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A study of ship size and turnaround time in the port of Vancouver Studer, Keith Ronald

Abstract

Ships of all types spend a large part of their lives in port and this idle time adds considerably to the fixed cost of providing shipping service. Technological progress has empowered the construction of larger, faster and more economical vessels, but organisational and cargo handling innovations in the ports have not kept pace; in many instances the line-haul savings achieved by larger vessels are negated by excessive idle time in port, during which many costs continue unabated. The extent to which ship size affects loading time is thus a measure of the extent to which economies of scale can be implemented in the shipping industry; it is also important when making a rational selection of an optimal ship size. This study concentrates on the loading of grain ships in the port of Vancouver; the operations of the port are examined and the constituent factors of turnaround time delineated. Some of the possible causes of delay are investigated. The costs associated with unproductive ship time are then estimated and it is shown that many of the developments in the shipping industry are placing increased emphasis on a fast turnaround, the latter is often difficult to achieve because of disorganisation and conflicting interests in the port. The loading records of a sample of 1,305 grain ships are then examined with a view to determining the degree of size dependency inherent in the loading time and loading rate attained. It is concluded that there is an appreciable positive correlation between ship size and loading rate and that the portion of the variation explained by linear regression analysis is not inconsiderable. Combining these dependencies of ship size and loading rate with the dependency of ship size and cost estimated previously, the general form of the relationship between ship size and total loading time cost per ton is obtained. It is found that for those types of grain for which the results are most conclusive, the cost per ton falls up to large ship sizes. Having regard to the present loading procedures for grain in Vancouver some possible improvements are suggested, namely the provision of increased loading capacity and the aggregation of specific grades of grain around the harbour. A rough estimate of the possible benefits associated with these course of action is made. The potential benefits would seem to be considerable, but a high degree of co-operation and co-ordination between the various port interests would be required to attain them.

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