Paul Little’s big dilemma

Toll Holdings’ Paul Little is facing a difficult decision in regards to his shareholding in the airline Virgin Blue, according to a report in today’s Financial Review.

In something of an irony, Toll Holdings is in fierce competition with its half-brother Asciano Group for the control of Brambles, the worldwide pallet company best known for its blue CHEP pallets.

Toll needs to spin off its holdings in Virgin Blue to raise funds for the exercise, whilst not allowing control in tthe air carrier to go to one of its competitors on the freight logistics front, as Toll relies heavily on the belly space of the red aeroplanes for its national airfreight needs.

But if he were to sell off too quickly, Paul Little would forego strong and increasing revenue from the airline. If he were to wait too long, according to the FinReview, he could expose Toll to a potentially looming downturn int he aviation market.

With the battle for Brambles heating up considerably, Asciano is rumoured to be in talks with Macquarie Bank and the Singaporean investment house Temasek, while Toll is reported to be in talks with investors in the United Arab Emirates, home of Emirates the airline. With plenty of investment funds available in that region and a freight-friendly airline looking for further expansion, the sale of Virgin Blue to Emirates could provide both the funds and capacity security that Toll Holdings so desparately needs.

Watch this space.

ATSB report points to level crossing safety problems

On 12 December 2006, a double trailer road-train truck drove into the path of The Ghan passenger train (1AD8) on the Fountain Head Road level crossing at Ban Ban Springs approximately 130 km directly south-east of Darwin (NT).The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has found it is likely that some passive level crossings in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia that are controlled by ‘Stop’ signs and are used by high combined gross mass road vehicles may have deficient sighting distances.

The ATSB has released a supplementary report on this potential problem as part of its continuing investigation into the 12 December 2006 collision involving The Ghan on the Fountain Head Road level crossing at Ban Ban Springs, NT.

The Fountain Head Road level crossing signage at Ban Ban Springs directs road users to stop at the level crossing and to give way to trains that may be either on or approaching the level crossing at a line speed of up to 115 km/h. The road intersects the rail line at 90 degrees in a north-south direction with a slight rising grade for vehicles approaching from the north and with slight road curvature either side of the level crossing.

While not a factor in The Ghan collision, ATSB investigators identified that the time taken for larger road trains commonly used in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia to traverse level crossings, and the available sighting distance, may be a safety issue.

The ATSB organised a timing trial to test the adequacy of the level crossing sighting distances by measuring a range of clearance times for the largest road-train combinations which routinely use the Fountain Head Road level crossing at Ban Ban Springs (and indeed similar crossings in the NT, and other states).

B+2A Road-Train Combination

Tests conducted on 53.5 m long B+2A road-trains at the Fountain Head Road level crossing, Ban Ban Springs, found that the theoretical models used to calculate sighting distance were likely to be inadequate for the truck configuration tested. It is probable that sighting distances at other level crossings controlled by ‘Stop’ signs, used by high combined gross mass road vehicles, may be similarly deficient and more research is needed to accurately assess this risk.

Accordingly, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has advised that State and Territory road transport authorities and rail regulators should consider the implications of this safety issue and take action where it is considered appropriate.

Kaplan invests in Asian logistics

Kaplan Funds Management Pty Limited, Chris Corrigan’s new vehicle in the supply chain business, is to acquire approximately 8.8% of Asian logistics company Freight Links Express Holdings Limited.

Listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange, Freight Links is a total logistics solution provider based in Singapore. Established in 1981, Freight Links provides a range of logistics activities including international freight forwarding, chemical and dangerous goods logistics, warehousing, property management, and record management. Freight Links has offices in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia, China and Dubai.

As part of the A$20 million transaction, Freight Links and Kaplan will enter into a 50/50 joint venture to undertake logistics investments in China and India. Freight Links has already made a number of successful investments in China, and the joint venture will aim to leverage Freight Links’ network and understanding of the Chinese logistics market and KFM’s expertise in integrated logistics solutions with a focus on inland intermodal terminals and port logistics.


Adelaide Hills rail network study promised

The Mayor of Mitcham, Ivan Brooks, says he believes a study into the Adelaide Hills rail network would find that a bypass route is needed for freight trains, reports the ABC.

The study is being promised by the Coalition as part of its transport package for South Australia.

Mr Brooks says there should not be 12 to 18 freight trains travelling through the Adelaide Hills each day, sharing the line with passenger trains.

"The line was opened in 1883 to carry a little bit of freight and passengers," he said.

"It is very steep [and] very windy.

"It was never meant for what it is being used [for] today."

Mr Brooks says a ring route needs to be developed so the freight rail network goes around the city instead of through it.

He says there should be an accompanying road so semi-trailers do not have to use the South Eastern Freeway.

"We have been lucky recently with two or three accidents and fortunately no one has been seriously hurt,"

he said.

