Nurturing new talent in the ports sector

Student challenge: Sweden’s Blekinge Institute of Technology and the University of Hamburg went head-to-head to tackle

Student challenge: Sweden’s Blekinge Institute of Technology and the University of Hamburg went head-to-head to tackle "Optimising Landslide Container Traffic Flow and the Terminal Interchange"

Trucker troubles: something the North American ports have become only too accustomed to over the last year where there have been strikes on the back of congestion and waiting times.

But wouldn’t it be great if there was some type of standard system to handle truck flow at ports, speeding up delivery times, reducing congestion and maximising efficiency.

This was a topic that The Port Equipment Manufacturers Association (PEMA) second student challenge sought to address this week at TOC Europe.

Sweden’s Blekinge Institute of Technology and the University of Hamburg went head-to-head, to tackle this year’s theme “Optimising Landslide Container Traffic Flow and the Terminal Interchange” presenting their projects in a live final in front of a panel of judges at the exhibition.

The team from University of Hamburg, comprising of Gökhan Deniz, Rickmer Weichenthal and Zi Sang walked away with the top prize for its PortIO mobile app for improving truck flow in seaports.

PEMAs panel of judges were particularly impressed with the app which is an interactive system with real time communication enabling live tracking of trucks moving around the terminal.

PortIO truck app

Tom Ward, senior maritime planner, Parsons Brinkerhoff and one of the judges said: “This app is a tangible solution to an immediate problem that exists at many terminals – truckers vs operators. The judges felt that this project should win because it could offer an immediate practical benefit to the industry.”

The prototype app, which incorporates a route planning application and traffic information, enables both the port and truckers to log congestion or incidents as they happen to enable better port planning. Truckers can use the app to actively re-plan a route to avoid congestion or know when to best ‘wait it out’ at a service point.

Truckers simply log in to the app with their drive user id, log the job, update with any issues along the way and then mark the job as completed when the load reaches its destination. The port meanwhile can control which consignments are allocated to truckers and re-assign a job according to which truck is nearest.

In the students’ own words: “PortIO was designed to improve traffic flow both inside and outside the port and helps to both avoid and prevent congestion. Furthermore truck drivers are actively involved in helping to enhance the whole system.”

Landside congestion is a serious concern for ports and the problem is only set to be exacerbated by the increase in larger vessels leading to a higher volume of containers being unloaded at a single ship call.

Winning prizes 

The winning team received a €1000 cash prize from PEMA and a trophy, plus a surprise internship with Peel Ports. While the runner up team from Blekinge Institute received a trophy plus a €1000 cheque from Cavotec.

This year’s judging panel comprised of David Huck, port director at Peel Ports Group, Gavin van Marle, editor of The Loadstar and a consultant on the sea freight industry and Tom Ward, a senior maritime planner at Parsons Brinkerhoff.

One of the judges David Huck, port director of the Peel Ports Group told Port Strategy: "Peel Ports was intrigued by the brief of this challenge which is similar to the challenges we are facing at this time. This is why we provided the internship."

"We’re open to new ideas and are looking for new blood to learn from and develop the business into the future."

PEMA President and CEO of Cavotec, Ottonel Popesco, added: "The whole point of this challenge is to bring new talent into the industry, which by nature is very conservative and can benefit from fresh new ideas."

The students were thrilled to win the challenge. Winning Masters student, Gökhan Deniz, told PS: "I’ve long been interested in logistics at terminals and am currently doing a Masters degree in Information Systems. We learned a great deal doing this project and it was really good experience for us."

PEMA said the initiative exists to foster strong relations between the academic and business worlds, and give top students an opportunity to meet industry experts. It will be back again next year.

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