Improving port call efficiency through digital collaboration

Improving port call efficiency through digital collaboration
A screenshot from Port+’s Qronoport, the shared collaborative platform that makes the pitstop of a liquid bulk vessel in a port more efficient. Please note that the data in the screenshot is fictional and for illustrative purposes only

A new digital collaborative platform by Port+ is facilitating more efficient digital communication between stakeholders involved in the “pitstop” of a tanker.

Research by independent maritime information provider Port+ has found that a lot of time is wasted on pitstops, specifically for tankers. By enabling stakeholders to share digitally the operational and planning data involved in a pitstop, it can be planned and executed as efficiently as possible.

In the Port of Antwerp, a liquid bulk vessel will on average spend 2.5 days in the port. Vessels arriving at the pilot station at sea must obtain clearance before being allowed to sail up to the port. This often results in a significant waste of time. One calculation made by Port+ showed that in one year tankers waited 73,900 hours at a pilot station. This wasted time can be the result of a destination berth not being available when the vessel needs it. While this information should have been predicted earlier, quite often it is not.

According to Port+ calculations, 62 per cent of all tankers arriving at a pilot station are required to wait before they are allowed to sail up to the port, and 35 per cent have to wait because their destination berth is not available. On average, 25 per cent of the time a liquid bulk vessel spends at berth is waste. This means that there are no operational activities taking place.

Research and data analysis into port call processes carried out by Port+ found that even at the most efficient ports like the Port of Antwerp, there is room for improvement.

Why are tanker pitstops so inefficient?

According to Port+, liquid bulk vessels end up wasting time as there is no real fixed plan or schedule. Even when there is a schedule, it can change at any time.

Furthermore, operations at the terminal are complex and less predictable than for other cargo types. More stakeholders are involved with liquid bulk vessel port calls than other cargo types, making communication and planning more complex.

According to Port+, not all stakeholders have contractual relationships and so some stakeholders are not obliged to communicate proactively. This frequently means that stakeholders have to chase one another for information as often there is no proactive communication. As a result, there’s no single source of truth as planning is based on phone calls or emails. Information is easily outdated or inaccurate and different stakeholders end up using different data.

Various stakeholders may also be interested in different parts of the port call efficiency. Ultimately, it is difficult for all involved to obtain a complete overview of the port call, further exacerbating the issues that exist when it comes to decision making and adapting to different situations.

Data sharing and digital collaboration

Port+ believes that data sharing with other stakeholders is critical to driving benefits for all stakeholders involved. Some of the benefits of data sharing and digitalisation include:

Standardisation – one of the key factors of digitisation is standardisation. Using the same standards across the industry will increase the ease of integrating different systems and decrease the risk of error

Pushing data – sharing data will also reduce the need for phone calls and inefficient use of time. If all stakeholders are given the same data at the same time, administrative pressure is lowered, and more time is available for other tasks

One single source of truth – sharing data through a single platform also reduces the likelihood of inaccurate information transfer

Analysis – having access to both your own data and data from partners allows for better analysis of port calls. The data and the analysis can be the basis for further improvements and optimisations, and even predictions

The role of the stakeholder

Port+ believes that if each stakeholder shares data, huge benefits in the port call process can be achieved. For example:

Cargo owners – Cargo owners will be the first to know which cargo will be moved from where to where, and by whom. If the cargo owner shares data with other stakeholders, they will be able to better plan, improving the efficiency of the entire port call

The terminal – many stakeholders rely on terminal information to decide their own plans. By sharing data from the terminal, other stakeholders will not have to call up the terminal to find out new information and will be able to optimise their planning further

Surveyors – the role of the surveyor is key in liquid bulk vessels, according to Port+. A surveyor knows how long sampling and analysis will take, and they usually have a good idea of their own operational capacity, which can be valuable data for other stakeholders. Getting insight into the planning and expectations of other stakeholders will give surveyors a much more accurate view of reality and provide the opportunity to create and adapt a far more realistic and efficient planning

Ship agents – the ship agent is the informational pivot point where information is often centralised. According to Port+, ship agents constantly chase after information and there’s no single source of truth for them. They therefore have to incorporate margins when estimating vessel movements.

An article written by Mikael Lind and Juan Carlos Croston on unctad.org states that:

“The implementation of data sharing for enhanced transparency and harmonisation among port actors creates opportunities for ship agents to deliver faster and higher service quality empowered by digital means and new services.” (“Rethinking maritime businesses for the digital age: the evolving role of ship agents”).

Port+ states that when stakeholders share data digitally through one platform, they can create one single source of truth, drastically lowering the number of telephone calls and e-mails, and lowering the need for including unnecessary margins in planning.

Ship operators – A ship operator wants his ships to sail as efficiently as possible, and as much as possible. Laying idle at the berth, without any operations going on, is a waste of time and money. Improving the port call will make sure a vessel can leave the port in time and be on its way to the next port without delays. Sharing data and getting information from other stakeholders can help a ship operator improve its operational efficiency and analyse port stays better

There are many other stakeholders who will also benefit from sharing their data and collaborating with others, including pilots, barge operators, bunker providers, tugboat services, lock management, customs service providers, waste collection and treatment companies.

How Port+ is helping stakeholders to improve efficiency                  

Port+ is an independent maritime information provider founded in 1905. One of the company’s core businesses has always been, and still is, vessel reporting. Port+ provides stakeholders in maritime supply chains with information that enables them to optimise their operational planning and execution. The company has a strong focus on using data and digital solutions to optimise port calls.

One solution offered by Port+ is Qronoport, a shared collaborative platform that makes the “pitstop” of a liquid bulk vessel in a port more efficient by combining data from various sources, including data directly from the stakeholders.

Qronoport lowers the threshold for stakeholders in a pitstop to digitally share operational information with other stakeholders. This provides visibility, predictability and more efficient communication.

Qronoport takes and combines data from various sources. For instance, data from port community systems, AIS data, and operational data and timestamps about planned, ongoing and finished activities directly from the stakeholders. The combination of these data sources gives stakeholders in the process a highly accurate overview of the different activities taking place – both planned and completed – increasing the efficiency of their planning and operations.

This results in an increased predictability, a decrease in waste in between activities and hence a decrease in turnaround times for vessels through the port.

Stakeholders can benefit from the following by using Qronoport:

–  All data that a stakeholder needs to plan their activities is centralised in one place, rather than spread out over different mailboxes, Excel files and systems

–  Combining all of this data and ingesting it from the source, creates a single source of truth. Nowadays, stakeholders are often working with different or outdated information, which can lead to conflicts and delays

–  Ingesting the data from the source and centralising it, drastically decreases the lines of communication. This results in a faster call to action and an easier overview of when something is expected from someone

–  The data hub allows Port+ to send out relevant notifications. All relevant data will be pushed, completely turning around the current way of working

This article was based on a white paper published by Port+. Find out more here www.qronoport.com