Facing port management challenges

Rene Wernli regional CEO, Middle East & Africa, ECU Worldwide looks at the ever-changing port management landscape
Rene Wernli, Regional CEO – Middle East & Africa, ECU Worldwide.
Rene Wernli, Regional CEO – Middle East & Africa, ECU Worldwide.


What are the biggest challenges faced in port operations and how can technology ease those burdens?
Well, being the gateway for trade, port plays a critical role in establishing the export competitiveness of a country. Having said that, ports across the globe are facing some critical operational challenges while delivering services.
One of those challenges is how to bring the containers from the port to the container yard in the most efficient manner. Port management must seriously look into reducing the turnaround time of the ships as well as maximising the container terminal throughput. Swiftly operated container terminals always take the operational efficiency of a port several notches higher.

Technology can play an important role in enhancing the port efficiency. New-age technology tools like the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, blockchain technology, cloud-based services, and connected platforms can go a long way towards overhauling the conventional operations of the port.

Customers often order shipments ‘just-in-time’ as they want to keep their inventory holding cost on the lower side. This leads to further pressure on the supply chain. Thanks to advanced track and trace facility, our customers get updates on the arrival time of the vessel at the parts, and plan accordingly to make their cargo immediately available in their respective markets.

Now, in such a competitive market scenario, top-notch infrastructure needs to be developed in and around the ports to implement the ‘just-in-time’ concept, and faster vessel turnarounds. In the Middle East and many other countries, as we collaborate with all the leading port operators, we have access to the latest and advanced equipment which allows us to obtain the container within hours from berthing of the vessel. Efficient port operators always help the shipping industry in servicing its client properly.

With bigger ships, comes more cargo - mega container ships have cut the number of ships coming to port, but also increased the amount of containers to be offloaded, how is automation assisting in container handling?
All the major ports are now geared up to handle mega ships. Some of the ports have been voted ‘best seaports’ due to their efficiency. Banking on the latest technology and automation, they are now handling ultra large container vessels (ULCV) with capacities exceeding 18,000 TEU.

Automation has transformed the container handling mechanism in ports in a big way. It has brought in consistency in container handling by reducing human errors and delays, apart from reducing carbon emissions inside the port, and minimising accidents and downtime. For instance, automated crane system with higher adaptability and lower human intervention rates increase the efficiency manifold in container terminals. Smart sensors can also be widely used for predicting maintenance schedules to avoid annual inspections of the automated equipment.

How can the processing of trucks in and out of ports be made more efficient with technology?
Infrastructure development has to be rolled out inside and outside of the ports. A port with efficient infrastructure can not function to its potential and faces bottlenecks and congestions if its surrounding infrastructure facilities are under-developed. Overall port infrastructure takes into account both its internal and external aspects. The technology and process flows must support each other to leverage overall port infrastructure.

Port operators are aware of that aspect and they always look for viable options to ensure efficient movement of trucks in the port area. To give you some real life examples, technologies like a GPS-based traffic-monitoring system, traffic-monitoring sensors along major port roads or truck appointment systems can prove effective in decongesting traffic. Some major ports in the world have implemented such technologies. 

As truck movements inside the ports are restricted, fixed processes must be adhered to ensure speed and safety while the loading and unloading of the containers in the truck. In this case, strategic implementation of technology facilitates a very disciplined and automated truck movement to ensure port KPIs in relation to safety, speed, efficiency and cost are met and constantly improved.

Customers can now track their containers from end-to-end, which is driving more accountability for shippers, how is increased transparency in the customer-shipper relationship due to technological implementations/developments changing and challenging the industry?
With the improved visibility thanks to numerous online tools and interfaces, customers are now able to plan cargo shipment more accurately and optimise their supply chain more efficiently. It however, makes it more challenging for the industry to ensure that all processes related to cargo handling are carried out immaculately as any delay or bottleneck is visible to the customers. Therefore, the priority of shipping and transportation industry has to be on enhancing performance yardsticks to service the customers well. This industry, in fact, acts as an integral part of the transportation and supply chain.

ECU Worldwide
ECU Worldwide is a major player and a market leader in the container shipping industry. We offer the latest technology and tools to our customers but at the same time also rely on the shipping line and port operators’ performances. We are passionately working towards offering the best solutions in collaboration with our partners to serve our customers.

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