The Port Performance Continuum
The efficiency of a port is part of a continuum (a value chain) that includes maritime, terminal and hinterland operations. These dimensions are interrelated since inefficiencies in one dimension are likely to impact the others. For instance, issues in terminal operations are most likely to negatively impact maritime and hinterland operations with delays.
  • Maritime operations. The efficiency of the maritime access is a component of port performance, which includes anchorage where ships are waiting for an available berthing slot. Long waiting times at anchorage can be the outcome of a lack of berthing slots able to accommodate specific ship classes (e.g. draft and cargo type) as well as terminal productivity issues. Ports, depending on their site and configuration, can have complex in port navigation requiring pilotage and tugs through access channels and turn basins. The value of enhancing such a system is clearly to the benefit of maritime shipping companies.
  • Terminal operations. Represent the most common performance indicator that is used to assess port efficiency. For container terminal operations this commonly involve several key operations. Crane performance (T1) is a common bottleneck in terms of the number of movements per crane per hour and the number of cranes available to service a containership. For maritime shipping companies, this is a crucial factors since it is related to the amount of time their ships is going to spend at the port. The manner which cargo (containers) is brought back and forth to the storage yard (T2) is also a component of port performance. Many container terminals use holsters or straddle carriers for such operations. Container storage yard operations involve the organization of stacking and its related stacking density, an important variable determining terminal capacity. When trucks enter the terminal to pick up or drop off cargo (T3) space and equipment is required to insure that this transloading operation (yard to truck or truck to yard) performs well. This is often a critical bottleneck for trucking companies since it dictates the amount of time they will spend at the terminal. Gate performance (T4) concerns the efficiency of tasks related to document processing and security inspections so that a truck is admitted and cleared to pick up or drop cargo at the facility. Gates used above their capacity are characterized by long truck lines waiting to be processed and enter the terminal for cargo they are already chartered to handle. For terminals having on-dock rail facilities, the performance of the rail loading / unloading equipment (T5) is an important component of the terminal’s performance.
  • Hinterland operations. Can involve all the transport and distribution activities servicing the port’s customers, such as an inland port. However, for practical purposes, it generally focuses on inland operations adjacent to the port area (often labeled as back of port). The key factor in hinterland operations is the capacity of the local road network in areas adjacent to the port. Congestion and bottlenecks at street intersections impair the port’s performance in many of the supply chain management strategies of the port’s customers. Some ports have near-dock rail yards that must be serviced through the terminals’ gates. In many gateway ports transloading activities that are transferring the contents of maritime containers into domestic truckloads (or domestic containers), or vice-versa, are an element of the performance of hinterland operations. Port authorities have an oversight, either directly or indirectly, of the port efficiency.
While terminal operations are usually concessioned to private operators, port authorities tend to have a direct oversight of maritime operations and several elements of hinterland operations, such as local roads directly connected to the port terminals, some of which on land owned by the port. Although cities are not directly involved in port operations and commonly have limited, if any, jurisdiction on port land, they commonly provide and maintain crucial road infrastructure connecting the port with its hinterland. They also bear many of the externalities of port operations, namely local congestion. Therefore, the port authority and the city are important stakeholders in the port performance continuum.