"It is only a matter of time.

"If we can take some of those trucks with the trains that do not need to come into Adelaide, that would be fantastic."

All the way to Mexico

Emirates SkyCargo is fast-tracking its expansion into the Americas, offering offline cargo capacity to Mexico from 14th November, after having launched direct non-stop services to Sao Paulo and Toronto in October.

Emirates SkyCargo has appointed Mexican Cargo Sales Representative as its Cargo Sales Agent and its Mexican operation is now officially open for business. Cargo from Mexico will connect to Emirates’ route network from New York and Frankfurt, using interline partners such as Atlas Air, Aeromexico and Mexican. The Atlas Air freighter capacity will be offered every Thursday from Frankfurt to Mexico and on the return flight every Friday.

Fresh produce such as fruits, vegetables, coffee and cotton; temperature sensitive products; and oil industry machinery are expected to dominate exports from Mexico. Aircraft and auto parts, metalworking machines, agricultural machinery, electrical goods, electronics and various manufactured goods from Emirates SkyCargo’s network are expected to make their way into Mexico.

Emirates SkyCargo’s cool chain solutions that maintain constant temperatures for shipments throughout its transportation cycle, across countries and different climactic conditions, are slated to become a huge success in the Mexican market.

Emirates SkyCargo now serves the Americas with belly-hold capacity in three daily services to New York; six non-stop weekly services to Sao Paulo; and three non-stop weekly services to Toronto. On 3rd December it will launch thrice-weekly non-stop services to Houston.

Singapore Airlines Cargo launches e-freight program

Singapore Airlines Cargo is replacing the paper documents that typically accompany airfreight, with electronic information.

Over the past several months, the airline has been working closely with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and actively engaging key industry players like freight forwarders, ground handling agents, local customs administrations and airport authorities at several locations to prepare for the pilot programme.

Yesterday, the paper-free era for SIA Cargo began with the simultaneous launch of e-freight shipments between Singapore and London, and between Singapore and Amsterdam. The airline also plans to commence e-freight trials between Singapore and Hong Kong from 16 November 2007.

Goh Choon Phong, president of SIA Cargo commented: “Pushing for cost efficiency is a key priority for SIA Cargo, and the e-freight initiative will benefit all partners in the airfreight supply chain by eliminating cumbersome documentation that costs the industry over a billion dollars a year.  I thank all the key industry players for their dedication, teamwork and commitment to make this historic project a success.

“Moreover, replacing paperwork with electronic information is also in line with our corporate mission to keep our operations environmentally friendly,” he added.



Collision avoidance technology for trucks

Today’s mine haul trucks are massive vehicles in which drivers have limited vision and cannot see anything within around 30 metres. If a smaller vehicle on the mine site gets in the way of one of these monsters, the consequences can be dire.

CSIRO Exploration & Mining’s Dr Patrick Glynn is leading a research project to help solve this problem by developing a 360 degree proximity detection system.

"We took a standard Doppler radar system and adapted it with integrated signal processing," Dr Glynn said.

"The technology will alert the driver if a hidden object is moving relative to the mine haul truck, what direction it is moving, what its rate of change is, and whether a collision will occur. In all cases the system reports to the driver in one tenth of a second, far shorter than the average reaction time for a driver of about one second."

The Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP), which is funding this research, awarded Dr Glynn a 2007 ACARP Award for Research Excellence.

In his citation for Dr Glynn, ACARP Executive Director Mark Bennetts said, "Given the competence of the science providers engaged in the 175 current ACARP research projects, it is a real accomplishment to win this award and a strong vote of confidence in your team."

While the research is still in its development stage, a prototype has been tested at Goonyella riverside, one of the largest open cut coal mines in Australia, located in Queensland’s Bowen basin south west of Mackay.

Current plans are to tie in the system with an existing reversing camera and monitor. Additional video cameras will automatically display a detected vehicle on the monitor, along with its speed and position.

"The real challenge is to provide information in a natural way so that the driver does not have to take their eyes off the road. Drivers already have a lot on their hands and should not be overloaded with information," Dr Glynn says.

"In a recent accident in South Africa, a light vehicle came between two haul trucks. Dust hid the light vehicle from the second truck which ran straight over it.

"I want to avoid a repeat of any incident such as this. If they had effective collision avoidance technology on board, they could have taken evasive action."

For more information contact Patrick Glynn, CSIRO Exploration & Mining on (07) 3327 4636 or email

Photo: Side looking Doppler radar antenna mounted on a mine haul truck at BMA Goonyella coal mine.

Leaner means greener

Maersk Logistics, part of the A.P. Moller – Maersk Group, has launched a new carbon footprint reduction service worldwide. The new service – the SupplyChain CarbonCheck – is a consulting service aimed at supporting companies in reducing carbon emissions from their supply chains. The service is claimed to be the first of its kind developed by a logistics provider specifically to address global supply chains.

