Project Description

The Port of Point Lisas plays a vital role in the economy of Trinidad and in the day-to-day lives and wellbeing of Trinidad and Tobago’s entire population. More than half of all of the domestic cargo throughput moves across Point Lisas Port’s Berths – and, alongside this, the Port handles a wide range of cargoes in support of the offshore oil and gas industry, petrochemical industry, as well as the transhipment of containers and other cargo destined for other destinations in the region.

In 2018, the Port of Point Lisas saw an increase in container throughput and also in overall volumes. This followed a reduction in volumes for a couple of years, due to a slow Trinidadian economy and a fall in offshore exploration because of lower oil prices.

“Our domestic cargo will have a variance of 10-15% depending on demand – much of that is driven by the ups and downs of the construction industry and the economy, plus seasonal variations such as in the run-up to Christmas”

“In the oil industry, if there is a lot of exploration then we will see a significant increase in pipes, drilling mud and other general cargo. The Port intends to develop and expand its cargo handling services for the energy sector in 2019.”

Harold Ragbir, Vice President, Port Operations

Exports, meanwhile, include furniture, manufactured food items, fresh produce such as mangoes, pumpkins and coconuts, beer, rum and soft drinks, feed, fertilisers, melamine and other chemicals. Trinidadian exports are shipped to all parts of the world, with a high amount destined for countries within the region.

In 2018, the Port of Point Lisas handled 371,954 metric tonnes of general cargo compared to 234,487 metric tonnes in 2017, a 58.6% increase. Containerised throughput rose by 5.2% from 162,498 TEUs in 2017 to 170,951 in 2018.

Geography dictates the space available at the Port – but PLIPDECO’s efficient processes and operations, focus on detailed planning and commitment to constant communication ensure that shipping lines, shippers and other port users are assured of the best possible service.

PLIPDECO has a very important environmental management and monitoring role, to ensure all tenants adhere to the guidelines. Many original 30-year leases are in the process of renewals, providing an opportunity to enforce even more stringent environmental protection requirements.

Meanwhile, PLIPDECO continues to invest in berth improvements and new equipment to meet growing demand to deal with emerging challenges.

Operations and processes

The smooth running of container flows through the Port of Point Lisas is based on a highly successful Navis Terminal Operating System (TOS), which has been tailored to the port’s needs and has recently been upgraded to N4.

A one-way, horseshoe-shaped system operates in the terminal and the entire process is controlled through Navis and the equipment are tracked using GPS technology.

Among the major developments in 2018 was the installation of two mobile container scanners by Trinidad and Tobago’s Customs and Excise Division  – one each for Import and Export.

Donated by the US Government, the new equipment can scan containers in seven minutes or less; they have been integrated seamlessly into the flow of containers through the Port and play a vital role in border security.

Also during 2018, a comprehensive refurbishment of Berths 3 and 4 was completed, new fenders were constructed and installed, one of the Port’s two Gottwald harbour mobile cranes was overhauled and its electronics improved.

PLIPDECO also took delivery of 10 new Trailers in the first quarter of 2019, 12 new forklifts and one Reach Stacker in 2018; this was part of a phased replacement of Port equipment, which included the delivery of one Empty Container Handler and six trucks in 2016, and two Reach Stackers, in 2017.

“We work with the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to ensure that our equipment is overhauled and maintained to their requirements and to ensure that it is fully functional in all aspects”

“For example, Kone’s engineering team was at the Port to work with us on the overhaul of our RTGs. Our carefully planned maintenance programme improves and enhances our operations, because the availability and uptime of our equipment has increased – that reduces vessel alongside time and means we have satisfied principals and agents.”

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The process starts when the Haulier arrives at the gate; it identifies the container required and the gate staff will know if the container is cleared for delivery; it instructs the RTG driver, in the cab, which container to pick up and where; it directs the Haulier to the pick-up point; and, through its links with Customs and other inspection authorities, Navis will direct the Haulier to the scanner and/or the Container Examination Station (CES) if a container is to be scanned and/or unpacked for checking before it can be authorised to leave.

