The port call process: a balancing act
The port call process is the process of a ship arriving at a port, offloading its cargo, and leaving for its next destination. If you are involved in any element of the port call process, you will appreciate that at times it can be a cumbersome manual process that relies on last-minute data. With many different spinning plates to balance at once, this practice requires everyone involved to execute their tasks flawlessly at the correct moments. When data isn’t relayed in a timely fashion, it leaves a lot of room for human error in the port call process.
The status quo hinders collaboration
The illustration above shows the process of managing a ship as it arrives and offloads at a port. When a ship needs to communicate with another actor at a port, they go through the Ship Agent. This process has its benefits, but is ultimately inefficient.
To automate this process and harness technology that relays real-time data to relevant parties, TheoremOne developed a SmartPort concept. This concept pulls multiple data sets from a range of sources and relays all relevant information to parties in one easy-to-use platform. By increasing efficiency, Port Agents can devote more time and focus to improving scheduling and scenario planning.
Making sense of multiple datasets
With multiple datasets available, it is vital to understand which pieces of information are most important. TheoremOne analyzed where potential bottlenecks occur in the port call process and when information could be relayed to avoid them. From our study, we identified the following datasets as most important:
- Location of ships
- Current cargo capacity at ports
- Available capacity
- Container inventory
- Location of containers within the ports
- Current levels of capacity within road and rail freight forwarders
Reduce barriers to drive data sharing
The process above shows our streamlined version of the port call process. Rather than going through multiple layers of communication via the ship agent, SmartPort proposes consistent, real-time communication between all parties involved. This means that, for example, a ship can confirm capacity with a terminal operator as they near a port, helping them to reduce idle time.
Port actors must collaborate
Collaboration is a key success factor for such a multipronged process. As part of this, the security of both data and the channels that store and relay it is an essential consideration. In response,the S-211 Port Call Message — part of the ISO 19100 standard — and the EPCIS standard for exchanging event information were developed to give greater confidence to those involved in the sharing of information during the port call process. According to a previous UN study, some private sector participants in the port call process are reluctant to hand over too much information to port authorities out of fear of an increase in operational control. However, such fears can diminish when the opportunities such as idle time and improved wider visibility on cargo capacity are properly presented.
TheoremOne and Ceedbox drive industry innovation
As part of the SmartPort ideation process, we sat down with Alex Grant, Managing Director of Ceedbox, a development company driving innovation in the logistics industry. Originally the development division of Cardinal Global Logistics, Ceedbox has since become an entity in its own right. TheoremOne and Ceedbox share a very similar goal in driving greater visibility in what can be a fairly opaque industry.
Ceedbox made important strides in improving the ways in which logistics companies operate. As part of their continuous innovation, they are building a container tracking solution, called Container Chase, that will provide invaluable information on container location and content, an important part of the wider SmartPort concept. It is common knowledge that container traffic at ports is a major contributor to the global supply chain bottleneck. Whenever an industry experiences backlogs, it is safe to assume that the route cause is a lack of real-time, accurate information.
Data sharing is important; data presentation is key
The sharing of data between port agents is crucial to ensuring that the port runs smoothly. How you present the data to those agents is critical to establishing long-term data sharing. While it may sound obvious, the process must be easy for a user to access the data in a way that works for them. Below is one example of how the data could look, but as a business that builds bespoke solutions, TheoremOne can easily customize solutions to suit the needs of any client.
Connecting sea and land
It is all well and good to discuss how we can advance the process of landing a ship and unloading containers. However, we must connect sea and land to improve the status quo. One major global issue is the shortage of trucking and Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers. Decades of poor working conditions the industry with an image issue, subsequently resulting in difficult circumstances for talent acquisition.
But all is not lost. When resources are limited, companies must improve their processes to make up for the shortage. In this case, SmartPort integrates with third-party road and rail logistics firms, providing real-time locations of ships and containers so that they can better understand when trucks and trains are needed, and rely on a precise inventory to better implement destinations and routes.
The essence of two-way communication also comes into play here. It is not good enough for one side of the party to relay all of the information. In order for a SmartPort tool to work, the road and rail freight forwarders must also provide real-time information on the number of available transport assets and their locations.
What happens during peak times?
It is not possible to say that there will never be port congestion again. Clearly, in a post-pandemic world where e-commerce is booming, the use of online shopping will continue to grow. SmartPort allows you to forecast possible bottlenecks and make more informed decisions to avoid major delays.
In the situation outlined above, Port X is at 85% capacity with circa 150,000 containers expected in the next two weeks. With SmartPort, a port agent now has a clear view of not only what their port can realistically accept, but how many containers can realistically leave the port in the next two weeks, guided by available road and rail capacity and historic data. This information will enable them to make the decision as to whether they divert a ship to a nearby port or still accept them if the anticipated idle time will be within an acceptable range.
Who benefits from using SmartPort?
Based on our industry research, we understand where more visibility is needed in the global supply chain. Our solution aims to not only shine a light on what can be an obscure process, but also to connect all of the major players in the process of moving goods. SmartPort can assist:
- Shipping lines
- Port authorities
- Port agents
- Tug companies
- Cargo handlers
- Terminal operators
- Road and rail freight forwarders
Creating visibility and communication
How data is used is the next challenge for all industries. Process bottlenecks are usually caused by two factors — a lack of visibility into the entire process and a lack of communication between the parties involved. When these two issues occur, it makes it almost impossible to properly forecast and scenario plan. The global supply chain crisis is no different. Therefore, a tool that makes visible what previously was invisible and aids communication between those involved has obvious benefits as it allows for realistic, real-time, forecasting and scenario planning for all parties involved.
At TheoremOne, we don’t limit our thinking to what our people say; we seek out and speak with experts in relevant industries to understand key emerging issues. Until a viable solution is designed, the global supply chain bottlenecks will continue to be an issue. The SmartPort concept is a viable solution to port call problems, and we are working to create the software that pieces all of the parts together.