Digitalisation, sophisticated terminal operating systems and intermodal capabilities are driving efficiency and boosting relationships between vessels and ports
Port operators are boosting their efficiency with better intermodal capabilities and more sophisticated terminal operating systems.
Italian terminal operator Contship Italia has focused on boosting its efficiency through IT, infrastructure and inland area investment – and underpinning these three strands is its business model, which covers moving the container from port to final destination.
Indeed, its marketing and corporate communications director Daniele Testi said the fact that Contship Italia concentrated not just on the portside operations but on moving the container to its final destination, was a “unique model” in Italy. To this end, the company has its own rail company, locomotives, inland terminals and warehousing.
Contship Italia’s main gateway terminal La Spezia is a good example of the group’s efficiency drive. An important part of the company’s strategy is to boost the quantity of cargo travelling by rail to improve speed of operation and decrease the dwell time of the container. Four TEU per square metre is handled at the port – which Mr Testi said was one of the best results among ports in Europe and Asia.
La Spezia handled 1.3M TEU last year. “We did this with the same space available as 10 years ago, which shows that our productivity is higher,” said Mr Testi.
Last year the port saw a 17% increase in volumes between 2017 and 2016.
The port has reduced dwell time from six days to less than four due to a mix of IT and having an efficient transport system. Crucial to the efficiency of the port is using Contship Italia’s inland depot Melzo in Milan, which is used an “extended quay” of La Spezia. The company has invested more than €40M (US$46M) since 2011, to increase terminal capacity and launch its own rail services including running three trains per day between La Spezia and Melzo allowing 35% of La Spezia’s cargo to be handled by rail, three times more than the average in Italy.
“Melzo will be more and more vital in the future as a main system to move cargo more quickly out of La Spezia”
Mr Testi told Container Shipping & Trade “Because of limited space in La Spezia, we cannot keep export containers there but can move these containers from Melzo to the port, close to the arrival of the vessel. Melzo is used as a buffer to ship cargo.”
He said viewing Melzo as an extension of the port would be “more and more vital in the future as a main system to move cargo more quickly out of La Spezia,” due to the expansion the container terminal is to undergo.
Indeed, Contship Italia is investing €200M in La Spezia: its target is to move from a throughput of 1.3M TEU per annum to 2M TEU, and to boost rail use at the port to 50% of its cargo volumes. The aim is to complete phase one by 2020-2022, and the second phase will start from 2020. Five new quays will be constructed, operations will be semi-automated and new quay cranes added.
Contship Italia has expanded its hinterland reach through its intermodal system. It now has one train a day to Basle and Zurich and from September this year three trains a week will travel from La Spezia to Munich, with plans to launch another service to Stuttgart in Germany next year. The port is competing with north European gateways including Rotterdam and Antwerp for cargo to and from these areas.
“Because of our geography and cost competitiveness we think we will attract cargo,” said Mr Testi.
The port operator started serving Switzerland in 2013 with its train to Basle and last year its volumes totalled 12,000 TEU to Switzerland. Now it has launched a service to Zurich, it aims to double these volumes.
Abu Dhabi Ports’ (ADP) flagship terminal, Khalifa Port, was only opened in 2012 and efficiency and technology are top priorities. Khalifa Port is connected to almost 70 international ports.
Abu Dhabi Ports also owns free zone Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi, an emerging industrial and logistics hub in the region, which is crucial to the port and also part of ADP’s efficiency drive.
Underpinning all of this is technology and efficiency. ADP chief commercial and strategy officer Ross Thompson explained “If you look at the supply chain industry, there is a huge amount of disruptive technology accelerating towards us at a rapid pace, including automation and robotics; all these things are on our horizon and need to be at the forefront as to how we can apply them to the industry to meet the growing sophistication of our customers.”
He said being a new port gave Khalifa an advantage, as the port operator can “design new assets better than simply trying to change older assets”, as when looking at technology, “starting with a fresh place is sometimes easier”.
Summing up the port’s use of technology, Mr Thompson said “Our strategy will always be to invest in technology which adds value to the customer supply chain and drives economic benefit for ADP and the Abu Dhabi economy.”
When Khalifa Port opened its doors in 2012, it was the first semi-automated terminal in the region. “It was unproven technology at the time, no one knew what effect sun, sand and dust would have on automated equipment, but we have found no impact and are looking at further automation.” Abu Dhabi Ports works with local institutes and universities to look at ways innovation and technology can help the container terminal industry. “We look at how innovation and technology in parallel industries can be applied and adapted to benefit port operations and the supply chain,” said Mr Thompson.
Furthermore, Khalifa’s free zone, integrated with the port, means the port and industrial zone are a “stronger value proposition together”.
