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Thursday 31 October 2013

The ghost ship "Flying Dutchman"

Throughout the ages seamen have reported seeing ghost ships at sea.

The most famous and legendary of all was the "Flying Dutchman". The sight of which to a sailor meant doom was imminent.

The "Flying Dutchman" was a Dutch man-of-war built in the 1700's. As the story goes she was a Dutch East India Company ship that was rounding the infamous Cape of Good Hope when she hit a severe storm. Rather than find safe harbour, the captain said he'd hold his heading until judgement day and the ship and her crew disappeared into the storm to never be seen again......

Until.....sailors started reporting sighting her all the way through to the 20th century. Even King George V claimed to have sighted her between Sydney and Melbourne in 1880 while he was on board the "HMS Inconstant". 

She was often said to be seen with dark clouds above her and she would pass across other ships bows right before something terrible happened.

Happy Halloween!

+Brad Skelton 

Monday 28 October 2013

Which carrier wouldn't allow a marine surveyor on board their ship?

Today I had a client with a crane being loaded and shipped with one of the worlds largest RoRo shipping lines ex Brisbane. The client and his underwriters requested that a marine surveyor conduct a survey on the cargo and most importantly the lashing and securing of the cargo once on board the vessel. A fair and reasonable request and one that goes to the heart of the cargo's safe delivery, integrity and also to maritime safety in general.

To everyone's surprise and frustration, the shipping line refused to allow a marine surveyor on board their ship to conduct the survey. This is an unbelievable, arrogant and potentially risky stance adopted by the carrier and one that has caused my client to tell me to never ship cargo with them again. 

Marine Surveyors are highly qualified to inspect cargo, vessels and equipment on behalf of shippers, shipping lines and underwriters. On the waterfront they are highly respected as many of them are retired ships captains with tremendous experience who understand from first hand experience the power of the sea and it's effects on ships and cargo alike. Furthermore their ethics are considered by all as being beyond reproach and in my experience they have always conducted themselves in a neutral and highly professional manner. 

They play an essential role in shipping and one that is key to maintaining safe and high standards in maritime operations for all stakeholders and the environment. Many times they have raised concerns prior to or during loading of a ship that has potentially avoided dangerous incidents.

Any carrier who denies a marine surveyor on board their vessels in my view is short sighted, unreasonable and perhaps should not be entrusted with my clients cargo. Marine surveyors should be allowed to go anywhere and draw attention to any concerns they see. It is in EVERYONES interest to have such experienced people present to conduct a survey!

Many ships have capsized or sunk in heavy seas as the lashings on the cargo have not been correctly done or weren't secure enough to stop the cargo moving and slamming into the hull of the ship or other cargo. Several years ago a wheel loader broke it's lashings at sea during heavy weather. Every time the vessel pitched and rolled the bucket and it's teeth rammed into the hull. The machine was stowed below the waterline and eventually the teeth poked a sizable hole in the hull which lead to the entire vessel sinking.

Would anybody like to take a guess at which carrier denied my client a survey of his cargo? You can leave a comment in the field at the footer of this post.

All for now,

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Cargo transhipment re-invented - lower handling costs and better for the environment.

+Jenny Ruffell Smith from my team recently attended a seminar hosted by the Nautical Institute.

Sea Transport spoke about a new concept for transhipment of cargo.

Costs of moving materials, such as iron ore, can be significantly increased if transport infrastructure and/or deep-water ports, are not located close to mine sties and easily accessible  Usually mining companies are faced with transporting materials long distances either by road or rail and frequently building an expensive terminal and jetty facility.

Transhipment allows smaller vessels with shallower drafts to transfer materials from a small harbour close to the mine site and then transfer to a oceangoing export vessel stationed offshore.

The latest innovation is the Floating Harbour Transhipper (FHT - pictured). A self-propelled feeder vessel berths in the FHT's aft well dock where the FHT unloads the feeder vessel and transfers materials to onboard stockpiles or straight to an ocean going vessel. 

Transhipment - Sea transport

The FHT can withstand 4m wave height, which reduces down-time, demurage and feeder damage. Also, due to the feeder and FHT both being enclosed, this ensures a dust free transshipment and dry cargo. Due to the shallow draft of the feeder, vessels can be used from very small ports eliminating the need for dredging sensitive areas, constructing large jetties and reducing port charges. It also eliminates the need for large sheds ashore for stockpiling. 

This method of transhipment also has potential to handle containers as well in remote ports.

Transhipment - Sea transport

This innovation new vessel would be very beneficial in Australia where millions of tons of raw materials are exported every year and much of it in an environmentally sensitive area and transported long distances by rail and road.

Great to see such innovative ideas gradually becoming reality.

All for now,

Tuesday 15 October 2013

4PL "us too"...and a FREE supply chain health check.

Perhaps imitation really is the sincerest form flattery. 

