Meridian Port Services ltd ( a joint venture between the GPHA and Meridian Port Holdings Limited, which is in turn a joint venture with Bolloré Group and APM Terminals ) is a
container terminal operator in Ghana and operating at the Tema port, since the commencements of operation in 2007, it has changed the sphere of container terminal operations at the Tema port by investing in modern handling equipments, terminal operating softwares and providing skilled training for its staff. Meet Sammie Obeng Yeboah one of its hard working vessel dispatchers who happens to be the youngest in the country as well. Enjoy the first part of the interview
GhanaShippingGuide (GSG): Good day Young Sir and how is life treating you. To begin with, how long have you been actively working in the maritime industry and how long now as a vessel dispatcher.Can you also clear the air about your age,
Sammie Obeng Yeboah (SOY): I have been in the industry for about 2 and a half years now, but I began vessel dispatching from September 2014, roughly 7 months now. And am 26 now so I got involved at 23.
GSG: Okay , so before vessel dispatching your were doing something else in the industry.
SOY: yeah, I first started as a yard dispatcher, a position I held for about 2 years before taking up my new challenge as a vessel dispatcher.
GSG: That might be a quick transition then from yard to vessel, how challenging was it during your days as a yard dispatcher, because I know a yard dispatcher practically is supposed to give and know every location of every box in such a huge terminal.
SOY: Well it was a bit stressful in the early stages when I started. Formally, you would have to manually give locations to every single box that enters the terminal. If you loose focus for say just 5 minutes and 10 boxes enters the terminal without proper locations, imagine the chaos. However, a new system now called “Expert Decking” has helped simplify issues, The system takes into consideration the type of box, nature , weight, vessel, port of call etc and automatically gives locations based on those factors. So it’s a bit simplified now.
GSG: okay, back to your current job, what is a typical day like for a vessel dispatcher, what exactly do you do.
SOY: To begin with we use the NAVIS-SPARCS terminal operating system at the terminal. On a typical day of work, the equipment controller makes me aware of the number of equipments at my disposal to use for my work thus trucks, empty handlers, reachstackers as well as the main cranes (STS). So as a dispatcher it’s my duty to allocate all this equipments in such a manner to optimize productivity and reduce machinery downtime, you need to keep the work flow. We however do not manually allocate trucks to cranes but instead , the prime route system allocates trucks to the berths, say berth 1 or 2. All trucks are put in one single pool with the help of the “global pooling system” the system then automatically allocates trucks to the cranes to ensure that cranes are always feed with containers.
GSG: Does that mean your job is practically being done for you with the mention of all this softwares,
SOY: You may rather say that it has helped simplified it, the human factor is very much needed for the effectiveness of this systems. One challenge with the “Global Pooling System” is that, it needs constant monitoring. There are times that the system allocates all trucks to a particular crane disrupting systematical operation (first box first then the next), so if you do not monitor properly you end up having an idle crane at one side of the vessel because the trucks are not feeding it with ‘boxes’. The trucks are also not feeding the cranes because they have not been dispatched, the chain runs along and that’s a valuable time lost in operation.
GSG: well I guess it must be very challenging and difficult then
SOY: rightly said, however we have our less stressful days, Thus when you have a vessel that is calling a particular port, loading becomes a bit easier as all boxes are destined for one port, however with those vessels calling multiple ports you have to be on your “toes” to ensure wrong boxes are not loaded to wrong bays.
GSG: Does your age with regards being young pose any limitation in terms of executing your job in such a work environment with lots of different people.
SOY: Talking to people on radio some of whom are old enough or even older than your father and you having to “push” them around, stop, drop that box, move to the next bay etc, there are also times that you realize that the vessel is listing and you would have to convince an operator to stop and move to a different bay to start loading etc. that is my challenge having to sometimes be a little aggressive with these grown people, it’s the most frustrating part of my job, but interestingly my operators and the team always understand that it’s the nature of the job, so we meet at the end of the day to cool off tempers and prepare for the next day’s task .
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