Container Terminal Burchardkai, source: HHLA

Reducing costs: how digital solutions improve operations at Port of Hamburg

2021/04/09 at 9:19 AM

Efficient contemporary seaports can’t develop without being digital. What key digital solutions does the Port of Hamburg use in its daily operations?

“Imagine that there is no congestion on your waterways or roads to access your port, imagine that relevant information is available whenever you need it, imagine that terminals and ships are operated with maximum safety, imagine that you meet the environmental goals, imagine that customers can rely on the punctual arrival of their goods, imagine that all resources are used most efficiently for the collective benefit of the supply chain,” Frank Busse, Associate Partner at Hamburg Port Consulting (HPC), called for thinking about the future of the maritime industry at the Intermodal Connect online event.

Some of the mentioned points have already become reality for the Port of Hamburg, the third-largest container facility in Europe. “Digitalisation is not an end in itself. Several examples and successfully implemented solutions have proved the valuable support of digitalisation to specific parts as well as the supply chain in total,” Mr Busse added and outlined three digital initiatives having successfully implemented in the German port.

Digital vessel coordination

Due to its geographical location in the mouth of the Elbe River, navigation in the Port of Hamburg has some restrictions related to the draft, bridges, etc. This requires high-level coordination between the shipping lines, terminal operators and other parties concerned. This service is being provided digitally by the Hamburg Vessel Coordination Centre (HVCC). The development of HVCC is currently managed by HPC while the software is delivered by Hamburg-based company DAKOSY in association with vesseltracker.com, an automatic identification system partner.

Hamburg Vessel Coordination Centre (HVCC), source: HHLA
Hamburg Vessel Coordination Centre (HVCC), source: HHLA

“HVCC collects all the relevant data: the data from the terminals in the port, the data from the carriers, port authority, agents, the data about locations and speed of vessels, as well as even the ports of call that were prior and will be after Hamburg. Combing all of this, there is data aggregation, data interpretation and vessel coordination. This makes it possible that almost no vessels have to wait in the North Sea as they pass at the right time,” Frank Busse explained. Moreover, the digital solution allows the shipping lines to reduce their costs. In 2019 HVCC saved 84,000 tonnes of fuel for them or 30 million dollars.

Initially, HVCC monitored only overseas vessels. Later the feeder vessels sailing inside the port were added to the system. “Last year it started to involve inland shipping in this planning. Therefore, the inland vessels that transport containers to or from the port are integrated into this data platform,” added the HPC Associate Partner.

Smart container stacking

“Dwell time has the highest impact on terminal capacity,” said Frank Busse during his presentation. In order to use this capacity efficiently as much as possible Port of Hamburg implemented an AI-based prediction solution to predict dwell time for each import container. This allows terminal operators to stack containers that should be picked up earlier than others on top of piles and, as a result, to avoid additional shuffle moves, additional resources, maintenance, energy and, of course, costs.

Container Terminal Tollerort, source: HHLA
Container Terminal Tollerort, source: HHLA

Before implementing this digital solution at container terminals at the Port of Hamburg, HPC simulated AI-based dwell time prediction as an additional module to the terminal operating system. The simulation resulted in a decrease of stacking shuffle moves by 20.9%, an increase of stacking productivity by 2.4% and reduce of truck turn time by 2.9%. “The major result was that the number of unproductive container restacking moves reduced by 120,000 restacking moves per year. This saves costs and improves terminal capacity and efficiency,” noted the HPC expert.

Digital truck coordination

The third digital solution is related to the trucks entering the Port of Hamburg. In the 2000s there were huge queues of lorries at the entrance into the port but now this problem resolved due to a Truck Slot Booking System. “This solution enables truckers to book an appointment at the terminal. So the terminal knows when and which truck will come, what container will be brought to the terminal. From the other side, the truckers also see the ques during specific hours at the terminal and can plan their time more efficiently,” explains Frank Busse. He called this project ‘a great achievement’ because two large container terminal operators HHLA and Eurogate working at the Port of Hamburg jointly implemented the mentioned digital system. The project was managed by HPC and software was delivered by DAKOSY.

An articulated lorry at Container Terminal Tollerort, source: HHLA
An articulated lorry at Container Terminal Tollerort, source: HHLA

As for the system benefits, the HPC associate partner listed several key issues. “This really generates transparency and control of truck arrivals, better capacity utilisation on terminal side and truck side, reduction of congestion, improved resource planning and increased terminal performance. In addition, the truckers when booking an appointment for a specific hour deliver in advance all the required data for picking up a container,” he summed up.

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