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Container Shipping & Trade

Container Shipping & Trade

Box terminals and ships: the productivity push

Fri 02 Mar 2018 by Rebecca Moore

Box terminals and ships: the productivity push
Port of Rotterdam Authority is using IoT to boost the efficiency of container movements through its terminals (credit: Freek van Arkel)

New initiatives in ports and on ships are boosting container movements

Big strides have been made in boosting the efficiency of loading and unloading cargo both within container terminals and on the actual box ships themselves.

Ports are spending a lot of time and money investing in their productivity levels and increasingly, this has involved not just new equipment but also the deployment of data and digitalisation strategies.

Indeed, Port of Rotterdam Authority is boosting the productivity and efficiency of its container terminals’ operations with a strong digitalisation strategy, ranging from a new communications platform to the use of internet of things (IoT) technologies in the cloud.

In January this year it announced its collaboration with IBM on the IoT initiative. A centralised dashboard application is being developed that will collect and process real-time water and weather sensor and communications data, analysed through the IBM IoT platform.

Previously the port relied on traditional radio and radar communication between captains, pilots, terminal operators, tugboats and others to make decisions on port operations. Now, sensors are being installed across 42 km of land and sea along the port’s quay walls, mooring posts and roads. These sensors will gather multiple data streams including water and weather data about tides and currents, temperature, wind speed and direction, water levels, berth availability and visibility.

This data will be analysed by IBM’s cloud-based IoT technologies and turned into information the Port of Rotterdam can use to make decisions that reduce waiting times, determine optimal times for ships to dock, load and unload and enable more ships into the available space.

The Port of Rotterdam will use the data to predict the best time based on water level to have a ship arrive and depart Rotterdam. Port of Rotterdam Authority chief financial officer Paul Smits told Container Shipping & Trade “We will be able to pass on real-time water depth information to the client; when they know the depth of the port is deeper, they will be able to put more cargo on their ships.”

With the new initiative, Port of Rotterdam operators will also be able to view the operations of all parties at the same time, making that process more efficient. It said shipping companies and the port stand to save up to one hour in berthing time which can amount to about US$80,000 in savings. 

Another digital project the port has launched is its Navigate inititiative (which went live this January but will be fully implemented in the next few months) which aims to speed up the process of ships entering the port. “When the ship enters port, there are at least 10 to 15 parties co-ordinating the movement of the ship which is done manually, by phone and email. The actual timings given by the parties is not always very accurate,” Mr Smits told Container Shipping & Trade.

“There is a definite acceleration for the application of new technologies like IoT, big data and cloud to increase efficiency and safety in the maritime chain” Paul Smits (Port of Rotterdam Authority)

Therefore, the port has devised a communications platform where all parties involved with the entry of the ship input their own data, which is available to everyone that wants access. Therefore, “everything becomes transparent and that increased transparency of what is happening around the ship” leads to a “significant reduction in time, which saves a lot of money for the shipping company,” Mr Smits said.

Explaining the port authority’s digitalisation strategy, Mr Smits said “There is a definite acceleration for the application of new technologies like IoT, big data and cloud to increase efficiency and safety in the maritime chain. We saw this coming and wanted to invest in this a few years ago.”

Increasing collaboration

Navis’ big focus is on using big data to enable terminals to make better decisions and improving collaboration across the supply chain, its EMEA vice president and general manager Chuck Schneider told Container Shipping & Trade.

“The collaboration between ocean carriers and terminals is really what pushes the needle on performance. We are focused on improving the ocean container supply chain through collaboration,” he said.

Navis’ N4 terminal operating system (TOS) enables terminals to optimise their operations and move cargo more efficiently.

Mr. Schneider emphasised main themes that needed to be focused on to improve the productivity of terminals. “The people building terminal operating systems can’t just look between the four walls of terminals.” Rather, they need to look at how to gain better quality data and use this to make better decisions. “Using information from outside the terminal means much better decisions.”

