FDSc Logistics Management Evaluating Port Logistics


Sea transport has for a long time been a vital channel for the delivery of goods of different categories from one point to another both in the UK and globally. Were it not for sea transport, international trade would be struggling since its diverse cargo ferrying capacity remains unmatched by other transportation systems. It therefore follows that management of the port business is an important area in not only internal but external business operations.

Port logistics involves organisational strategies used by port managements and government agencies to ensure the efficiency of the goods circulation from their origin to their destination in such a way that satisfies the needs of the customers.

Relevant key areas in the shipping industry include the ferrying of the goods in the sea to the destination, then delivery to the final destination. Cargo deliveries have a global tag and the importance of international business can only be handled with the strict caution that it deserves to ensure tapping of its benefits. Port systems must put in place the various improvement strategies targeting various stages of the shipping business.

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The Humber region includes Grimsby, Immingham, Hull and Goole ports. Goole port is situated on the Yorkshire side of Humber estuary and was used in the early 19th century for steam boat connectivity with London, York and Leeds and other principal continental ports. (Willington 2008, page 119) Immingham port is found on the Lincolnshire coast to the north of Grimsby and has an excellent deep sea harbour. The harbour was constructed by the Great Central Railway Company between 1906 and 1913. The deep water channel of Humber leads to the dock gates and makes the port suitable for entry and exit of ships. The deep water channel also keeps the harbour clear of silt (Willington 2008, page120).

According to Stopford, (1997, page 29) he defines a port as a geographical area where ships are brought alongside land to load and discharge cargo. In the UK, the management of the biggest port services occurs in the Humber region controlled by Associated British Ports (ABP), operating more than 21 ports. This implies that the services at the ABP have a direct influence on almost the entire country's port system. There are several factors that influence port development, one of them being the geographic location of the port. An advantage is rendered to these ports that are located near maritime access routes and networks for easy access to international sea waters. At the same time, the connectivity with the inland infrastructure and proximity to the relevant business destinations on the mainland must be considered. According to Fleming and Hayuth (1994, page 188), these two geographic factors can be denoted as intermediary and centrality, regarding the sea and hinterland proximity respectively.

Access to a port is generally determined by some factors which include the geography, weather and routes as well as world choke points which heavily influence the movement of vessels. These factors are taken into consideration during infrastructure designs to ensure compensating of costs where one periphery comes into play. It is however very important to ensure that the hinterland access is not compromised since shipping deliveries must ultimately reach the mainland. In the UK, optimisation of the inland connectivity through cooperation and coordination may offer solutions to possible system weaknesses.

Ports in Humber region include Grimsby, Immingham, Hull and Goole. Although the ports are geographically local to each other, they are different in both size and limitations and have restrictions on the vessel sizes they can facilitate. Services such as Ro-Ro (Roll on - Roll off) and Lo-Lo (Lift on - Lift off) are only available at certain ports.

The port of Grimsby is located on the Humber estuary and it is the main shipping corridor for the area. This port has links with the Baltic States and Scandinavia and handles an extensive range of materials including wood products, grain and minerals. The 2 main operations within this port are the vehicle handling operation with 2 dedicated Ro-Ro berths and the fishing industry of both the regional fishing fleet and vessels from European countries. The Humber Sea Terminal can be accessed by both rail and road giving excellent transportation links.

The Hull port is one of the UK's most important short sea ports. It offers a wide range of facilities and services such as Ro-Ro, Lo-Lo, forest products, liquid and dry bulk, general cargo, consumables and paper. Links to this port are the same as the Grimsby port but on a much larger scale indicated by the 11 Ro-Ro berths within an enclosed dock system. This port has the only passenger liner service port in the Humber region travelling daily to Rotterdam and Zeebrugge.

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The Port of Goole is the UK's leading inland port, situated 80km from the sea with easy access to the UK's road network and a dedicated rail freight terminal connected to many berths and canals in the West and South Yorkshire by rail connections. The city region has installations of modern wharfs on the Trent, Humber, Ouse and Hull river systems. This has enabled the region to handle bulk commodities with a single Ro-Ro berth and the added benefit of large scale warehousing and storage facilities.

