Productivity for box ports and ships gains momentum
By Rebecca Moore
New initiatives and innovative solutions are increasing the efficiency of cargo operations
Port and vessel efficiency have been boosted by recent industry initiatives and cargo stowage innovations.
The Port Call Optimization Taskforce (PCOT), which represents shipping, ports, suppliers of navigation, terminal operating and blockchain systems and representatives of international maritime organisations, has made strides in its aims to boost just-in-time arrivals which will have a knock-on effect on port productivity.
Consensus was reached on global data standards for port call data at a workshop held by the PCOT in December 2018.
Two clauses are being created to incentivise information sharing regarding vessel arrival times and the potential ability for shipowners to adjust speed to suit the arrival time. This incentive would use a common-use traffic management system built around shared benefits for on-time arrival at the port prior to berthing.
International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) is supporting the initiative and spreading its work to the wider port network via the 170 ports that are part of the association.
IAPH managing director of policy and strategy Dr Patrick Verhoeven told Container Shipping & Trade “We are the voice of what this group of technical experts are doing and communicate to IMO and others.”
In March 2018, IAPH launched the World Ports Sustainability Programme and, Dr Verhoeven said, also supported initiatives such as PCOT which have a “big sustainability impact”.
“Port call optimisation and improved port productivity have an impact on safety and the environment as well as on efficiency, so we decided to endorse this task force.”
Explaining the work of the taskforce, he said “They are looking at standardising communications between ship and shore about berth availability – port efficiency will be gained if all parties work in a more standardised process. And this reduces emissions, which is where we come in with the sustainability angle.
“The first thing the taskforce did was to look at the contractual arrangements between the port and the ship – there are a huge amount of parties involved in port calls and they mapped that out, which is amazing if you look at the complexity. Each element in that puzzle has the potential to be more efficient. They now want to work towards standardised communications between ship and shore and early notification between berth, stowage and pilots.”
The taskforce involves eight ports: Rotterdam, Singapore, Gothenburg, Ageciras, Busan, Houston, Ningbo and Tangier Med, while on the carrier side Maersk, CMA CGM and MSC are members, as is shipping agent Inchgate.
Dr Verhoeven pointed out that another link is to connect to the work of IMO. “IMO set up a global alliance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and port call optimisation is where you can reduce the emissions of a ship. If a ship has to wait a long time, they produce emissions, so the quicker the ship gets in and out of work, the less emissions they produce.”
Singling out the importance of port productivity, Dr Verhoeven said “All ports are trying to find ways to increase productivity. The Taskforce is mainly talking about the ship to shore element, but there are other areas to look at, like hinterland connections.”
He said that many of IAPH’s members are port authorities, which only have an indirect influence on gate productivity. But he pointed out that port authorities can provide incentives to make sure the terminal operators leasing their land are using it in the most optimal and efficient way.
IAPH is also involved in other port efficiency programmes. It is delivering a workshop to 50 ports in March this year in Geneva which will tie in with United Nations’ 17 sustainable goals.
Dr Verhoeven said “We are looking at what this means for ports and where they can help through opportunities including digitalisation. Productivity is a big part of the story – the more productive, the better the positive impact on the environment and the more you can create welfare for the community.”
Another port operator working on boosting productivity is DP World. DP World and industrial engineering specialist SMS group's joint venture has developed a new technology they say will ‘revolutionise’ the way that containers are handled in ports.
The joint venture chief executive Dr Mathias Dobner said "Our system will significantly increase the productivity of handling ships on the quay. This means that quay walls can be shortened by a third. [It] will greatly improve the financial performance of container ports and their overall appearance.”
The High Bay Storage system was originally developed by SMS group subsidiary AMOVA for round-the-clock handling of metal coils that weigh as much as 50 tonnes each in racks as high as 50 m. And AMOVA is the first company to transfer the proven technology to the port industry.
Instead of stacking containers directly on top of each other, which has been global standard practice for decades, the system places each container in an individual rack compartment. Containers are stored in an 11-storey rack, creating 200% more capacity than a conventional container terminal, effectively enabling the same storage capacity in less than a third of the space.
Thanks to the rack’s design, each container can be accessed without moving another one. DP World said that costs are further cut by the ability to shorten the time taken to load and unload mega-ships by as much as 30%.
MacGregor’s Cargo Boost system lies at the heart of its cargo handling arrangement
Productivity measures are being taken not just in port, but also on the vessel. The number of existing container vessels undergoing retrofits of their cargo stowage systems has increased as operators seek to monetise their ships and so boost the amount of cargo stowed.
To this end, MacGregor has noticed a “big boom” in helping customers increase payload capacity, earning potential and the operational safety of their vessels by retrofitting them with innovative solutions to improve the number of containers that can be carried on board and a vessel’s container carrying flexibility; each boosting the earning capabilities of the ship. So far, MacGregor has retrofitted 100 container ships varying in sizes from 6,800 TEU to 19,200 TEU.