“We have looked at how to create smart ports and integrated smart cities – if supply chains are moving into a port, how can we create smart processes and use blockchain? We drill down to the physical flow of cargo and data flow and look at what we are able to invest in now and what we can do in the future to reach our end goal of a smart integration platform,” said Mr Thompson.
Last year Abu Dhabi Ports launched Maqta Gateway, which is behind a port community platform that allows all data and document flow to be fully integrated with all stakeholders. It is also investing in blockchain and automation.
Ross Thompson (Abu Dhabi Ports)
Ross Thompson joined Abu Dhabi Ports in 2016 as vice president of commercial and business development in the company’s ports unit. In January 2017 he was appointed chief commercial and strategy officer, responsible for the functions of corporate commercial and strategy, quality and excellence, business process and business intelligence.
Previously, Mr Thomson worked at Peel Ports Group and APL.
He holds a bachelor of arts degree in international business and languages from Plymouth University, an executive management diploma from Singapore Management University and an executive diploma in maritime economics and supply chain from Erasmus University Rotterdam.
Boosting ship to shore
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.
Switzerland-headquartered Data and System Planning (DSP) provides worldwide IT solutions and business operation consultancy to the shipping industry, port and terminal management and intermodal transportation. This includes implementing and optimising terminal operating systems. Indeed DSP has been a Navis service solutions implementation partner since 2007 with a team of worldwide operational experts in container terminals.
Navis’ N4 TO enables terminals to optimise their operations and move cargo more efficiently.
The trend within container terminals to boost the efficiency of their operations can be seen by the growth of those installing Navis TOS. DSP chief executive Marco Fehmer told Container Shipping & Trade the company had made 130 Navis container port implementations with many of these taking place within the last year. These include at DP World (DPW) Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, DPW Prince Rupert in Canada, APM Terminals’ Tangier TM2 in Morocco and Bremerhaven Port’s Eurogate container terminal project.
Explaining the benefits of using Navis, Mr Fehmer said “The Navis solution is robust, stable and has all the features needed. What is important is high flexibility to configure behaviour to meet terminal business needs, as each terminal has different needs depending on equipment used, electronic data interchange requirements and so on, so we can customise the system.”
Mr Fehmer highlighted that an important part of future technology is “really pushing for co-operation between the vessel and the terminal”, where “the vessel stowage co-ordinator may collaborate and share plans in advance with the terminal; the terminal can see the cargo split on board from the beginning and so can see how many cranes should be deployed and reduce unlikely yard shiftings”.
He emphasised the significance of Navis’ co-operation tools for preplanning and sharing information in advance. “It provides a solution for vessel operators themselves and is setting a standard in the industry,” he said.
While Navis can be used with automated terminals and traditional terminals, Mr Fehmer said there was a move to automation within the container port sector, as such technology is “not a risk anymore”.
DP World unveils tracking tool
DP World has upgraded its Where’s My Container cargo tracking tool to provide more supply chain visibility.
It will now offer advanced tracking for users of DP World’s London Gateway and Southampton ports, providing even more visibility and enabling users to plan, adapt and drive efficiencies. CST spoke to DP World UK managing director and DP World Gateway chief executive Chris Lewis about how this boosts efficiency.
What impact and benefits will the updates in Where’s My Container have on shipping lines?
DP World customers and cargo owners benefit from this tool. It enables them to track and trace their containers – from ship-to-shore, out of the port gate and back again.
Do you think the tool will be further developed ?
As organisations continue to look for new ways to use digitalisation and data to boost their bottom line, we plan to remain dynamic by evolving this service in line with this fast-changing industry.
Upcoming functionality includes email and SMS push notifications relating to the status of containers, greater visibility of container journey milestones and access to crucial historical data.
The final phase of roll-out will see Where’s My Container provide the greater visibility and transparency that shippers moving large volumes require. As part of this we are looking into a direct interface and link-up between DP World and customer systems for a seamless user experience.
Is digitalisation important for DP World in the UK? What are its strategies here?
The logistics and supply chain industry is demonstrating ever-increasing levels of digitalisation and automation, in everything from trucks (platooning) and in warehouses and factories, to ports. As such, digitalisation is a key pillar for DP World in the UK, and we aim to constantly enhance our capacities in this area and look at ways of sharing data that will be to the benefit of all parts of the supply chain operation.
Automation at DP World London Gateway comes via our gate system, truck handling, stack management, shuttle carrier management systems and through optical character recognition on quay cranes. This level of automation means that operations are more efficient.
Importantly, automation is leading to a skill-set shift, creating new jobs in IT, planning, engineering and control.