasion for reasonable complaint. Undue delay occurs only in respect of certain berths at times when heavy loading for more than one ship is taking place.
Road Transport Predominates "The loading berths at Liverpool and Birkenhead are equipped to deal with road and rail traffic. The best results. can be achieved (labour being available) by the use of all forms of transport in their proper proportion, but for reasons of speed and economy road transport has, during recent years, tended to oust other forms of transport to such an extent that over 70 per cent. of the export cargo shipped from the port of Liverpool is now brought to the berths by this means.
"No powers at present exist for the direction of cargo by a particular form of transport and the shipper or manufacturer is at liberty to choose whichever form best suits him. We examined the possibility of direction, but do not consider it advisable to make recommendations in favour of compulsory control. Nevertheless we are strongly of opinion that ship owners and other parties concerned should urge consignors to consider the utilization of alternative forms of transport, where practicable, in order to afford some relief to the quay position. "We regret to report irrefutable evidence that the dates indicated by the ship owner for the receipt of cargo at the berth, are often disregarded.
"The bunching of vehicles before work commences at the ship is still further complicated by the efforts of hauliers to obtain rapid discharge. It is found that as soon as hauliers anticipate that they may experience some delay they give instructions to their drivers to arrive at the berth before the beginning of working hours so as to be first on turn.
"It is inevitable that there will be considerable delay in dealing with such a number of vehicles and this difficulty can only be remedied by restoring to hauliers confidence that their vehicles will be dealt with without undue delay. We have considered whether it would A40 be possible for the ship owner to specify on the shipping note not only the date of arrival, but also a time, but felt that it would be impossible for long-distance traffic to comply with such detailed arrangements.
"The possibility of instituting additional depots at which cargo could be discharged for sorting and subsequent delivery to loading ships has been considered and is receiving further consideration. It is estimated that the use of an intermediate depot for this purpose would increase the cost of shipment by an amount varying, according to the position of the depot and the type of cargo dealt with, from 7s. 6d. to 20s. per ton.
It was then suggested that dock labour should be employed if available, but that the responsibility should remain with the haulier to unload his own vehicle if dock labour were not available. It was agreed that this divided duty could not be worked satisfactorily, but that it must be either a docker's job or the haulier's job—to make it sometimes one and sometimes the other might give rise to endless disputes.
Cost of Unloading "The next point which fell to be considered was the absorption a the cost of unloading by dock labour. Mr. Macve. the Regional Transport Commissioner, formulated the proposition that this should be absorbed by the haulier as a return for the quicker release of his vehicles.
"Unfortunately, when it appeared that a successful outcome of these talks might be expected, representatives of the North Western Area of the R.H.A. and the Traders' Road Transport Association attended on the working party and refused to accept the proposition for three main reasons:—
(a) No guarantee could be given that the employment of dock labour would, in fact, speed up the discharge of vehicles; (b) The charge would apply to all vehicles, most of which are not unduly delayed; (c) Whilst it might on occasion pay the long-distance haulier, as it would represent only a minor proportion of his overall rate, it could not be absorbed by the short-distance haulier whose overall rate per ton is a small one, nor by the haulier who is quoting a highly competitive rate. "We feel that the best procedure is to leave the responsibility where it now lies, but to urge shipping companies to extend to the greatest possible degree the assistance, which they already give voluntarily in the unloading of vehicles.
especially at berths where heavy accept ances are taking place. "The lack of sufficient cranage for unloading vehicles has been reported to us. At peak periods some shortage must inevitably occur, but the position generally is satisfactory and should improve as the additional equipment on order by various employers becomes available. In addition the port authority has under consideration the possibility of increasing the number of mobile cranes provided by them for hire.
" It has admittedly not been possible to find any sovereign remedy to meet the present position and we deeply regret that many of the major suggestions to which reference is made in this report have failed to provide the desired solution. Nevertheless, a number of suggestions has been made resulting in action in various directions which, in our opinion, is having a definitely beneficial effect on the problem.
Party to Continue "It is considered that we can continue to serve a useful purpose by pursuing a number of, points already mentioned in this reporf and, if possible, by securing their successful development; by keeping a check on the position and ensuring local action in special circumstances; by investigating any special complaints and making the necessary representations to the various bodies concerned with the matter. It is suggested, therefore, that we should continue to meet from time to time to keep the position under review.
"The question of delay in the turnround of ships and the failure of goods to obtain shipment has also been considered and there is no evidence whatever that any hold-up of road transport has delayed the turn-round of any ship or that a single ton of export cargo has been lost' to this country from this cause."
The causes are stated to be as follow:—
(I) The increased use of road transport.
(2) The present condition of the port following extensive war damage.
(3) The change of practice in shirts loading full cargoes at a single port.
(4) Delay in the arrival of a ship on a berth or the need for sudden repairs during loading.
(5) The volume of traffic in particular trades. • (6) The operation of controls, licences, etc.
(7) The tendency to ignore duties specified by the steamship company for the receipt of cargo at the berth.
(8) The bunching of vehicles before work commences.
(9) The problem of the vehicle with a number of small parcels for various ships or the vehicle with cargo for the same ship for various ports, complicated by mixed stowage on the vehicle. (10) The customary method of unloading road vehicles.
(11) Shortage of mechanical aids for assisting in handling of cargo.
(12) The labour problem.