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DBTG webinar agrees staff welfare is top priority

DBTG webinar agrees staff welfare is top priority

(Posted on 16/06/20)

Paul Goris, Executive Director of the Dry Bulk Terminals Group, has successfully moderated a webinar for dry bulk terminals worldwide. Following a wide ranging discussion between leading industry executives, staff welfare emerged as the main priority for global bulk handling companies.

The DBTG is a not-for-profit society open to all owners/operators of dry bulk terminals world-wide. Established in 1998 the group provides an effective forum and voice for a global, but highly fragmented, industry that is of critical importance to the seaborne trade and transportation of dry bulk commodities.

Paul Goris has released a statement covering the global conversation – an extended version will be published in the next issue of IBJ:

“COVID-19 has been dominant in our industry and daily lives. It is time to make the conclusions. How has it been effecting our operations ? What did and does it mean in the area of Human Resources/to our employees? What are the lessons learnt by ship/shore interfaces ? And even more important: What experiences can be used for the future ? What are the lessons learnt and will we continue with our newly learnt ‘habits’?

All panel members agreed that a lot of lessons have been learnt and the main conclusion was that ‘taking care of your staff’ should have highest priority. The speakers panel included:

Hennie du Plooy, CEO Port Waratah Coal Services (Australia)
Frikkie Burger, Manager Growth & Optimization Logistics at Kumba Iron Ore (South Africa)
Han Ozturk,  Operational and Technical Director of Nectar Group (HQ in UK, but with operations in Africa and Asia)
Andrés Gomez Bueno,  CEO Grupo GOF (Spain)
Scott Becnel,  Director Cooper Consolidated (USA)

According to Hennie du Plooy the handled volumes, as Japan en South East Asia consume 120 million mt a year from this region, stayed equal during COVID-19. However, the changes and challenges were mainly about how to operate the terminal. As coal volumes were constant and all staff continued to operate, COVID-19 made that all office staff worked on a remote basis from home. This made the IT support highly important and the terminal had to buy additional equipment to be used during handling, e.g. Ipads. There were additional strict controls around people who are interacting in the interface between vessels and terminals.

As Anglo American are operating two iron ore mines in South Africa, Frikkie Burger says that a hard stop in production was made from 26 March for an entire week.  After 7 days the mines restarted at 50% capacity having an effect on terminal handlings and rail transports to the Ports. This resulted in huge delays. Today, the operation is back to operations at a level between 80% - 90%.

According to Scott Becnel, the Mississippi river region is important to the total supply chain of coal and other dry bulk products. Staff has been educated how to prevent from Covid-19. All efforts have been made to make sure that employees were able to work in a safe way. With commodities like grain, steel, raw materials, and fertilizers, the volumes remained at quite good levels. The assumption made by Scott is that there will only be 10-20% less handling in volumes during next months. The communication flow from Governmental bodies with the terminals has been satisfactory.

Spanish Grupo GOF, mainly active in grain handling says: “We are a small family business. Spain was serious hit by Covid-19 so there was quite a huge effect on the awareness of and fear for the virus by all people. We may have overreacted at the start, but I am happy to have done so, because underreacting could have been disastrous. As there are many connections between Spain and Italy, 4 employees were tested positive but luckily they came out well”. However, in grain there was an increase of activities. Grupo GOF started to work 18 hours a day and also around Eastern more activities were carried out than in ‘normal times’.”

Regarding the COVID-19 effect on employees, Nectar Group’s Han Ozturk said: “We operate 3 terminals and with 10 million tons of commodities per annum. We have most office people now working from home. This was and is a success. Everyone was dedicated using social media and technology. We have not had any case of Covid-19 in one of the terminals. A positive effect was that we did empower the lower employees which has worked out very well”.

The DBTD’s Conference will be in Rotterdam from 5 – 7 October 2020. The conference is open for Members and Associated Members. www.drybulkterminals.org

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