We finally got the call on a Friday evening. The waiting was over. There was no time to waste. The Inchcape team immediately swung into action to mobilise all of our resources and I was on the road back up to Scotland.
The charter schedule had been a moving target. But we had now been notified by cruise logistics provider Landry & Kling (L&K) that the second of two ships to be used for auxiliary accommodation for a total of over 2000 essential security and event workers at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow was en route.
We had only three days (two of those being a weekend) to transform the King George V (KGV) cargo dock into a cruise port ready for the imminent arrival of the ro-ro cruise ferry Tallink Romantika.
Our port agency team had handled many cruise port calls before – but not at a commercial port designed to handle only cargo and with no passenger facilities. So this was a whole different ball game.
“This proved to be a port call project unlike any other, with a shifting schedule, hairy time pressure and multiple logistical hurdles at a high-profile event under the global spotlight and with a government agency calling the shots.”
L&K had earlier secured the first charter of ro-ro cruise ferry Silja Europa with the owner of both vessels, Estonia-based Tallink Grupp, for the huge event under a project being run by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.
This had required Inchcape to work with the port to repurpose the formerly disused Inchgreen cargo port 15 miles outside Glasgow to handle cruise passengers under the logistics operation co-ordinated on the ground by L&K.
So we knew the drill. But the makeover of KGV at the Scottish city’s port had to be carried out in record time. And we also knew the supply capacity of our vendor network was already overstretched due to the massive infrastructure demands of the conference.
Marquees had to be hired along with screening equipment to serve as makeshift passenger terminals, as well as gangways, cranes and forklift trucks. Parking facilities with fencing and signage, shuttle bus transport, port security guards and waste offload also had to be arranged.
Last-minute timing and logistical complexity combined to make this probably the most challenging port call handled by the local Inchcape team, which was also working together with the L&K logistics management crew on the first joint charter project under their newly formed partnership.
Against all odds, we managed to put in place the requisite infrastructure at KGV literally just in time before the Romantika docked. But nothing would have been achieved at such short notice without local knowledge and an established network of trusted, compliant, flexible and responsive vendors.
Little did we know though that the fun was just beginning. Over the next four weeks of the vessel charters, the joint Inchcape-L&K team also had to field multiple curved balls that required quick thinking to come up with creative solutions on the fly.
Laundry services on both ships had to be outsourced locally due to the lack of such facilities onboard both ships, basic gangways had to be hastily adapted as mud and rain turned them into treacherous chutes and halal catering had to be provided urgently as the multi-ethnic mix of passengers also posed cultural integration challenges.