A chartered car carrier has been enlisted by Ford to try and break the quarantine deadlock on Australian docks.
As waiting times for the top selling Ford Ranger pick-up continue to rise, Ford Australia has signed a three-year exclusive deal to put the Grand Quest – a roll-on, roll-off car carrier with a capacity of 2600 vehicles – onto a dedicated route from Thailand to Australia and New Zealand.
Its only job will be to bring Rangers and Everests to our shores, and returning to Thailand without any back-loading or additional stops.
CarExpert first heard about the plan from a Ford dealership. It will be confirmed today (Thursday) by Ford Australia after months of planning and negotiation, including the involvement of the Ford Motor Company in the USA.
The move comes as several other companies – believed to include MG – are also investigating specially chartered ships, as well as putting cars into shipping containers to combat a shortage of roll-on, roll-off (Ro-Ro) boats and make it easier to avoid quarantine contamination and complete any necessary treatment work after arrival in Australia.
“A lot of Ro-Ro ships were idle during the pandemic and were then pensioned off,” one senior car company executive told CarExpert.
Mitsubishi and BYD are already using containers which can carry three cars at a time in a secure environment that avoids potential cross-contamination, and is easier for potential fumigation in Australia.
They also avoid the need to build a large-scale shipment of cars to travel at one time on a Ro-Ro, cutting exposure to potentially threatening dockside pollution.
The Ford Australia plan also includes the use of shipping containers.
Once on-shore, brands including Isuzu are transporting vehicles interstate from ports with shorter delays.
The quarantine crisis on Australian docks has now been running for more than a year, despite counter-measures including a dedicated onshore processing facility in Melbourne. Apart from the onshore delays in processing and treatment, many ships have been forced to wait for their place in the docking queue.
Even so, many brands still report long delays as quarantine processing times have not kept pace with the return to more normal production levels at many factories. One of the problems has been a shortage of quarantine staff after numbers were cut during the pandemic.
The move by Ford Australia is centred on the Grand Quest, but the company is also doing short-term chartering, as well as using containers.
“We are investing significantly in tackling the ongoing supply chain issues head-on,” the president and CEO of Ford Australia and New Zealand, Andrew Birkic, said.
“Securing an exclusive three-year lease of the Grand Quest will allow Ford Australia to deliver more vehicles to both Australia and New Zealand as we continue to face unprecedented levels of demand.”
The Grand Quest is operated by Polaris Autoliners Limited, a British-based company which works closely with the Ford Motor Company globally, and has already delivered thousands of vehicles to Australia.
“Taking the initiative to lease our own ship gives Ford the ability to determine shipping routes and volumes by port, allowing us greater control in very challenging conditions,” said Iris Moreno, the vehicle logistics manager at Ford Australia.