Mr Schneider said Navis was looking at developing this further and therefore carrying out a lot of work on how terminals can use vessel data to optimise the ocean carrier call. “If you are able to collect really good data about the vessel, such as what positions the containers are in and where they are bound, the port processes can be much more efficient as opposed to not having the information or having incorrect information and so slowing down the processes.”

Having in-depth knowledge about incoming box ships allows terminals to match their people and processes to manage the vessels and work expected.

He singled out an example: If a terminal knew that a vessel was going to be late, it would perhaps allow them to handle another vessel and change where it placed containers in the yard. “It would completely change the terminal’s strategy,” he elaborated. “This concept of big data allows the terminal to better predict what is needed.” 

But despite this, there are not enough terminals using big data. “The use of big data by terminals is still a little way off – I don’t believe terminals are quite there yet,” Mr Schneider acknowledged. Therefore, he said that the first phase was how to get good data and how to provide the tools to sift through this data.

Towards that end, XVELA, an independently operated subsidiary of Navis, has developed a collaborative maritime network to improve data flow and visibility between terminals and ocean carriers.

Guy Rey-Herme, XVELA’s president and chief executive explained to Container Shipping & Trade “The various planning roles and processes across the container supply chain are currently disconnected, with each stakeholder operating in a silo. XVELA provides an open, neutral network to connect these processes into a holistic framework, so that each party in the supply chain can get the information they need, when they need it.”

XVELA is working on new products to help optimise port calls, including co-ordinating berth planning and predicting when vessels will arrive.

“Building on collaborative stowage planning as the core of the solution, XVELA is building the next generation of berth planning tools,” Mr Rey-Herme stated. “By removing uncertainty and vagueness around ships’ schedules we can improve the accuracy of the ship’s ETA. And our integration with N4 provides real-time visibility on the progress of terminal operations and the possibility of improving the accuracy of the estimated time of completion.”

Mr Schneider summed up what the new berth management solution was all about: “If the ship is late, what impact will this have on the terminal yard?” Navis is looking at what the yard can do now to ensure that there is not a “huge negative effect” on operations.

Shipping technology boost

Boosting container port productivity is not just about what goes on port side but also about technologies used on the ship.

Hoppe Marine’s Flume roll-damping system can boost the efficiency of loading and unloading containers off the ship. It consists of an anti-roll tank that is usually placed behind or below the deckhouse. With its software, it adapts to changes in load and operation conditions and counteracts the roll of the ship by a change in the liquid level of the tank. This can reduce the roll of the vessel by up to 50%, Hoppe Marine sales manager Bastian Marquardt told CST.

Maersk Line has installed the system across 48 ships in its fleet – and more are to follow.

Mr Marquardt explained that this means the lashing forces on containers are reduced, giving more flexibility to where the containers are stowed, allowing heavier ones to be stowed higher and allowing more containers to be carried on the ships. “Heavier containers used to be placed deep in the vessel, but with the Flume system they can be placed higher up as the lashing forces are still ok.”

This is of benefit when loading and unloading in port as there are options to place containers for an earlier port stop higher up, saving both time and money in port. “The best logistics with the lowest effort,” as Mr Marquardt put it.

There is another advantage to installing the system – the Flume system is considered as a usual ballast water tank, it just needs to be a special shape in order to act as an anti-roll mechanism. Mr Marquardt said “Compared to investment costs the ROI is tremendous as the tank is not very expensive on the shipyard side. Not a lot of construction material is needed, we just need to carry out the engineering to create the shape needed and provide the hard- and software system. This is also possible for retrofits.”

MacGregor lifts box ship money-making capabilities 

MacGregor, part of Cargotec, has also put a lot of effort into optimising loads carried by container vessels to boost the amount of containers they can carry.

At the start of this year it received orders to optimise the container carrying capabilities of 31 MSC vessels from six different ship series. The work is designed to optimise ships' cargo system productivity and earning potential. The orders were booked into Cargotec's Q3 and Q4 2017 order intakes and deliveries are planned towards the end of 2018.

