Port in a storm

One of few women in Australia to hold a supply chain executive position, Kerry Sanderson has successfully steered Fremantle Ports through major changes.

Kerry Sanderson recognises the importance of working closely with local government and the community to achieve a mutual understanding of issues and priorities.

Under her leadership as CEO, Fremantle Ports has developed an extensive program of consultation which is helping to build trust and support.

Fremantle Ports is a State Government trading enterprise, but under Sanderson’s guidance was commercialised in the mid 1990s.

According to Sanderson, this approach provides greater flexibility in the way the organisation operates; more closely matching the private sector.

“We work closely with our customers, port service providers and industry bodies,” Sanderson tells Logistics Magazine.

“As a commercialised entity, we have been able to successfully partner with a number of private sector organisations with mutually beneficial outcomes for achievement of business goals as well as improved understanding of critical success factors for both Fremantle Ports and our customers and port service providers.”

Awarded an Order of Australia (AO) in 2004 for service to the development and management of the port and maritime industries in Australia and to public sector governance in the areas of finance and transport, Sanderson sees her primary role as providing the leadership that ensures Fremantle Ports’ vision and strategic direction are clearly defined and aligned across the organisation.

“Recognising that ports operate in a highly dynamic, competitive and globalised environment, our continuing success depends on the ability to respond appropriately to national and international trends and to ensure that we have the support of our customers and the community for our future planning,” she says.

“We also attach a high priority to systematic and continuous improvement.”

“We need to demonstrate sound environmental management and build positive community and other stakeholder relationships.”

“One of the techniques we use to get a better handle on just what is critically important for our customers is the process known as value chain analysis,” Sanderson explains.

“The sharing of knowledge and information about what is critical to our customers and to measuring improvements is invaluable in improving our service delivery within the supply chain.”

“A recent example of successful industry partnering to proactively tackle a supply chain issue was the collaborative effort between Fremantle Ports, the Seafreight Council of Western Australia, the Port Operations Task Force, WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry, container terminal operators and the transport industry to reduce the likelihood of container congestion in the lead up to last Christmas.”

With a background in science and the public service, Kerry Sanderson says she was originally influenced by her father, an agricultural scientist and deputy director of Agriculture in WA for many years.

Before taking up her position as chief executive officer of Fremantle Ports in late 1991, Sanderson was deputy director general of Transport for Western Australia and previously director, Economic and Financial Policy with the WA Treasury Department.

“My early involvement with the export industry helped me focus on the importance of global competitiveness for our exporters, and understand that often issues beyond the supply gate are very important in ensuring viable industries,” she recalls.

“I like to emphasise to exporters the importance of concentrating on supply chain issues and taking an integrated approach.”

“Occasionally I have seen supply chain issues ignored in deciding on export markets and that’s normally a big mistake.”

“Treasury gave me a good understanding of the State’s economy and the importance of both trade and transport,” Sanderson adds.

“My years with Transport helped me to understand the transport role in Western Australia’s economy and the linkages between transport modes.”

Fremantle’s container trade in 2006-07 totalled over 505,000 TEUs. “Container trade growth has quadrupled over the past 15 years,” Sanderson says.

The year to date figures show continued strong growth, well above forecasts.”

“New motor vehicle imports are another strong performer for Fremantle Ports, reflecting the healthy state of the Western Australian economy, with the number of motor vehicle imports doubling over the past 5 years and steel imports by about 136 per cent over the past four years.”

Sanderson says continuing trade growth in a strong economy underlines the importance of planning well ahead and ensuring adequate investment in infrastructure to provide increased capacity in a timely way.

“The combination of supply chain growth and labour shortages in areas such as stevedoring and the trucking industry is a significant issue for port and related industry,” she says.

“Overcoming the underutilisation of resources resulting from factors such as empty running of trucks in one direction and the mismatch of working hours between warehouses and the wharf must be part of the solution to ensure that there is more efficiency through the chain.”

Sanderson views the trend towards bigger ships as significant, having an impact on ports worldwide, particularly where there are draft constraints.

“The average size of container ships calling at Fremantle is now about 70 per cent bigger than 15 years ago” she says.

“To ensure that the needs of industry are met, Fremantle needs to deepen its Inner Harbour, particularly in view of the economies of scale facilitated by Melbourne Port’s deepening.”

“Depending on approvals, our planning is to undertake the deepening and associated work in 2009.”

“Larger ships following Inner Harbour deepening will impact on the supply chain through larger discharges placing pressures on terminals and the land transport chain,” Sanderson says.

“Potential terminal advances including better use of technology could play an important role in managing these future demands.”

Kerry Sanderson believes there is considerable scope for greater use of Electronic Data Interchange to improve the efficiency and reliability of information exchange between supply chain participants.

“While important advances have occurred in recent years, some interfaces continue to be based on paper exchange and sometimes verbal messages,” she observes.

“We are currently working with industry to examine the interfaces between shipping lines, container parks and road operators to see what advances might be possible in this area.”

“Similarly, improved communication to the road industry of prevailing conditions at the port and on roads servicing the port (as is being trialled in Melbourne at the moment) should assist in fleet management and alleviating road congestion,” Sanderson says.

“Improved vehicle booking systems to encourage better use of trucks will be important as well as systems to ensure the needs of the trucking industry are taken into account to improve efficiency at the interface with the port.”

The sustained growth in Fremantle Ports’ container trade as well as growth in break bulk cargoes means that Fremantle Ports’ Inner Harbour will reach optimal capacity by 2015.

Work towards approvals for construction of additional container and general cargo port facilities and associated land transport links is well advanced.

“Kwinana Quay has been selected as the appropriate site for the new facilities and two options are progressing through the statutory approval phase,” Sanderson says.

“One is an island design; the other partially land-backed and including an offshore component in its second stage. Each would provide capacity for in excess of 1.4 million standard containers.”

“It is important to emphasise that both the Inner Harbour at Fremantle and the proposed new Kwinana Quay will be needed to operate in tandem to handle the increased trade forecast and that the new facilities are planned to provide the same berth length as the existing North Quay in Fremantle,” Sanderson emphasises.

“In other words we are looking at additional rather than replacement port facilities. The Inner Harbour and Kwinana Quay would both continue to operate.”

According to Sanderson, Fremantle Ports’ planned developments present a great opportunity.

“An intermodal terminal with associated functions will be developed to service the planned additional port facilities at Kwinana,” she enthuses.

“This could allow for the incorporation of a freight village concept with warehousing and a range of value adding activities integrated into the precinct serving the new port as well as interstate trade.”

“Globalisation throws up some huge challenges and it’s becoming increasingly important for us all to understand the implications of continued strong trade growth,” Sanderson points out.

“A major strategic opportunity for Fremantle Ports is to get its future planning and delivery right during this time of strong economic growth and labour shortage.”

“In this regard I am talking about port facilities as well as intermodal facilities and road and rail links to the port.”

“We also need to give priority to environmental and safety issues because this is expected of us by our employees and the community,” she adds.

“Given our dependence on trade, it is vitally important that the world’s major shipping lines have reason to maintain their services to Australian ports.” Sanderson maintains.

“Our ports need to continue to work closely with customers, port services providers and others in the supply chain so that on-going efficiencies can be achieved.”

“Being forward looking and in a position to respond quickly to changing global circumstances is an important part of this.”

“We need to continue to be innovative and strategic in the way we manage, always looking ahead, reading the market and analysing the trends,” Sanderson says.

“We need to think globally to see what is happening around us and how what is happening is likely to affect us.”