My team and I launched a 4PL (Fourth party Logistics) service specifically for heavy industry and major projects earlier this year. By leveraging the enormous direct knowledge and experience we have gained in owning and operating in all manner of transport operations from cranes, trucks, freight forwarding companies, customs brokerages, warehouses, storage yards and quarantine facilities we have been able to save clients millions of dollars in some instances.

Since launching this new service we have noticed competitors, large and small, saying "us too" and now advertising they are 4PL providers when indeed most of them are not or perhaps even properly understand the concept or role they need to play.

The essence of being a 4PL provider is that you are 100% neutral. To be truly neutral you must be non-asset based. This means that you do not operate your own warehouses, trucks, planes, cranes or ships. If you do then immediately you have a conflict as you will naturally favor cargo traffic for your own assets ahead delivering the best solution for the client no matter who the provider is. This is one of the keys.

The other key is a good 4PL provider must have it's own in house IT capability and systems to support it's clients logistics and supply chain management.  Off the shelf software packages that most 3PL forwarders run do not have the modules or analytical sophistication to support a 4PL supply chain strategy.

I back my team and I to find efficiency gains and cost reductions in your supply chain whether that be domestically and/or internationally. Therefore between now and the 30th of November this year I am offering a FREE 4PL supply chain health check. There are no fees for our time if we cannot find gains for you.

If you'd like to take advantage of this offer, please email or call me. Ph: +61414362707

All for now,

+Brad Skelton 

Thursday 3 October 2013

I'm proud that this humble blog has been recognised as a key global shipping industry website!

I'd like to thank Logistics Degree for rating my blog as one of the 95 key websites for global shipping & freight. You can click on the badge below to see the full list.

Thanks to my blog readers who by subscribing and following have helped this be achieved.

Now the pressure is on more than ever to keep the entertaining, informative and thought provoking posts coming.

Stay tuned!

+Brad Skelton 

Monday 30 September 2013

Robotics & the "OK Principle" - Two of the keys to future competitiveness.

Last Friday I attended a luncheon in Brisbane at PWC's office to meet with other mining service providers to discuss the current state of the market and best practices to grow your business in this climate.

It was unanimous that mining company expenditure in Australia is radically down and impacting most companies represented. Furthermore everyone agreed that price was the main driver of these companies in this climate and most people said their profit margins are really suffering.

What struck me was that some of the companies represented there seem to be living in hope that the market will soon improve and they will ride it out and return to pre-global financial crisis sales and profitability. I personally believe those days are gone for good and that Australian mining, like many other industries, is undergoing a transformation in a bid to be globally competitive.

So what is the transformation? There are numerous things changing rapidly however the two big ones in my view is labor and equipment costs. 

Aussie miners cannot compete globally while paying equipment operators $140k++ per annum. The reality is that equipment operators in African mines are lucky to get $1000 per month. Rio Tinto is tackling this with unmanned(robotic) Komatsu mining trucks now operating in Western Australia. The truck fleet can be operated from a control room not even situated in Australia if they wish. Rio have also moved to unmanned trains to deliver the ore to port. 

Unmanned Komatsu mining trucks
The other trend is miners are offshore outsourcing business tasks to remain competitive and importing equipment from suppliers in China, India and other countries at lower costs. At lunch I must have heard it at least 4 times where an exec complained about margin pressure due to cheaper imports and how they were trying to convince their clients about quality. Admirable and it would be nice to keep Aussies employed but WAKE UP! The quality of Chinese imports is rapidly improving so the argument about quality is just about null and void. Many of the worlds biggest equipment manufacturers now have factories in China and the quality is excellent. You know the market is currently driven by price so that is what you need to give your customers. The best price. Period! The reality is that unless Aussie suppliers either go offshore for their manufacturing or transform their factory productions lines to be completely robotic they will cease to exist. You can't swim against the tide.

It is fair to say that mining in Australia has had an incredible run of growth for a long time. A "BOOM" is what has been proclaimed. At the height of it one of my major mining equipment supplier clients told me "It's like drinking water from a fire hose and swallowing as fast we can!". The boom is over now though and my belief is that while undergoing change the market is also normalising. 

So what is normal? Pre-boom volumes and conditions. It's not their fault but many of the execs at the luncheon and their employees(many of which are still on astronomical and nonsensical salaries...which are coming back to earth) have never seen anything but boom times so they are floundering.

A sense of urgency is required for these companies to fully accept the dynamics and state of the current market and re-engineer their businesses to be able to play in it in the long term as if the current climate is the new norm. They also need to be ready for volatility as the global economy is still very sick. 

To grow and survive they will have to adopt the "OK Principle". What is that? My team are probably sick of me saying it......

"Overheads Kill!"

All for now,

+Brad Skelton 

Sunday 29 September 2013

Beautiful Day

The Depth Industries team and I are doing the MS Moonlight Walk on Friday the 18th of October to raise funds to support people with Multiple Sclerosis and help end this disease.

We would be grateful if you would sponsor us and share this blog post to help us achieve our target.

We will post updates of our progress and the walk itself on +Depth Industries .

Thank you!