Collaboration Essential To Digitalising Cargo Handling

July 29, 2019


The MacGregor: Separating fact from fiction webinar took an in-depth look into where the ‘hype ends and value begins’ within digitalising cargo and load handling operations. While there has been hype about what digitalisation can and cannot do, as this webinar shows, it is now possible to prove the value of investing in digitalised cargo handling operations and there is much more that can be achieved in this area. But again, all this is only possible with ship operators, equipment suppliers and vendors all working together.

MacGregor vice president, digital and new business transformation, Denis Mol, said “It all starts with collaboration”. Underpinning digital advancements within cargo loading operations is using shared data. Relationships between solutions providers and shipping lines need to be based on trust as they need to share information and data if cargo utilisation is to be improved.

Cutting through hype

Collaboration is also needed to cut through hype about digitalisation and its impact on cargo handling. Hapag-Lloyd senior director, fleet support center Jörn Springer, says “Some of the buzz words are around technology.” He explains the focus should not be so much on the technology but rather on the problem the shipping line wants to solve and how it applies technology to do this. And this is where it circles back to industry-wide collaboration. As Mr Mol says, to digitalise cargo handling, information is needed that is far beyond a piece of equipment.

Mr Springer gave an example that highlights how pulling together collaboration and data has made a beneficial impact on cargo handling operations. Hapag-Lloyd moved some chartered ships to different trade-lanes, where a completely different cargo mix is loaded. In a partnership including MacGregor, the carrier changed the lashing pattern to load more cargo and so gained additional revenue. He highlights the importance of having a “very collaborative approach” to solving a problem.

As an early mover in deploying digitalisation to reduce fuel inefficiencies and optimise cargo loading, Hapag-Lloyd is able to show financial return. The payback created by its fleet support centre – which heads up the company’s move to digitalise cargo operations – is increasing in line with the degree of collaboration over recent years.

Being able to prove a measurable financial return will help convince other shipowner and operators to invest in digitalising cargo and load handing operations, which can only encourage more technical and data breakthroughs across the maritime industry.

There is still so much more that can be achieved by using data to optimise cargo handling operations. The webinar explored creating new financial models to encourage investment, such as performance-related contracts. If these models are to be established and to work properly they need the foundation of a close partnership .

A challenge to cargo handling digitalisation is data ownership. Mr Springer explains this sometimes prevents using the data while approaches are being made with commercial and legal frameworks to overcome these obstacles.

Asked about the biggest fiction when it comes to digitalising cargo operations, Mr Springer says “The biggest fiction is that you purchase a silver bullet to all your problems.”

Companies working together will drive forward cargo and load handling digitalisation – and indeed there are a host of industry-wide associations harnessing digitalisation to boost port efficiency.

‘Fourth industrial revolution’

These include the iTerminals project, which has been kickstarted with its first meeting – with a focus on digitalising port operations and adopting ‘Industry 4.0’ technologies within the container-handling sector.

This initiative comprises a study with pilot deployment in real operations at European port-container terminals.

The project is funded by the Connecting Europe Facility Program of the European Commission and co-ordinated by Fundación Valenciaport.

A statement explains “The development of the fourth Industrial Revolution in the last decade (Industry 4.0) is progressively introducing new technologies and the adoption of concepts like internet of things, big data, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics and automation, which are transforming the industry and society. In this sense, the port industry is not taking advantage of the benefits and impacts derived from the digital transformation due to the low degree of implementation of such technologies and digital solutions.”

New IoT solutions and operational pilots will be developed and performed at eight strategic container terminals based at eight core network ports of the Trans-European Transport Network: Antwerp, Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Wilhelmshaven, Rouen, Malta, Sines and Genoa.

The project will test and evaluate advanced Industry 4.0 pilots applied to the operational environment of port-container terminals, including upgrading port equipment’s sensor networks, designing advanced big data and predictive analytics, applying artificial intelligence and providing business intelligence models and real-time dynamic KPI reporting.