The berths at the Port are served by two rail-mounted Liebherr ship-to-shore gantry cranes which each have a
40-tonne single lift/50-tonne twin lift capacity, and two Gottwald mobile harbour cranes with a maximum capacity of 100 and 125 tonnes. These have the versatility to handle bulk, breakbulk and containerised cargoes.

PLIPDECO’s extensive terminal handling equipment also includes six Konecrane Rubber Tyred Gantry (RTG) cranes, which have the capacity to stack containers five-high, and six Reach Stackers, able to stack containers four and five-high.

These are backed by a fleet of forklifts, ranging from three to 30 tonnes capacity, two Empty Container Handlers stacking containers four-high, 20 tractor trucks and 21 trailers.

During 2018, PLIPDECO also trained its stowage planners in the use of the Navis XVELA stowage planning and management system; this Cloud-based, secure data-sharing system enables collaboration between carriers and terminal planners to optimise stowage.

Harbour management
PLIPDECO’s Planning Department is not only at the core of its container yard
and vessel operations – it also has responsibility, through the Harbour and Marine Department, for overseeing and coordinating all movements in the harbour of Point Lisas.

“Harbour and Marine is responsible for managing all movements of vessels in the Point Lisas harbour”

“We provide mooring and unmooring of all vessels, coordination with all the shipping lines and agencies, and also coordinate with National Energy, which owns the channel and basin.”

“We work with National Energy to draw up a weekly schedule of vessels requiring to come into the harbour for various operations – including container, breakbulk, workboats and supply vessels. We also provide moorings for the specialised piers – for methanol, ammonia, urea, etc.”

Deoraj Mahase, PLIPDECO’s Junior Manager, Planning

All vessels are required to liaise with PLIPDECO’s Harbour and Marine Department via standard VHF.

Pilotage and towage is compulsory for all vessels over 50 metres; the Harbour and Marine Department coordinates pilotage and also towage, which is provided by National Energy through its tugs and workboats, while organising berthing availability.

Pilotage is extremely flexible and responsive, thanks to the deployment of a floating pilot station which is usually out at anchorage – enabling pilots to react quickly to any requirements.

Once PLIPDECO knows that vessels are en route, it seeks information on cargo to be discharged and loaded, together with any special instructions – provided by the agent via the Navis system.

This allows time for export containers to be shifted in advance for optimal loading. Careful planning is vital in order to make the best use of yard space, berths and to deliver optimum productivity.

“By knowing the precise location of containers before the vessel arrives in Port, we can see in advance where we are going to stow containers,”

“This gives us an opportunity to plan in advance – achieving optimisation, efficiency and increased productivity.”

– Harold Ragbir.

PLIPDECO provides as much flexibility as possible, and also notifies agents if there are any change in berth availability – that can sometimes give vessels more time, so they can slow down and save fuel.

“When the vessel comes in – it’s a case of executing the plan,” says Deoraj Mahase. “A great deal of effort goes into the pre-planning, to ensure that the containers are in the right place, our Rubber Tyred Gantry (RTG) operators are prepared, Hauliers know which bay to go to, and so on.”

Keeping the Cargo Moving

Twice-daily operational meetings are held by the Cargo Handling Department, bringing together representatives of the key PLIPDECO teams, including Cargo Handling, Timekeepers, Assistant Terminal Operations Supervisors, Planning and Engineering and Maintenance.

Acting on the vessel schedule provided by the Harbour Management team, the team, chaired by the Cargo Handling Manager Clint Duncan, allocates berths, personnel and equipment, while also considering the requirements of a continuous programme of equipment and infrastructure maintenance. A particular challenge is handling peak flows of reefer containers – particularly as the demand for food imports rises dramatically in the run-up to the Christmas holidays.

This approach will be critical as PLIPDECO aims to increase its volume of transhipment, he adds:

“Transhipment is dependent on efficiencies and high levels of productivity. This is our approach and we are continuously working with the shipping lines in this regard.”

“If a customer is constantly paying for containers that are staying overlong in Port, we can help them to establish what the problem is. We want to help improve customers’ efficiency, and through this programme we can help them to analyse and improve their processes.”

– Harold Ragbir

“We have to ensure we have the facilities to accommodate the number of reefer containers and also accommodate export reefers”

Clint Duncan

The Port has 106 permanent reefer plugs; an additional 52 can be provided by using gensets, and there is also the ability to contract additional reefer capacity within the Port at very short notice.

