Sweat the tech
Streamlined: optimisation software can automate complex operational decisions
Doing more with less applies to technology as well as equipment assets as Dave and Iain MacIntyre find out
As ports and terminals seek competitive advantage, it is usual for managers to 'sweat' assets to the maximum – but do they know how to sweat their technology as hard?
Some key suppliers are seeing the benefit of alerting port executives to the extra productivity that can be eased out of their software, their systems and their operations. Three examples are Navis, Bechtel and Cavotec.
The trend towards larger vessels and the resulting increase in cargo directly challenges the terminal industry to ensure that ports are able to optimise operations for maximum efficiency. As a result, Navis has launched Navis Optimization Services (NOS) a global consulting practice within Navis Professional Services.
Navis has created a team that goes to users and educates them on the features they have on their software, enabling them to get better use of the product. Basically, a way to make more use of technology that’s already there.
Doing more with less
“Optimisation software automates complex operational decisions, delivering significant return on investment and operational productivity improvements,” says Frederik Stork, Director Optimization Services at Navis.
The goal is the integrated delivery of TOS implementation, optimisation module configuration and the improvement of associated operational processes. This includes business process and data analysis, followed by repetitive configuration, testing, and tuning of the optimisation modules, leading to user enablement and go-live support.
It also embraces a 'tune-up' of existing optimisation modules to adapt to change occurring at terminals, and an implementation of a custom optimisation module to address terminal-specific situations.
Mr Stork says there are two main reasons why Navis created NOS.
“The optimisation modules can bring significant value to a terminal, but only if configured properly. Configuring optimisation software in general is not easy, hence we want to put a focus on helping our customers more.
“[Second] we expect an increase in fully-automated terminals over the next years, and these terminals require even more optimisation modules.”
With the roll out of automated terminals, software is going to make decisions that were previously done manually.
“That requires several challenges to be addressed, such as user acceptance of the decisions made and associated change management, an understanding for regular review of the configuration and subsequent tuning.”
Bechtel outlined its Smart Ports programme in June at PIANC, with the proposition that successful ports will recognise the trends of tomorrow which are underway today, namely ever-larger ships, shipping alliances, changes to global shipping routes, changes to the ports themselves and the escalating evolution of cargo handling and management technology.
Bechtel is leading a virtual roundtable whose aim is to develop a strategy of delivering commodity-handling marine facilities rapidly and at a lower cost. This is an extension of the Smart Ports concept and has been dubbed 'Fast Ports'.
Marco Pluijm, ports sector manager at Bechtel who is responsible for the company’s ports business, describes Smart Ports as the conduit through which port authorities, shipping lines and terminal owners can work collectively.
By doing so, they can guarantee sufficient flexibility in their port layout and development plans, using state-of-the-art technology and participating in research and the development of future technology.
“For example, we foresee a new generation of mooring and fender systems that will contribute to a much larger container handling operating window in unfavourable wave and swell conditions in ports, than is currently regularly achievable.
“Capability is part of the Smart Ports’ principles and crucial for healthy economic and sustainable development of both new and existing ports.”
One of the concepts being floated by Bechtel is a multi-user offshore hub (MUOH).
Mr Pluijm says Bechtel has discussed the MUOH concept with port and terminal owners and operators, as well as with freight forwarders and shipping lines.
“It’s a solution that can substantially reduce construction and operation costs, making projects feasible that may have been struggling before. Given the number of different players involved, developing the actual projects takes a while.
“For commercial reasons we cannot reveal the names of those involved. However, areas which we are looking at include Mozambique, West Africa (Guinea, Cameroon) and the East and Gulf Coast of the US.”
Regarding the virtual roundtable, Bechtel is participating in various international research platforms in the field of ports and shipping. This includes direct co-operation with leading research institutes and universities in these fields.
Mr Pluijm says Bechtel is involved in many major and innovative port and cargo handling concepts in order to provide optimal solutions to customers, both now and in the future.
“Development of smart mooring and fender systems, as well as smart on-terminal cargo handling systems and techniques, are all part of the solutions.
“Bechtel is also looking at these as part of an international joint-industry project, Transwell, with direct participation of leading players and universities from across the world.
“This will help provide further information for use in new integral solutions for both bulk cargo and containers, such as the Multi User Offshore Hub.”
On the operational front, mooring specialist Cavotec is looking at technological advancement in power systems.
The company will this November complete installation of the world’s first fully-integrated and automated mooring alternative maritime power (AMP) system to service fully battery-powered ferries.
Located at Norway's Lavik and Oppedal frequent-use passenger ferry berths, the MoorMaster and shore-to-ship AMP are expected to maximise efficiency gains and environmental performance of two newbuild catamaran-hulled ferries operated by Norled.
Described as having an 'unprecedented' level of automation, the application has seen special signalling adaptations made to the MoorMaster units as well as greater flexibility for use incorporated into the design.
It involves the ship’s captain initially operating the MoorMaster units - which deliver time, safety and potential infrastructure benefits in comparison to conventional mooring - by hand-held radio remote controls from the bridge.
Once the vessel is secured, the mooring system then signals the AMP unit and a laser sensor guides the AMP connector to a hatch in the side of the vessel, connecting to the ship’s battery and initiating charging.
Cavotec Norway managing director Sofus Gedde-Dahl says the application will enable each ferry to charge its batteries for nine minutes of each ten-minute call at the berths.
“With around 6,000 port calls made annually on the Lavik-Oppedal route, the air quality improvement and fuel cost savings compared to using conventional mooring and power systems are considerable,” he says.
Norled technical director Sigvald Breivik adds: “The extent of technical innovation and system integration of this project shows how port operations can be made dramatically more sustainable and efficient.”
The first of the two 80-metre newbuild ferries, which are expected to commence making 17 daily crossings on the service as from January 1 next year, was recently delivered to Norway's Fjellstrand Shipyard for outfitting and seatrials.
Each with a capacity for about 120 vehicles and 360 passengers, the ferries are being built in a collaborative project between Norled, Fjellstrand, Siemens and Rolls Royce.
Cavotec’s manufacturing and installation project has already been recognised at the inaugural Electric and Hybrid Marine Awards held in Amsterdam in June, where it won the Innovation of the Year category.
The Awards’ jury was tasked with voting “solely for the pioneering technology or technical innovation that they felt pushed the boundaries and contributed in some way to making electric and hybrid propulsion possible and viable”.
Early returns for Navis
Navis says that while it is in the first stages of its Navis Optimization Services roll out, there are some early examples of terminals which have improved their operational efficiency as a result of the new service.
Frederik Stork says one example is the implementation of Expert Decking at a terminal which had previously attempted six times to implement it without success.
“Another example is where we have helped a terminal with a detailed return on investment (ROI) study for using Prime Route, based on which we’re currently implementing the product,” he says.
The response to NOS has been very positive, says Mr Stork. “At the same time, we are just months into the journey, and more work is being done to create assets, best practices, and so on to better help our customer use the power of optimisation.”
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