Computer upgrade could make Port of Miami more efficient
By Shannon Pettypiece
Port of Miami's main terminal company is improving logistics and lowering fees to compete with other southern ports.
The Port of Miami Terminal Operating Company recently invested $2 million in an automation system designed to improve speed and accuracy and allow shippers to track cargo online. The company's previous computer system allowed few shippers to check online to see if their cargo had docked.
"It will improve turnaround time and accuracy," said CEO Brooks Royster.
The private terminal company, which services all but two shipping lines in and out of the port, spent $1.4 million on four giant forklifts to move containers. The additional equipment will shorten the time between cargo arrivals and departures and increase capacity, Mr. Royster said.
Along with the infrastructure improvements, the company has lowered its fee to access the terminal by 5% per container at a time when many ports and terminal companies are raising fees to meet rising costs of federal security regulations, he said.
The fee reduction was possible because the Port of Miami eliminated a tariff imposed on the terminals, Mr. Royster said.
"In the past, the port assessed a fee on us, and they are no longer assessing that fee, and in turn, we are passing that saving on to our customers," Mr. Royster said. "In order to become more competitive, we have reduced that fee."
By working with the US Customs Service and Border Patrol, the terminal has been able to reduce the time between entry and release of cargo from 12 to five days, he said.
Because Port of Miami is so close to downtown, unlike many ports, it is difficult for truckers to get in and out and to major highways during rush hour and special events.
Congestion around the port caused several shippers to leave the port last year. But still, Mr. Royster said, his company has been able to maintain its growth.
"There has been some movement of some lines to other ports, but we've actually shown growth," Mr. Royster said. "Existing lines have filled the gaps."
During the past five years, the company, formed in 1994, has enjoyed 30% growth in volume. The port has seen traffic increase 7.4% in the past year, according to port statistics.
Even though Port Everglades is only minutes up the coastline, close to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and near major highways, Mr. Royster said, Miami's main competition comes from ports in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas.
"We don't really see Port Everglades as a competitor," he said.
Port of Miami expects to complete $170 million in improvements this year - including new cruise terminals, reconfiguration of roads, a security gateway complex and new warehouse space.
The port has an annual economic impact on Miami-Dade County of $8 billion and creates 45,000 direct and indirect jobs.