Papua New Guinea’s Lae set to become Pacific hub


Port operator International Container Terminals Services is looking to improve efficiency at Papua New Guinea’s ports, and opening the way for new business opportunities.

Credit: ICTSI

PNG’s busiest port of Lae is set to become a hub for the South Pacific, according to Robert Maxwell, CEO of International Container Terminals Services (ICTSI) South Pacific, which manages both Lae port and Port Moresby’s port at Motukea Island under licence.

Major investment from ICTSI in new cranes, gangtries and vehicles in Lae will greatly improve the port’s capacity, explains Maxwell. This will enable the second-largest city in PNG to become ‘a transhipment hub’ for freight across the Pacific region.

‘Rather than the main line ship travelling to smaller outports and experiencing delays, that vessel will be able to discharge the containers in Lae quickly. A feeder vessel can then take the containers and serve the outports. This represents massive cost savings for the shipping line. Eventually, that will be translated into improvements for both importers and exporters.’

Maxwell tells Business Advantage PNG there is some transhipment in Lae already, so there is a precedent and an understanding of how it works.

‘Cargo coming from overseas previously had to wait outside the port for three or four days, and now it’s a matter of hours.’

‘The main change will be the sheer volume of it, and we are already in discussion with the shipping lines. We have at least 200 to 300 containers a month that are transhipping already. We aim to increase that up to 3000 or 4000 a month.’

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Under ICTSI’s management, which started in 2018, PNG’s two main ports have progressively become more efficient.

‘Cargo coming from overseas previously had to wait outside the port for three or four days, and now it’s a matter of hours. [That] reduces the working capital that the importer has tied up on his order to be delivered and placed into stock and the warehouse’

Going digital

Credit: ICTSI

The company, which handles 200,000 containers a year, is now digitising many processes in its quest for greater efficiencies.

It is already using artificial intelligence to determine the optimum location to stack a container based on when it will be collected.

As well as having automated inventory management for its own spare parts, Maxwell says the company is also introducing electronic data interchange technology to send messages between the shipping line, customs and the importers.

‘We have already digitised the invoice and what is called the gate pass, which authorises the truck to come in to collect a container,’ he says.

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