Upgrade work on the vessels will be carried out under a MacGregor Cargo Boost service, part of its PlusPartner concept, which is designed to improve the earning potential of existing container ships. The upgrades include an individual plan for each vessel, with a focus on improving earning potential and efficiency.

The Cargo Boost process starts by studying the ship’s cargo system with the customer and reviewing it against anticipated routes and cargoes. MacGregor uses its own software where it models and analyses the earning possibility for vessels using different cargo systems. Liaising with the operating team of the shipowner is an important part of the process.

MacGregor director of customer solutions Tommi Keskilohko explained to Container Shipping & Trade “We try to increase the earning potential (more cargo on board) for the shipowner by means of upgrading the cargo system on board.” He pointed out that a ship built three to six years ago was built on “slightly different criteria” than vessels built today. “In order to compete against modern vessels, those older vessels need to be upgraded, including upgrading the cargo system,” he said.

While Mr Keskilohko said the optimal time for making a cargo system upgrade was on a scheduled drydocking, some upgrades were possible without taking vessel out of service.

It is a good alternative to having to invest in new ships. As Mr Keskilohko said “Cargo Boost helps upgrade ships and gives additional capacity rather than investing in a new ship and having to wait for a few years before it is delivered.”

He said some container operators saw “great value” in boosting existing ships rather than buying new ones.

He said – depending on the design of the ship – the application of Cargo Boost would ‘quite easily’ lead to a 5% increase in cargo and in some cases much more.

The payback time for smaller box ships is less than one year and for bigger container vessels, two years.

Mr Keskilohko said that while the main idea of Cargo Boost is to load the maximum amount of cargo onboard, so that shipowners can earn the maximum amount of money, it was an element, along with systems such as those launched by Navis, in ensuring the efficient loading and unloading of cargo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boxout

 

MacGregor lifts box ship money-making capabilities

 

MacGregor, part of Cargotec, has also put a lot of effort into optimising loads carried by container vessels to boost the amount of containers they can carry.

 

At the start of this year it received orders to optimise the container carrying capabilities of 31 MSC vessels from six different ship series. The work is designed to optimise ships' cargo system productivity and earning potential. The orders were booked into Cargotec's Q3 and Q4 2017 order intakes and deliveries are planned towards the end of 2018.

 

Upgrade work on the vessels will be carried out under a MacGregor Cargo Boost service, part of its PlusPartner concept, which is designed to improve the earning potential of existing container ships. The upgrades include an individual plan for each vessel, with a focus on improving earning potential and efficiency.

 

The Cargo Boost process starts by studying the ship’s cargo system with the customer and reviewing it against anticipated routes and cargoes. MacGregor uses its own software where it models and analyses the earning possibility for vessels using different cargo systems. Liaising with the operating team of the shipowner is an important part of the process.

MacGregor director of customer solutions Tommi Keskilohko explained to Container Shipping & Trade “We try to increase the earning potential (more cargo on board) for the shipowner by means of upgrading the cargo system on board.” He pointed out that a ship built three to six years ago was built on “slightly different criteria” than vessels built today. “In order to compete against modern vessels, those older vessels need to be upgraded, including upgrading the cargo system,” he said.

 

While Mr Keskilohko said the optimal time for making a cargo system upgrade was on a scheduled drydocking, some upgrades were possible without taking vessel out of service.

 

It is a good alternative to having to invest in new ships. As Mr Keskilohko said “Cargo Boost helps upgrade ships and gives additional capacity rather than investing in a new ship and having to wait for a few years before it is delivered.”

 

He said some container operators saw “great value” in boosting existing ships rather than buying new ones.

 

He said – depending on the design of the ship – the application of Cargo Boost would ‘quite easily’ lead to a 5% increase in cargo and in some cases much more.

The payback time for smaller box ships is less than one year and for bigger container vessels, two years.

Mr Keskilohko said that while the main idea of Cargo Boost is to load the maximum amount of cargo onboard, so that shipowners can earn the maximum amount of money, it was an element, along with systems such as those launched by Navis, in ensuring the efficient loading and unloading of cargo.

 

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