A holistic approach is at the heart of MacGregor’s Cargo Boost service, which improves the earning potential of existing box ships.
The company offers a MacGregor Cargo Boost service, part of its PlusPartner concept, which is designed to improve the earning potential of existing container ships. The upgrades include an individual plan for each vessel, with a focus on improving earning potential and efficiency and decreasing emissions per transported unit.
At the heart of the system is the cargo handling arrangement, which must be looked at holistically along with all the elements of the system – the lashing bridge, lashing system and hatch covers – to create the most efficient and effective cargo system.
Recent projects include several Cargo Boost applications. Late 2017 and early last year MacGregor carried out its Cargo Boost service on 11 10,000-TEU container vessels owned by Seaspan, known as ‘SAVER 10000s’.
MacGregor also used its Cargo Boost service on systems on board seven Hapag-Lloyd C-class Samsung 9,300-TEU series container vessels in 2018.
A key factor was to allow for higher stack weights for 40-ft containers; a sector identified as holding some revenue potential.
Indeed, MacGregor senior naval architect Kari Tirkkonen highlighted this as a growing trend. He said that the company has been developing solutions for improving cargo efficiency, including an invention that allow the ships to carry a mix of 20-ft boxes and 40-ft boxes together. Previously they would be carried in separate slots. “More and more 40-ft containers are being carried, especially high cubes, and this has created pressure for cargo systems to be retrofitted to allow the carriage of high cubes/40-ft containers.”
Using a holistic approach is also applied to newbuilds. Mr Tirkkonen said the loading system for each vessel should be planned before the building stage to get the best possible configuration.
“To create the best possible arrangements for each vessel, lashing bridges, hatch covers and lashing systems each need to be configured into the system as a whole,” said Mr Tirkkonen.
As well as creating more opportunities for ships to increase their earning potential, loading and unloading in port is also easier. “If the cargo carrying capabilities of a ship are more flexible, then you can reduce restowage and moves when in port. If the cargo is not stowed flexibly enough then it might have to be restowed during loading/unloading, which is inefficient and time-consuming.”
One point that MacGregor is keen to highlight is that for the cargo stowage system to be as efficient as possible, the crew on board and the personnel ashore using it “really need to understand how to use it”.
MacGregor master mariner Tero Sairanen said “Crew and cargo planners must be trained by MacGregor so that they can use the system properly, explain to other personnel how to operate it and use it wisely to get the maximum benefit from it. If it is not understood by the people using it or if they use their own rules and restrictions, they could downgrade the vessel’s actual container capacity. We also offer online training.”
Route specific rules boost efficiency
Onboard loading computers are applying increasingly stringent and specific lashing rules for the route the ship is sailing on, leading to an increase in safety and more flexibility in creating cargo loading plans.
Navis product manager for MACS3 Gerald Lange said “Route specific and weather specific lashing rules allow reduced limiting accelerations increasing cargo intake and flexibility in container stowage.” As part of this he singled out a trend for new container lashing geometries to be applied in cargo securing systems and to be calculated on loading computers.
He summed up “We are at the forefront of developments with MACS3 and there has been a lot of progress in the rules in last few years – Route Specific Container Stowage + (RSCS+) is one of changes that we have worked on.”
At SMM September 2018, Navis launched DNV GL’s latest lashing regulation option RSCS+ on its loading computer MACS3 – and this has been launched on a Claus-Peter Offen container vessel.
In Q4 last year, Navis’ ship-specific MACS3 Sealash module on board the 8,000-TEU container vessel was approved by DNV GL. The vessel, owned and managed by Hamburg-based Offen group, is now able to apply the latest update of RSCS+ lashing regulations from DNV GL, July 2018 edition. The update allows the maximum theoretical capacity for this vessel to increase by approximately 5%.
As part of the upgrade in RSCS+, vessels can now access the DNV GL webpage for worldwide routes without additional approval from class.
Using the class-approved lashing computer, the cargo officer can now choose between calculations for longhaul routes and shortsea voyages as part of RSCS+. As a result, more cargo can be safely loaded on the vessels based on its typical trade pattern and weather forecast for shortsea voyages.
Mr Lange said “In short voyage mode a reduction factor given by the rule can be applied if a weather forecast with a maximum wave height is available, and based on this in the lashing calculation to gain more flexibility in stowing containers, allowing heavier cargo to be placed higher in the stack.”
A major focus for Navis is the integration between its MACS3 onboard loading computer and its XVELA planning and collaboration platform used for carriers and ports to find the best possible port loading and unloading plan.
XVELA vice president global sales Martin Bardi said “The integration between MACS3 and XVELA allows the terminal to validate stowage plans by using the same criteria as the ship’s crew.” Allowing the plans to be viewed by both crew and the terminal operators from the start “reduces the number of iterations it traditionally takes to get plans approved by the ship captain. This ultimately increases vessel productivity at the port.”
More than 50% of container vessels are using MACS3 on board, and major liners like CMA CGM are working with Stowman Navis software for stowage planning.