Immingham is home to the largest deep sea port by tonnage in the country. Links to this port include Europe, Scandinavia, Middle East, South America, Africa and Australia. This facility houses over 16 mobile harbour cranes, 2 grabber cranes, and 2 ship to shore container cranes aiding 2 international terminals, an outer harbour, an oil terminal and bulk terminals.

Apart from the fact, these ports are located on the East coast of the UK with direct routes to Europe, one of the main benefits to the Humber ports is the advantage of centrality. 60% of the UK's manufacturing facilities are within a 4 hour drive promoting both rail and road freight as partners in the logistical side of cargo transportations.

The Humber Ports contribute over £250 million a year to the regional economy and support over 47,000 jobs. (Transport and Logistics website, 2010)

The initial terminal design should be in anticipation of a wide variety of vessels, which implies that future development of the port should be considered. There are several types of cargo vessels used in UK ports and each vessel is designed for a specific purpose. The principle types of vessels include Bulk carriers for large volumes of unpacked goods such as coal. Liquid tanker vessels for Oil and Gas. Container vessels for carrying large quantities of contained goods. Roll on Roll off vessels for passenger and road haulage vehicles. General cargo ships for loose cargos and coastal vessels called "Feeder" vessels for coastal and inland routes.

The size of the vessel that accesses a particular port must be considered when coming up with the port designing. The geographic topology can be favourable for short sea shipping, which implies that the movement of freight is by the means of sea alone from one country to the other. This happens where the continent has a fine connection by sea ports (Lodewijks et al, 2008, page 205). Small sea vessels enhance upstream navigation to increase short sea shipping network.

The port design is determined by the channel width and port entrance geography. The consideration of the width takes into account the size of ship accessing the port which should reduce time taken by the traffic. The depth of the channel must accommodate the size of the vessels accessing the port. The port area should ensure free stopping as well as vessel swinging. The port design takes into consideration the relevant space required by equipment. Examples of port equipment units include cargo cranes, container cranes, garb cranes, rubber tyred gantry cranes, specialised unloading systems, rail and tyred transtainers, floating cranes, terminal trailers, floating docks, industrial travelifts, overhead gantry cranes, shipyard cranes and trailers, pedestal cranes, shiplift and syncrolift. Port designers take into consideration the space required by the equipment at the port, to ensure that the space is sufficient even for expansion (Cullinane, 2002, page 430).A designer needs to know the depth of the water channel so that they can make necessary expansion of the port. The design should be able to handle a multitude of shipping activities including the modern vessels of todays shipping transportation systems.

Where the vessel loading and unloading section of a port is within an enclosure, the structure is called an enclosed dock. Generally, docks are built in the open but some factors may necessitate the construction of a structure to completely enclose the dock. Some of the reasons for such a design include weather and the type of cargo. Adverse weather may be with regard to the vessel, cargo or workforce. The enclosure must however meet some standards, one of which is ventilation. Other conditions include safety caution in the form of disaster control to ensure that the cargo and the workforce remain safe.

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High security cargo is best handled in an enclosed dock. The design of an enclosed dock is suitable and highly recommended for unloading of cargo when the value of the cargo is too big and vandalism is likely. Proliferation of cargo at the dock can be reduced if the access to the dock is significantly limited, which is highly achievable in an enclosed dock. The integrity of the cargo is also enhanced since the enclosure protects the cargo from adverse weather conditions (Smith and Tompkins, 1998. Page 428).

At the Humber Sea Terminals, creation of a drainage solution to handle underground and storm water enhances the operation of the port since the Humber estuary faces uncertain weather conditions. The created drainage stabilises the port, since the natural geographic topology can not allow such port operation. Projection of berths in to the sea may be required where the harbour is not deep enough to allow vessels to dock without problems. The topography of the Humber Sea Terminals requires creation of such berths due to the shallow waters around the Humber Estuary.

The UK has approximately 120 ports and 15 of these ports handle the bulk of the freight volume. The Humber ports account for over a third of the total sea freight in the UK. A majority of this freight is coal rather than containerised traffic.

There are three ways of transportation of sea freight in the UK. RO-RO, bulk freight and container traffic.

The Ro-Ro market in the UK is divided into three segments. Car carrying trades, regular liner trades with Ro-RO facilities and ferry transport for passengers who have cars.

