Keeping control of the system

PSA's port operations centre balances technology with human interaction. Credit: MPA PSA's port operations centre balances technology with human interaction. Credit: MPA
Industry Database

High-tech solutions will allow marine operation strategies that include people, processes and technology and deliver real added value in terms of efficiency, capability, service offering and safety for any group of ports, says Peel Ports Mersey's Steve Gallimore.

“Should ports wish to deliver an integrated logistical solution, a centralised marine offering could enhance a seamless entry and exit to and from their different ports.” To achieve this they need to leverage value and provide commonality in standards and management structure, he says.

Of course, technology has a nasty habit of moving forward so fast it’s almost obsolete as soon as it’s installed. That, says an industry consultant, who prefers to remain anonymous, is not an issue. “If you buy a new car, just because something better comes out next week you are not going to change your car.”

What’s more of a challenge, he says, is keeping under control your in-house IT geeks who just love to develop new features that operations simply don’t want or need.

“Where I was, it was like their hobby. They were constantly wanting to bring out things that operations didn’t want – we had to control it at one stage.”

The change from looking out of the window to looking at a screen has also had an impact on ports’ recruitment needs, he says.

In the ‘old days’ of the control tower, the preference was for ex-servicemen types with a ‘loud attitude’, who could charge downstairs, get out on the quay, bark orders and take control of a situation. “The port environment is still one of heavy machinery but can be controlled (in the control centre) by a 19-year-old who likes to play Xbox all day.”

He adds: “With the right IT system and enough equipment, you can instantly and remotely see if a ship is falling behind, and reprioritise and adjust your terminal equipment and operations.

“You can allow customers limited access so that they can log in and get real-time information on whether the ship has finished loading, and so on. A comprehensive system also enables you to monitor and audit operations, compare drivers’ performance in the same shift. Twenty years ago, the equipment or crane driver would write down the box number on a piece of paper – and often they would go home with the piece of paper still in their back pocket.”

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