Maersk recognises that global warming is one of the largest challenges of this century. Carbon emissions are the main contributor and are a key target in its efforts to provide environmentally friendly solutions.

“An increasing number of customers are showing interest in their carbon footprint from supply chain-related activities and are asking us for ways to reduce it”, said Henrik Ramskov, global head of Maersk Logistics. “Traditionally, efforts for reducing carbon emissions have focused on manufacturing processes and domestic distribution. However, for our customers involved in international sourcing, the global supply chain holds significant potential for reducing carbon emissions; potential that has so far largely gone untapped.”

“With our new service offering, Maersk Logistics identifies and implements solutions for reducing carbon emissions in our customers’ supply chains,” said Erling J. Nielsen, global head of supply chain development for Maersk Logistics. “And for our customers, there are additional benefits from conducting a SupplyChain CarbonCheck and putting the findings into practice. In supply chains, leaner means greener. This is why reduced carbon emissions typically come along with lower overall logistics costs and maintained or even improved service levels. A win-win situation for our customers and the environment!”

Once it has calculated a customer’s current carbon footprint, the service simulates carbon emissions for alternative supply chain scenarios and compares the results with the current footprint. This comparison reveals potentials for reducing carbon emissions, which are then evaluated in terms of ease of implementation and cost savings. Finally, Maersk assists the customer in putting the recommendations into practice.


Etihad and Virgin Blue form interline partnership

Etihad Airways and Virgin Blue today announced a comprehensive interline agreement which will provide travellers, and presumably air cargo, with seamless connectivity to 22 Australian cities and from Brisbane and Sydney to Abu Dhabi and beyond.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ chief executive officer, said, “The closer cooperation with Virgin Blue will enhance significantly the travel experience and potential destinations for Etihad customers flying to Australia.

“Etihad strives to make as many global destinations available to our customers whether it is opening up new routes of our own or through strategic agreements with other airlines.”

Virgin Blue Chief Executive, Brett Godfrey, said,“The new interline partnership means Virgin Blue Guests who also choose to book international travel with Etihad can travel from anywhere on our network to any of Etihad’s 45 international destinations with ease.”

Etihad launched its daily service from Abu Dhabi to Sydney in March 2007, which was followed in September by the opening of its three flights a week servicing the Brisbane.

The Sydney route has proved such a success, with more than 60,000 passengers flying on the sector since its launch, that in March 2008 Etihad will increase the service to 11 flights a week.

Trucking association calls for reduced train speeds

A review of high train speeds on routes with only passive level crossings and frequent vehicle use has been called for by the Australian Trucking Association, (ATA).

In a submission to the Victorian Parliament’s Inquiry into Improving Safety at Level Crossings, the ATA has outlined high train speeds should only occur where grade separation or active crossings with suitable clearance times are present.

With level crossing crashes likely to increase without intervention, due to increasing transport demand across the board, the ATA has addressed the importance of road rail crossing design and appropriate train speeds.

"The ideal situation for any crossing is grade separation, thereby avoiding any potential for direct impacts between trains and motor vehicles," said ATA chief executive, Stuart St Clair.

The ATA notes the subsequent release of a report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) on the Results on Trails for Heavy Vehicle Clearance Times at Level Crossings.

The ATSB study targeted the Fountain Head Road Level Crossing in the Northern Territory. Its final analysis identified the Australian Standard used to assess lines of sight as ‘probably inadequate’ for the

large truck combinations tested. The time taken for road trains to traverse the level crossing was recorded and assessed against available time given the sight distance and train speed of 115 kilometres per hour, which showed inadequacies, such that any driver would be unable to make an informed decision on whether it would be safe to proceed into the crossing.

Although this particular study took place at only one level crossing, the ATSB report explained similar issues are likely to exist at other level crossings used by road trains and where train speeds are relatively high. A risk-based approach is required that considers frequency of use of passive level crossings by road users.

"The ATSB findings only enforce the ATA’s position that trains are simply going too fast through some passive level crossings," said Mr St Clair. "We do not want to see yet another avoidable level crossing accident or even a near miss; there is a need for road and rail providers to step up and adopt more effective risk minimisation programs," he said.

The ATA understands that level crossing incidents represent a relatively small percentage of road user crash rates; yet they continue to remain a significant issue for rail and road operators.

The ATA believes that train speeds could be adjusted to match the available ‘line of sight’ at passive crossings with high traffic flows to improve safety.

"It is simply too dangerous and unacceptable if drivers, who are fully adhering to the road laws, cannot clear a crossing before a train travelling at high speed consumes the available line of sight," said Mr St Clair. "Rail operators need to match train speeds to level crossing types and available lines of sight and develop a further awareness to the traffic mix using the crossings."

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