Bulk freight consists of products such as coal, forest products, project freight and oil. These products constitute a majority of freight which passes through the Humber Ports. Coal freight is a large influx in Humber Ports because of the power stations in the region.

Container freight is not common in the Humber region due to shallow depth of the Humber Ports. Most of the large freight vessels cannot dock at these terminals resulting in Felixstowe and Southampton being the UK's largest container ports of entry. Woodburn (2009) highlights that the volume of container traffic will double in the next 20 years causing congestion to the southern road networks. This could provide the Humber region with a significant opportunity for port development.

A new development called Port Centric logistics is emerging and this method promotes many companies to locate near port facilities in order to reduce transport costs and improve services. Ports such as Teesside argue that it is logical to locate these companies near the ports. They believe it will cut down the number of empty return containers on roads by emptying imported containers at the port. This will allow faster repositioning of containers to other ports that require them. For example, Sainsbury previously stripped their containers at inland RDC (Regional Distribution Centre) but now their containers are emptied at Felixstowe. This has eliminated the return of empty containers by roads (Logistics Manager, 2008)

The cost of port time occasioned by transport infrastructure insufficiency maybe avoided by putting in place the correct strategies to reduce congestion at the port. Port and inter port connectivity with the overseas market as well as the hinterland determines the cost to be incurred during the actual delivery services. When the management operates at reduced costs of operations, it is practically possible that customers will be attracted to the benefits of lowered shipping costs. Logistics at reducing costs therefore place a lot of importance on the infrastructure availed. It has been argued that improving the infrastructure connectivity and reducing the costs thereon is similar to geographically positioning the port in an ideal location. This implies that efficiency at the port in terms of transport connection networks is a vital aspect of logistics and strategies to be adopted by the management (Juhel, 2000, page 11).

The type of cargo to be ferried by sea also determines the design of the port. When the sea terminal is targeted for container transportation, container handling requirements must be considered at the port and necessary handling equipment availed (Nooteboom 1999, page 63). The demand of the container in the hinterland and the availability of the ferrying infrastructure are put into consideration. The supply of the containers from the port to the hinterland necessitates a clear network with capacity to handle the consignments. Depots may be created at an inland location for temporary storage to ease congestion at the port. The supply and demand forces of the market may force a certain pattern to be observed in the chain. Container and consignment arrivals at the port directly determine the flow into the hinterland. Therefore the effective pattern observed is strictly studied and followed to ensure efficiency. Freight distribution is a sensitive area since the nature of the cargo and its delivery urgency may force certain attributes which necessitates prompt delivery arrangements.


Ports in the UK are essential for the economy. They have a distinctive role, not only to providing a base for trade and employment, but in connecting communities.

Sea transport carries the bulk of most commodities that the world produces. This cargo can not be ferried by air, road or rail transportation alone. Sea ferry makes it easier to transport huge cargos at a single moment than would be in rail or road or air transport.

The British shipping industry accounts for more than 90% of world trade, and the transportation of goods by sea is forecast to increase substantially by 2015 as a result of increased international trade and globalisation. (Transport and Logistics website, 2010)

The industry of shipping is a valuable business. Without it, the import and export of commodities on the extent necessary for today's global market would not be possible. Shipping traffic continues to increase, bringing benefits for consumers throughout the globe through competitive shipping costs. With the increases in the efficiency of shipping as a means of haulage and improved financial liberalisation, the prospects for the industry's continued growth appear to be successful.

The future of the shipping industry is coupled with the global networks and changing trends towards efficiency. New, bigger ship designs, climate change, oil shortages, carbon taxes and industrial progress will strongly influence the industry and will require the ports to be effective and cost proficient. To aid the port industry the business has increased its portfolio from the handling of cargoes and passengers. A range of further important services are included. The fishing industry, ferry links and services to the UK's offshore oil industry as well as the growth in yacht moorings and cruise liners give the business a more strengthened and flexible approach to this industry.

The UK has a good port connectivity which holds a lot of potential if coordination and cooperation can be enhanced beyond the current level. Port locations in the UK are better positioned to enjoy the benefits of centrality and intermediary at the same time. It can be therefore predicted that improvement of the port system in the UK will dramatically open up the country as well as offer cheaper solutions to transport problems.


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