***This article originally appeared in the Sep/Oct 2013 edition of Tank Storage Magazine
Efficiency, cost control, and enhanced visibility are more important than ever in today’s increasingly complex terminal environment. At the same time, marine terminal operators must function in a challenging regulatory climate and support new and more rigorous expectations for industry best practices. There are two key requirements for meeting these objectives. The first is to have instant access to vessel information, including both current and historical locations and events. The second is that this information be more than simply ‘points on a map’ so that operators can use the data for business intelligence and analysis, and to improve operational efficiency, decision-making and reporting.
Today’s enterprise-class terminal management offerings make this possible by delivering access to both real-time and historical vessel tracking information, and combining this data with integrated reporting, analysis and dock management tools. These systems can also be used to automate and enhance dock scheduling and activity logging, as well as other key processes and functions, while enabling operators to combine multiple, independent systems into a single, comprehensive and fully integrated solution.
Considering stakeholders’ needs
Integrated marine terminal management systems deliver benefits up and down the chain of command, from the dock operators and supervisors through to senior corporate management. Each stakeholder has specific needs. For instance, at the corporate office, IT teams must ensure system compliance with security and risk mitigation practices. Chartering managers and schedules must connect with traders and identify available vessels while maintaining reliable schedules. Marine technical departments, superintendents and port captains also need the right data with which to investigate incidents and improve safety and security.
Furthermore, marine transportation and operations management personnel are challenged with optimizing logistics and loss control/prevention, while validating and minimizing demurrage claims and streamlining analyses related to the root causes of delays. Meanwhile, dock operators need to know where all vessels are and resolve upcoming conflicts while maintaining an accurate record of dock activities.
The business optimization group needs to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Elsewhere, plant and operational management need to maximize resource availability while managing the budget and ensuring safety.
For optimum efficiency and accuracy, all of these tasks must be integrated into a single comprehensive dashboard that combines vessel tracking capabilities with enterprise-class process automation and analytical tools.
Vessel tracking capabilities must extend to each automatic identification system (AIS) enabled vessel in the region of interest, which requires a service that can process tens of millions of daily AIS-based ship location reports and provide access to billions of records about historical arrivals, departures and individual movements. The service should also provide detailed visibility into commercial port arrivals and departures as well as ship movements on the open sea, all in a single display screen.
In addition to providing vessel information, terminal management systems should also automate scheduling tasks for just-in-time deployment based on a combination of current vessel locations, dock availability and in-transit traffic conditions. This enables terminal operators to streamline vendor and resource management, and incorporate vessel information into their current traffic scheduling dispatch and management practices.
For optimal effectiveness, users should be able to define their own customized filters, views and fleets. They should also be able to receive and share e-mail and text message alerts about fleet movements. The system should be able to automatically time stamp and capture data about arrivals (including sea buoy arrivals), departures, and other vessel events, and allow users to add their own documents and information about dockside events for each vessel call.
Task-oriented modules should be available for such specialized functions as dock management, giving organizations the option to replace paper and spreadsheet systems with an end-to-end, collaborative job scheduling, activity logging and back-end reporting tool. With this kind of fully integrated solution, users can view and manage vessel activities until dock arrival, and then maintain dock activities, demurrage data, and other information pertinent to the vessel call’s Statement of Fact (SOF) information.
Viewing and managing real-time activities is only half of the puzzle. Equally important is the ability to review historical vessel movements, and incorporate this information directly into the supply chain model. For instance, this makes it possible to perform integrated demurrage reporting and analysis within a single, integrated dashboard environment. Or, the historical data could be used to identify the root cause of costly incidents and property damage.
Putting systems to use
One of the largest US refineries has used both real time and historical vessel-tracking data to streamline activities ranging from job scheduling and real time operations to activity logging and demurrage management. In the past, each transaction required a dozen or more hand generated documents derived from manually created spreadsheets. The error prone process consumed considerable staff time. Once the company moved the processes to an enterprise-class terminal management platform, it was able to reduce both costs and labor requirements, while also simplifying vendor and resource management, and automating scheduling, dispatch and traffic management. The company has also integrated all demurrage reporting and analysis functions, and can now automatically compile all necessary data required to track, validate and report demurrage information for all fleet routes and berth calls. This detailed information is also used to produce documentation required to support or dispute demurrage claims, with savings estimated at more than $1 million per yer at a single site.
Many terminal operators also use systems to manage all aspects of on-water incidents or events. Today's refineries face the potential for millions of dollars in damages when vessel wakes impact piers, ships and other resources at docking facilities. These wakes also cause serious or even fatal injuries, especially in the case of dock-related construction projects where personnel and equipment are at risk.
With an effective terminal management system, operators can view real-time vessel traffic in a single, convenient display, gain access to every aspect of an actively managed incident in user-defined safety zones, and share real-time information and reporting with remote participants and other operation centers to drive compliance and create incident reports.
These systems can also be configured to automatically notify construction staff anytime a vessel is transiting at high speed toward specific locations, so they can initiate safety measures including securing equipment and pulling people out of harm's way. In other cases, the damage may have already been done, but terminal management systems can be used in a forensic capacity to identify responsible parties. Terminal management systems can provide not only real-time information about every commercial vessel on the waterway, but also up to five years of historical data with which to investigate incidents and prepare cases for compensatory damage claims.
Finally, terminal management systems can also be used to help operators comply with industry best practice recommendations, such as the recently established Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) and Marine Terminal Management and Self Assessment (MTMSA) guidelines. These guidelines define standardized Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and best practices for assessing the effectiveness of management systems used in berth operations and the ship-to-shore interface. Major oil companies are using these guidelines to evaluate their own terminals and those of prospective third-party operators and other service providers.
Among the most challenging MTMSA elements are those having to do with vessels, their movements and their contracted personnel. Also challenging are KPIs related to the safety and efficiency of the dock's layout and various dock operations. These include scheduling, liquid cargo transfer activities, and communication and information sharing both inside the organization and between the dock team and various port and harbor entities. The latest terminal management systems make it easier to perform to these KPIs related to MTMSA vessel and dock processes.
Marine terminal operators must enhance a variety of complex and interrelated operations in an increasingly challenging and competitive environment. By combining vessel-tracking services with enterprise-class analytics, reporting and process improvement tools, today's terminal management systems improve visibility while reducing costs and enhancing overall efficiency, safety and security.