Trend #1: Improving real-time visibility and decision-making.
Advances in Automatic Identification System (AIS)-based vessel-tracking tools and technology will deliver new capabilities, moving the industry beyond simple “points on a map” that need to be manually aggregated and analyzed, to on-demand and immediately actionable business insights and intelligence. The coming generation of tools will give waterway users real-time answers to a variety of critical business process-optimization questions regarding each mile-marker, terminal, berth, anchorage and buoy.
Trend #2: Improving marine terminal efficiencies.
The world’s largest oil companies are placing growing importance on optimizing marine operations in the petrochemical supply chain using a new category of terminal management software that integrates dock management, scheduling, reporting and analytics with AIS-based vessel tracking services. These tools are bringing enterprise-class efficiency to marine terminal operations while providing continuous visibility to all dock and vessel activities, enabling senior management to cut costs and labor requirements, optimize the supply chain, and drive better business decisions.
Trend #3: Handling the flood of waterway traffic hitting the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The recent flood of crude oil shipments from new finds in the Dakotas, West Texas, Mexico and other locations will continue to put the spotlight on marine transportation efficiency and how to streamline operations, reduce costs, increase visibility and enhance business intelligence. Today’s enterprise tools with dock and jetty scheduling and optimization capabilities are contributing to significant increases in vessel traffic-handling capacity, enabling the marine transportation infrastructure to meet an unprecedented increase in volume demands.
Trend #4: Controlling demurrage costs.
Always important, effective demurrage management has become increasingly significant given the scarcity of Jones Act vessels available to ship oil and refined products between U.S. ports. Tanker rates have soared, and there is an increased focus on minimizing demurrage costs for Jones Act vessels, which is significantly easier to accomplish with the advent of AIS-based vessel-monitoring services and tools with a proven track record in this application.
Trend #5: Collaborating to improve data accuracy and decision-making.
Controlling costs related to transporting petroleum between marine terminals involves a number of dynamic and diverse factors. This is important across all segments of the marine transportation industry, but can be an especially high-stakes endeavor for traders, who frequently rely most heavily on often-imprecise anecdotal and per-barrel costs for their trading decisions. There is a growing trend to cross-organizational collaboration as a more accurate way to gather and quantify transportation costs. This requires tools that allow all departments involved with cost collection to share information, whether about capital projects along the waterway or extended dock outages at public terminals that consistently increase travel time and transportation efficiency.
Trend #6: Simplifying vessel “fit” management.
Configuration data is critical in vessel evaluation -- each terminal has unique restrictions, and all relevant ship characteristics must be compared with current terminal condition and restrictions. This has traditionally created a complex decision matrix when scheduling dock jobs, but the industry is now moving to enterprise terminal management tools that streamline the dock scheduling process while making it easier to match existing ship and cargo characteristics with the terminal’s dock restrictions, warn schedulers when there is a dock fit conflict, and support all key processes associated with dock fit, dock scheduling, and dock activity logging.
Trend #7: Strengthening industry’s focus on safety.
With the goal of improving safety and environmental protection standards, the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF), through its Marine Terminal Management and Self Assessment (MTMSA) guide, has established standardized Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and best practices that terminal operators and their service providers can use to assess management system effectiveness for berth operations and the ship-to-shore interface. Major oil companies are increasingly using these guidelines to evaluate terminals. The latest terminal enterprise software suites simplify compliance, enabling terminal operators to monitor and assess fleet-related TMSA KPIs that involve high levels of data integration, a collaborative approach to managing voyages, and the ability to move information across departments. These tools can also be used for other safety initiatives, including alerting terminal dock construction teams when commercial vessel traffic approaches, or alerting vessels in designated pipeline monitoring zones so they can avoid any contact with the bottom.
Trend #8: Supporting sustainability initiatives.
AIS data is emerging as an ideal tool in a number of sustainability initiatives. For instance, it is being used to determine and monitoring participation in voluntary vessel speed reduction (VSR) initiatives that have significantly cut emissions at major ports and waterways. Another example is the OCIMF’s proposal to reduce carbon emissions through “virtual tendering,” rather than allowing vessels to run at full sea speed toward the load/discharge port within the laycan and then sit there for several days. Instead, terminals would identify a vessel’s available berthing time well before arrival. The vessel would then slow to accommodate jetty availability, but would be allowed to log arrival time as though she had proceeded at charter speed. AIS-based tools can make this possible by accurately predict arrival times given weather conditions and other external factors, and helping manage subsequent vessel scheduling in a manner flexible enough to support berthing upon arrival.
Trend #9: Moving AIS into new marine transportation applications.
We will also see AIS-based tools taking on new roles. One potential area is aids to navigation (ATON), which typically means lighthouses, buoys and beacons but can also extend to AIS data as a “virtual ATON.” Using AIS, an authority can transmit navigation information where no physical ATON exists, by sending addressed messages to a specific wheelhouse. AIS safety-related messages can also be broadcasted to all vessels within range of the broadcasting base station. While a new concept, AIS-based virtual ATONs have been used in several applications within U.S. waters including broadcasting weather and sea state information, and notifying mariners regarding area whale migration activity. We expect to see more in the future.
Trend #10: Averting disaster.
The industry is moving to a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to incident management by taking advantage of AIS data. Viewpoints and understanding of AIS data were previously very limited in the spill and incident response world. However, plotting real time vessel positions, alone, can provide immediate visibility to key vessel information. As AIS and other asset tracking capabilities become an integral part of incident response plans and are regularly exercised, the industry will see a significant return on investment.