The Cargo Handling Team is also responsible for the Less than Container Load (LCL) Warehouse, where operations include unstuffing, storage and delivery of cargo.

Digital World
PLIPDECO’s focus on digitalisation ties in neatly with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago’s commitment to strengthening its national Single Electronic Window (SEW) for trade and business facilitation.

Named TTBizLink, the SEW is a secure, user-friendly platform that enables online preparation, submission and processing of over 40 trade and business-related transactions; services include the e-Certificate of Origin, e-Goods Declaration, e-Import/Export Permits and Licences, and the e-Maritime Services Division.

All of these, and more, are part of a concerted national drive to reduce paperwork, time and cost and deliver more convenience through e-payments and more e-services.

“This gives them total visibility and helps them to avoid unnecessary costs”

– Harold Ragbir.

PLIPDECO has also taken a step further, developing a system through which large companies will be able to monitor the movement of their containers from the time they come off the vessel through to the last rent-free day of storage on the quayside.

Great communication

A key part of PLIPDECO’s success is in recognising that communication should be face-to-face, as well as digital.

Port Users’ Meetings are held quarterly – they are very well attended, and they are lively affairs! PLIPDECO managers provide updates on port performance, volumes, training, infrastructure improvements, maintenance works and equipment; Port Users feel able to raise questions and issues, and appreciate that PLIPDECO’s managers are there in person, to answer questions as they arise.

PLIPDECO also holds monthly meetings with shipping lines using the Port, and liaises regularly with Customs and Excise.

“There is a national project to go paperless, and we continue to develop Navis and to develop and implement our own in-house software,” says Harold  Ragbir. “We are very focused on  improving our service to the customer –  if you take half an hour to do something now, we want to do it in quarter of an hour. It isn’t a case of giving people more time, but helping them to need less time.”

“However, we never forget that this is a people business. Port users have direct access to the management team and we are proud of our reputation for customer service. We have Port Users’ Meetings, we meet with our customers, we pick up the phone – that approach still goes a very long way.”

PLIPDECO has also taken a step further, developing a system through which large companies will be able to monitor the movement of their containers from the time they come off the vessel through to the last rent-free day of storage on the quayside.

Container weighing

In 2016, when the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) SOLAS amendments came into force, requiring all containers to be weighed before loading, PLIPDECO was ahead of the crowd.

All export containers were already being weighed at the Port of Point Lisas, with exporters happy to accept the weights provided by PLIPDECO as the accepted VGM (verified gross mass). As a result of PLIPDECO’s foresight, customers were able to experience a seamless transition when the IMO required containers to be weighed. However, investment in a new automated weighbridge system using RFID technology has made the process more efficient, including in the provision of the VGM information to stakeholders.

Container scanning

Approximately 4,000 containers went through the Customs and Excise  Division’s new container scanners at the Port of Point Lisas in the first six months of their operation in 2018. Two mobile container scanners, one each for imports and exports, were paid for by the US Government; they have been integrated seamlessly into the flow of containers through the Port and play a vital role in border security.

The scanning technology is important  in combatting the import of illegal

goods such as narcotics, firearms and ammunition. The scanning process, taking less than seven minutes, is designed to detect weapons, hazardous materials and other illegal activities such as human trafficking.

Between 40 and 80 containers a day, including reefer boxes, pass through the scanners.

When Customs or other authorities decide the container needs a full  inspection, the driver is directed to the Container Examination Station (CES); a dedicated warehouse facility in a fully secured compound very close to the Port, it has ten unstuffing bays, including two with specialist reefer connections and refrigerated areas for inspection of contents. PLIPDECO manages this facility and provides the labour required.

Facts and figures

• The ‘Gateway to the Americas’, the Port of Point Lisas handles shipping services to and from Latin America and the Caribbean, the US, Europe and the Far East.

• The Port of Point Lisas is a multipurpose, multi-talented, highly flexible facility, handling dry and liquid bulks, containers, general cargo, breakbulk cargo and project cargo – operating 24 hours, seven days a week.

• The Port is fully compliant with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.

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