Reefer manufacturer Maersk Container Industry and leading box ports Singapore and Rotterdam are at the forefront of developing tracking and monitoring technology
Maersk Container Industry (MCI) is embracing reefer digitalisation with its Sekstant Global Guidance system that will provide container operators with accurate data along the transportation chain. The system will be launched in early 2020.
MCI global head of sales and marketing Anders Holm tells Container Shipping & Trade “We have been working hard to complete the digital ecosystem around Sekstant, which is quite extensive. It covers the gateway (modem) to the reefer machine and includes the platform and cloud solution. We have developed a user interface tailored for reefer containers, which we call the front end, where users follow where their equipment is and how it is performing.”
The new solution will use a centralised cloud architecture and is enabled by the gateway – a Smart Edge device that includes wide-band 4G LTE modem connectivity with global coverage. Everything is incorporated into a single device and shares one power supply with the reefer controller.
Mr Holm describes the three main reasons for launching Sekstant. “Container lines want to show selected data to their customers, such as the reefer location and temperature,” he says.
The second reason is ocean shipping lines would like more and better control of reefer equipment, including knowing when containers are ready for their next journey. The third reason is operations data. Mr Holm says, “This is actually quite unique for us and that is where we see a lot of potential to having access, because we can use this operations data to become better, to make better soft and hardware based on this.”
Indeed, this third factor is important for future developments. Mr Holm says “Sometimes we lack data or data is delayed. But with Sekstant, we have a tool to make products for the future in a much more efficient and qualified way than previously. Today, we rarely have access to operations data, but with the new solutions we will have daily additions to data.”
Mr Holm sums up the overall benefits. “Shipping lines will have a more efficient supply chain. Reefers will be in operation rather than standing idle waiting for checks and repairs.”
Delving into the advantages further, he singles out three main areas:
Mr Holm underlines the self-diagnostics function as helping efficiency. “It adds a lot of value. Traditionally carriers complete a PTI before a shipment, but with self-diagnostics called Intelligent Trip Inspection there is no need to do this.” He says a PTI costs US$45 on average per reefer. The self-diagnostics of Sekstant could save three of these a year, leading to savings of US$135 per reefer a year and less hassle for the operator.
It will also help carriers manage the 2020 low sulphur cap. Mr Holm says “It will measure the daily power consumption of the reefers, informing shippers about their carbon footprint. This will help provide documentation about energy costs in the transport chain, which are expected to increase by 45% due to the IMO sulphur cap. The energy efficiency leadership of Star Cool reefers ought to receive more focus by the industry.”
He adds “We will make this relatively inexpensive with a subscription of US$0.99 per month per container for the basic package.”
The input of shipping lines was important when developing the product. “We developed the user interface in co-operation with customers, to tailor something that worked for them in their daily operations,” says Mr Holm.
He sums up “Sekstant is a tool that can drive down inefficiencies and costs in reefer logistics. Today, the transport chain is a black box situation with the container going from A to B. With the new technology we will bring transparency.
Managing cargo flow
Ports are at the forefront of vessel and container tracking using radar, automatic identification system (AIS) and tracing technologies to manage traffic and cargo flow.
Singapore Maritime and Port Authority chief technology officer Kenneth Lim says Singapore is gearing up to adopt new maritime technologies including vessel tracking and e-navigation for its vessel traffic management (VTS) centre.
Singapore is developing technology, enterprises and intelligence to improve vessel flow and safety in its next-generation port.
This includes “building a highly automated and digital maritime environment by leveraging technology and automation and enhancing business processes,” said Mr Lim at Riviera Maritime Media’s Smart Tug Operations Conference in September. “Port of Singapore is a living laboratory for intelligent shipping, vessel traffic management systems, e-navigation and terminal automation,” he said.
Singapore needs advanced vessel traffic management as it has 120,000 ship calls, handles 36.6M TEU of containers a year, has more than 1,000 vessels in port at any one time and has ships arriving or leaving every two to three minutes.
One of five technology drives supported by MPA involves strategic sea space and maritime traffic management. This is part of MPA’s industry transformation roadmap that also includes experimenting with new operational concepts, enhancing maritime communications, developing intelligent ships and maritime drones.
“We are creating an enabling environment for innovation. Catalysing maritime innovation ecosystems through our maritime R&D 2030 roadmap,” said Mr Lim.
Port of Rotterdam has advanced vessel management, introduced digital port services and information portals and is considering developing blockchain. Vessel tracking is an integral part of Port of Rotterdam’s latest innovation, the Boxinsider application. Introduced in October 2019, this enables shippers and freight forwarders to locate and track their containers.
Port of Rotterdam chief executive Allard Castelein says this enables real-time cargo tracking. “By developing digital applications, we are making our port even more efficient, safer and more reliable. Solutions like Boxinsider are a perfect match with our ambition to become the world’s smartest port.”
Boxinsider uses status information from container vessels and inland and deepsea terminals. It tracks containers and determines expected and actual arrival and departure times for vessels and container unloading and departures at container terminals. Users are then warned about any delays or disruptions.
ABC Logistics, as one of the launch customers, has seen the system’s benefits. “Boxinsider gives us a clear picture of the containers we can expect at various Rotterdam terminals quickly and with minimal effort,” says ABC Logistics account manager Remco Verwaal.
Port of Rotterdam head of digital strategy and transformation Martijn Thijsen says the key to innovation is “co-operating with partners” and preparing for future operations. “We need to be ready for five-years down the line when trading will be completely different,” he says, adding that blockchain and vessel tracking is part of that. “We need to be open and collaborate in business. We need to share data as it can be valuable when processed,” he says, adding Port of Rotterdam is working closely with other Dutch ports and with Singapore MPA in developing integrated information flow and tracking technologies.
Snapshot CV: Anders Holm (Maersk Container Industry)
Anders Holm has been in the reefer container industry since 2002. With MCI he has enjoyed working with a global market as a reefer box manufacturer transitioning to develop reefer machinery with Star Cool and digitalisation with Sekstant.