Boosting just-in-time

Elsewhere, the Port Call Optimization Taskforce has made strides in its aim to boost just-in-time arrivals, which will have a knock-on effect on port productivity.

International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) is supporting the initiative and spreading its work to the wider port network via the 170 ports that are part of the association.

IAPH managing director of policy and strategy Dr Patrick Verhoeven told Container Shipping & Trade “They are looking at standardising communications between ship and shore about berth availability – port efficiency will be gained if all parties work in a more standardised process.”

The taskforce involves eight ports: Rotterdam, Singapore, Gothenburg, Ageciras, Busan, Houston, Ningbo and Tangier Med, while on the carrier side Maersk, CMA CGM and MSC are members, as is shipping agent Inchgate.

Port of Rotterdam has carried out a trail for just-in-time ship operations.

During the desktop trial, a voyage between Bremerhaven and Rotterdam was simulated twice. In the first ‘business as usual’ scenario, the ship received an update on the time of arrival at the pilot boarding place at the first calling in point when the ship is in VHF radio range around 30 nautical miles from port, as is standard practice.

In the second just-in-time scenario, the ship received several updates on when to arrive at the pilot boarding place, starting sooner in the voyage than usual. The ship could then adjust speed to optimise the voyage based on the changed circumstances.

Comparing the two scenarios, 23% less fuel was consumed in the just-in-time scenario, the testing partners note.

“More validation is needed and ultimately a real-time just-in-time trial – which is what we are working towards,” said IMO technical adviser Astrid Dispert.

“But the desktop exercise showed the potential and the clear benefit early communication between ships, port authorities and terminals can bring as it allows speed optimisation during the voyage.”

Data from this exercise will be fed into a just-in-time guide being prepared by the GIA, a public-private partnership initiative of the IMO, under the framework of the GEF-UNDP-IMO Global Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnerships Project.

The exercise was conducted by representatives from the Port of Rotterdam, Maersk, MSC, IMO and Inchcape Shipping.

Port of Rotterdam has also launched a digital tool box using digitalisation to boost efficiency in its terminals. One of these tools is an application called Pronto launched in April last year, which aims to improve communications between ship and shore-based services. “Shipping companies, agents, terminals and other service providers optimally plan, execute and monitor all activities during a port call based on standardised data exchange. The exchange of planned, expected and realised times leads to shorter port call turnaround times, better terminal utilisation and faster service through better predictability,” the port explains.

TOS collaboration

Technology companies are also providing solutions that harness digitalisation to increase efficiency in terminals.

Navis’ focus is on using big data to enable terminals to make better decisions and improve collaboration across the supply chain.

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

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.

A recent example is Navis and China Communication Construction’s affiliate Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industry Co’s (ZPMC) partnership to deliver technology to increase digitalisation and automation at marine terminals using cloud-based software.

The companies are combining forces to integrate systems and software that optimise terminal operations and reduce human activity using the latest autonomous operations technology.

They will co-operate in future terminal automation projects in India, China and Latin America to automate new terminals and existing terminal infrastructure.

Navis’ terminal operating solutions, the XVELA cloud-based maritime business network application for terminal operators and ocean carriers, N4 terminal system and ZPMC’s infrastructure planning, terminal simulation and software will be offered.

“We will work together to innovate and improve terminal operations and productivity around the world,” said Navis’ vice president for strategic partnerships and global terminal operator accounts in Asia, Mark Welles.

“This integrated, best-of-breed technology and services approach will help customers reduce terminal resource requirements, simplify and speed implementation, lower risk, achieve higher levels of productivity and utilise data in effective ways,” he said.

ZPMC manager Zhou Qi said together these companies will provide a smart terminal one-stop solution. “We will help more operators achieve their goals in digitalisation and automation,” he said. “We have the opportunity to infuse more intelligence and optimised operations into the industry as a whole.”

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