South Florida Container Terminal

All of the truckers and SS lines South Florida Container Terminal (SFCT) works with are focused on shortening the time it takes to get in and out of a port, so it makes sense that SFCT’s major investments would focus on that as well.

“Our customers – which are the SS lines and the truckers – expect quick turnaround of their vessels and their drivers to meet their commitments,” explains Director Mark Baker. “With the distribution centers opening up around the ports and the just-in-time supply concepts, it is important to maintain quick turn times for the customer. It’s a requirement in today’s high performance supply chains.”

Founded in 1983, SFCT continues to evolve with customer expectations, as well. The terminal opened at the Port of Miami with just 10 acres and has since expanded to 82 acres. SFCT serves as a stevedore and terminal operator catering to SS lines from around the world that are shipping every type of consumer good, from televisions and refrigerators to frozen poultry. The company uses software to manage shipments coming in and out and expedite the process.

“We rely on technology to make decisions that will better serve our customers and increase their future business,” Baker says. “The software gives the laborers access to the next containers being picked up, so they know what’s next and can get set up for the drivers.”

Bigger and Better

Investing in proven logistics software is of greater necessity as the terminal expects to see bigger ships coming through the port soon from the new Panama Canal. Targeted to be completed by January 2016, the expanded Panama Canal will increase the existing container TEUs traveling through the canal from 5,000 to 13,000 TEUs per container.

“We have handled container ships that carry 9,000 TEUs before and we’re looking toward the future with the bigger ships coming online that will find their way into our markets traveling to the Far East and Europe,” Baker says. “So the port itself is dredging down to 50 feet and installing a super post-Panamax crane to handle the bigger ships coming through Panama. The port also built a tunnel that goes from the port to the mainland that brings truckers right onto the interstate without hitting one traffic light. This helps ease traffic congestion in downtown.”

Another investment SFCT is hoping to make soon is the acquisition of electronic rubber tire gantry (ERTG) cranes. SFCT has joined with the Port of Miami to apply for a federal grant that will allow them to purchase the ERTGs.

“Going with the ERTGs will allow us to increase our yard storage capacity by at least two times and shorten the turn time for our trucks,” Baker says. “So it will allow us to handle more business and hopefully attract more lines to call here. The Miami market is growing and we offer the best port location for the market.”

Focus on Service

According to the industry, ERTGs are more cost-effective and sustainable than traditional rubber tire gantry cranes operating on diesel. Switching to ERTGs can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 95 percent and many ports that have implemented ERTGs are seeing a decrease in maintenance costs around 30 percent.

The investment is also in line with other purchases made by SFCT, since it operates fuel-saving engines on its larger equipment, which help reduce its CO2 emissions. Baker says reducing the operating costs of its large equipment has allowed the company to reinvest in itself.

“With the new equipment and software we have to assist in expediting the containers, it helps reduce the cost, which in turn can be used to put capital back into the company to continually upgrade our service,” Baker explains.

With all of the new technology and software entering the industry, Baker, who has been in the business for 30 years, says that it’s vital to remember that offering superior customer service should always be the paramount concern of any terminal operator.

“It is still a people and service business,” he says. “I have a sign in my office that says, ‘Because of the customer, we exist.’ I constantly remind my team of this. We can have the best and newest equipment and all the space in the world. But if our service isn’t any good no one will stay or come to us. We have to be best all the time.”