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Container Shipping & Trade

Container Shipping & Trade

Driving visibility across the supply chain

Fri 16 Jun 2017 by Rebecca Moore

Driving visibility across the supply chain
The XVELA platform boosts supply chain efficiency by connecting container shipping lines with terminals and other stakeholders

Driving visibility across the supply chain is a key focus in the development of new technology.

It is certainly central to Navis’ recently-launched XVELA solution, a cloud-based collaboration platform for terminal operators and ocean carriers and all those involved in the supply chain, which enables real-time communication for all stakeholders. A major feature of the platform is “actionable visibility” for both carriers and ports, Robert Inchausti, XVELA chief technology officer, told Container Shipping & Trade.

“Nobody in the entire network knows what is happening. Carriers might not know that the terminal plan is being changed, while terminals do not know what is happening to the ship until it is well underway or until a matter of hours before it calls,” Mr Inchausti explained. “A lot of the time they are dealing with late or inaccurate data.”

This is where XVELA comes in. Mr Inchausti said that the solution’s concept of actionable visibility connects carrier systems and the string of terminals where the ship is calling into a single, cloud-based collaboration platform.

As the terminal evolves the plan, the carrier can see the impact of this and vice versa – as can terminals where the ship will call subsequently, so that all parties can see anything that might negatively impact their operations. “If you know what is happening throughout the process, you can instigate changes and the operations will improve over time,” said Mr Inchausti.

“Actionable visibility goes hand in hand with real time collaboration…People can take opportunistic advantage of the situation, and increase efficiency and revenue,” Robert Inchausti (Navis)

A recent report by McKinsey & Co highlighted the fact that there is US$17 billion worth of waste and lost opportunity in the container supply chain annually. Looking at vessel operations alone, including stowage, berthing and quality of plans, potential waste and inefficiencies are in the range of US$5-7 billion each year. “So, actionable visibility goes hand in hand with real time collaboration on our platform to effect change. People can take opportunistic advantage of the situation, and increase efficiency and revenue,” Mr Inchausti summed up.

Launched in March, one container carrier has already signed up to the system, as have a few terminals based in Asia, while commercial discussions with several large carriers and terminal operators are currently underway.

Boosting MRV compliance

Navis has also launched a monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) module for its Bluetracker fleet performance software solution. The new module not only boosts the visibility of data but also ensures compliance with the EU’s MRV regulation. This was adopted on 1 July 2015 and requires shipowners and managers to monitor, report and verify annual CO2 emissions for large ships (over 5,000 gross tonnes) entering European ports. The data monitoring process, which is based on the ships’ voyage data, will come into effect on 1 January 2018. The annual COemissions of a ship are confirmed by an external verifier and relayed to a central database managed by the European Maritime Safety Agency.

Bluetracker’s MRV module comes in at this point, verifying the data compiled by the ship operator.

Henrik Alfke, head of engineering fleet at Navis Carrier Solutions, explained: “Our system creates high transparency so that crew and onshore staff can identify data issues. If there is false data, it can be very complex to rectify, but our system does the checks in real time. This means that issues can be seen instantly and there are no delays in rectifying problems.”

An important point is that the cloud-based solution integrates the data that the shipowner already holds, making the process much simpler.

The other Bluetracker module that was launched is the Hull Monitor, which tracks the degradation of hull performance through speed loss calculations, and accounts for influencing factors such as weather, which is required by the ISO 19030 standard. It visualises by how much the condition has decreased between two drydocks in terms of power required. This is an important way of saving fuel costs – as Mr Afke points out, hull performance degradation can be as high as 18 per cent from one drydocking to another.

Mr Alfke said: “The ship operator can then decide on measures to correct the degradation.” These could include polishing the propeller or hull, or applying new paint. “Applying the right measures at the right time leads to huge cost savings.”

Technology focuses on the box

This drive for visibility also extends to the containers and cargo, and is something in which Intellian Technologies is interested.

According to the World Shipping Council, an average of 1,679 containers are lost overboard every year. Intellian product management director Matt Galston said: “Detailed information about the movements of individual containers, their structural integrity, or alerts for possible security breaches are vanishingly rare. Moreover, even day-to-day practicalities remain frustratingly inefficient.” He singled out the fact that it is still common to find more than 100 box ships moored outside the port of Yangshan in China.

Mr Galston said that if freight forwarders want to be able to identify the state and condition of their cargoes, or reefer operators improve their schedule reliability, then they need to have the infrastructure in place to deliver this.

He argued: “Streamlining a fleet’s communications platform is paramount. Swapping the days of extensive man-hours spent undertaking physical inspections and repairs for implementation of the processes that drive schedule optimisation and monitor valuable perishables not only reduces costs, but frequently generates new sources of revenue, too.”

Intellian’s Integrated Solutions Program aims to achieve this by pairing satellite-agnostic antennas with pre-defined, fully integrated rack systems, including modems, routers, and power switches.

Mr Galston said: “When ships can converse with their operators, vessel feedback becomes part of the conversation. Second-guessing from shore is eliminated because speculation is no longer necessary.” He added that risk is reduced with greater understanding of real-time variables, and reliability improves to the point that it “almost becomes a redundant metric.”


Inmarsat launches solution to boost cyber security

Inmarsat is launching a unified threat management (UTM) solution to take away cyber security risks.

The solution - which will be available later this year - will be embedded within existing hardware onboard and is described as a ‘virtual machine’ that can be provisioned at any time, to provide data inspection and protection for the cyber security of the vessel by inspecting all traffic flows through the onboard controller.  “If a server or client is compromised, it can be isolated automatically and keep the rest of the network clean,” explained Inmarsat Senior Vice President for Safety and Security Services Peter Broadhurst. All incidents are reported back to the portal so that the ship operator can be alerted to any cyber security breaches and take corrective action.

Mr Broadhurst said: “It is not just a take-off-the shelf product used in a sector such as finance; instead we have made it more specific to the maritime industry, tailoring it to how marine data traffic works.”

Therefore, it doesn’t impact the business traffic of the vessel, as all anti-virus and configuration updates, events and alarms are transmitted outside customer bandwith, with the software managing all incidents completely for the ship owner.

Current customers of Fleet Xpress can upgrade to the service.

Mr Broadhurst highlighted the greatest cyber security risks: “One of largest issues is the way that crew operate IT; they can download malicious software by clicking on the wrong links, thereby compromising the network.” To combat this, ship operators need to offer training in this area, which is something that the UTM can work alongside, Mr Broadhurst said, by reporting about what is happening on the vessel in real-time so that operators can see if training is making a difference. “This makes it a good feedback loop, and means training is not just a case of ticking a box,” he said. 

Inmarsat is part of a joint industry initiative, along with class societies, the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Union of Marine Insurance among others, to drive awareness of cyber security, so that ship operators can take pragmatic steps to increase security.


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