How terminals can improve berth planning efficiency

APMTR, MSC, Inchcape, Fairplay

Challenge: Timely updates

Container ports are continually forced to adapt their throughput capacity in order to meet changing demand. Consequently, many opportunities arise for improvement in port operations. MSC vessels are mainly handled on the north side of the ECT Delta Terminal. These large container ships must be unloaded, loaded, bunkered, and stocked efficiently. 

The efficiency of terminal operation is severely restricted by the traffic limitations of the navigation channel and the berth capacity. Inefficiency in berth planning has a cascading effect on all parties involved in a port call. Similarly, vessels that have completed cargo operations at the berth and are ready to depart may have to wait a lengthy period due to delays induced by other port operations. As a result, the complexity of the berth scheduling problem at terminals has expanded substantially and is difficult to deal with using methodologies utilized in traditional berth scheduling studies.

Sander de Jong, Consultant Operations at ECT, outlined the challenges associated with this: “Ports are dynamic and continuous production environments in which schedules change continuously. As terminals, we depend on updates that clients provide to us by telephone or e-mail. We do not always receive these in time. Communications are sometimes difficult, particularly at night. PortXchange Synchronizer fills that gap.”

Solution: sharing information in real-time

A growing number of shipping companies, terminals, and nautical service providers in the port of Rotterdam are sharing information in real-time via the digital platform PortXchange Synchronizer. This collaboration revealed that a ‘single point of truth’ can lead to significant improvements – thanks in part to smoother communications between the parties involved.

 PortXchange Synchronizer uses the functional definitions from the IMO. If everyone sees the same data at the same time, there is one truth and you no longer need to have discussions about data.  With standardized data, everyone can make quicker decisions and take necessary actions.

Data owners can deliver their information directly, which removes barriers to the communications chain. The input is intrinsic to the output, which increases the quality of the information exchange. It is a user-friendly application, available 24/7. Coordination can occur earlier in the process and at a higher level of quality, making the process more efficient and high-quality.

Result: Terminal efficiency

When we schedule vessels for a certain time window it is important that these are also handled entirely within this window. Working with PortXchange Synchronizer has resulted in significant improvements in this area. We now receive more timely updates from shipping companies and we can better utilize our quay. We receive faster and clearer information, which enables us to make better decisions and optimize our processes.”

Idle time reduced

The idle time of vessel departure from the Delta Terminal decreased from 19 to 12 minutes. This concerns the time period between ordering the pilot or other nautical service providers and cargo completion including lashing/securing. Den Ouden: “We need to know from the terminal when it expects to conclude the operation as we need to order the nautical service providers that are to guide the vessel on departure at least two hours in advance. A shorter idle time of 12 minutes is a net profit. We’re convinced things will run even more smoothly if more parties were to share their schedule and information with PortXchange Synchronizer.

Berth planning efficiency

The shorter idle time on departure also results in other positive side effects.  If a vessel can depart more quickly, the next vessel’s arrival runs more smoothly. Indeed, Berth’s visit efficiency has increased from 91% to 95%. In other words, you can predict more precisely and reliably how long it takes from the moment that the vessel berths at the terminal to the moment of departure. Quality information allows terminals to improve their berth planning and berth capacity.

Port call efficiency

The Port of Rotterdam Authority has now established that the use of PortXchange increases the Overall Port Call Efficiency. “The entire process of cooperation between players in the chain becomes more stable”, stated Port Call Optimisation Specialist, Rob Koggel. “That’s a reason for us to involve even more port players with PortXchange.

We hear positive stories from all participants. Schedule changes are passed on more quickly within the logistics chain, the number of telephone calls and e-mails reduces, and the quality of PCO increases.” 


Den Ouden is looking further ahead: “We are not aiming for sub-optimization but for total optimization. If the Port of Rotterdam becomes more attractive, it is probable that we will transport more containers via this port in the future. However, the greatest benefits are in the port-to-port area. For example, it would be fantastic if the Ports of Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Felixstowe started to share information via this digital platform. Each piece of information that does not arrive in time with us is wasted time.

If a vessel leaves Felixstowe three hours later than envisaged and we only hear this four hours later, we can no longer take the necessary measures to compensate for this. The preferred situation is that we arrive just-in-time at all ports. For this, you need to know in time when the vessel can enter the port. If a vessel is en route for the port, but there is no quay space available, we can advise the captain to reduce speed. That’s good for fuel consumption and the vessel doesn’t need to wait in the port anchor area.”

Den Ouden: “When everyone participates, we can really reap all the benefits of PortXchange. Those who share data receive relevant information in return.”

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About the case

Inefficiency in berth planning has a cascading effect on all parties involved in a port call. All information is communicated in a bilateral way, resulting in delays and errors.


PortXchange Synchronizer collects and shares real-time information with all parties involved in a port call. The platform sends out a warning when mooring information from all parties is not corresponding, enabling proactive responses to anticipated changes.
Berth efficiency increased from 91% to 95% and Idle time at berth reduced from 19 to 12 minutes at an already high-performing terminal.

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