How to optimize port operation while reducing port delays

APMTR, Maersk Line, Inchcape, Fairplay

Challenge: Port operation inefficiencies

A baseline measurement among 177 vessels had established that on average, vessels wait 47 minutes before leaving the quay after cargo handling at the terminal has been completed.

To improve the efficiency of a port operation, unnecessary waiting time at the port must be reduced or even removed in order to avoid idle time and additional demurrage costs. A port’s primary goal is to create the conditions necessary for safe port operations, maximize resource utilization and minimize delays in all operational activities.

In ports, many actors share information about port calls, aimed at synchronizing operational planning. However, the quality of information depends on the actors involved and can differ by trade, focus, exchange method, and availability of people.

As the port of Rotterdam, “we continue to invest in efficient port calls,” says Anne Geelhoed, a business consultant at the Port of Rotterdam Authority. “Ships need to be able to efficiently depart from the facility after cargo handling. We need to minimize the time between when a vessel ordered nautical services and its actual departure. “

Solution: Data exchange platform

To facilitate the sharing of operationally relevant information in real-time amongst users of the port community, the port of Rotterdam has implemented the PortXchange Synchronizer platform with prioritized events and provides the end-user with the most accurate start and end times of port calls, berth visits, and service operations. 

Our data exchange platform combines scheduling data (timestamps) from terminals, shipping lines, nautical service parties, port authorities, and other maritime stakeholders. Based on the information received from information owners and stakeholders, our system generates a port call ID, tracking each new entry of a timestamp in the database.  

PortXchange Synchronizer provides multiple API’s to push real-time changes to internal planning systems used by stakeholders. The system is able to push updated event information which is integrated into the existing operations as well as store the information to perform historical analyses.

Geelhoed: ‘We can use the data in PortXchange Synchronizer to determine which calls are delayed, and why. If bunkering is scheduled too close to the departure time, you can jointly anticipate what comes next. Can bunkering be moved forward, or should we ask the nautical service providers to come by later?’

Synchronizer allows the Port of Rotterdam Authority to facilitate the exchange of plannings and real-time status updates between all parties involved. This offers insight into when nautical services have been ordered and when they’ve been completed. As soon as the terminal operator can predict when cargo handling will be completed, updates are automatically exchanged with the agent and they can order the nautical services. PortXchange Synchronizer also notifies the nautical service providers well in advance on when they are expected at the terminal, to allow for anticipation on the peak of work.

optimize operations and reduce port delays at APMTR, Maersk Line, Inchcape, Fairplay

Result: Substantial time savings

The average idle time on departure had decreased from 47 to 32 minutes. According to Michiel Zeevaart, the terminal’s regular updates played a significant role in this improvement. ‘You’re basically focussed on your own processes and tend to assume that the terminal is ready from the moment that the nautical service providers have been ordered. 

In the old days, delays and early completions at the terminals often weren’t reported. Now they are.’ Terpstra, who is an enthusiastic champion of Synchronizer within APMT, says this is also a matter of common decency: ‘Something can always crop up that prevents us from making our planning. At which point it makes sense to notify people – since we’re the party that ordered services.’

Easy updating

Fairplay towing service has a lot to gain from quickly receiving the very latest information, says Fairplay manager Set van den Bout: ‘It messes up our planning if our tugs are forced to wait. Any tugboat that is sent out to a ship can’t be deployed elsewhere. And in many cases, the same tug that accompanies the departing vessel also brings the next one in.’ 

Mutual understanding

It’s important to swiftly update the other parties in the chain on any possible delays at the terminal or in the provision of nautical services. This will enable them to adapt their planning if needed. For example, a tug can choose to serve another vessel first or to take more time traveling to the terminal – which can help save fuel. To make this work, you need to work together, which is why the participants gave each other a glance behind the scenes. Among other things, the team paid a visit to Fairplay’s planning department. ‘You gain a better understanding of each other’s processes, challenges, and considerations,’ says Michiel Zeevaart of ISS. Ivo Terpstra (APMT) agrees: ‘You develop a broader perspective on the chain. Which factors can lead to delays? Who takes action when?’ Eddo Idzinga (Maersk): ‘This allows you to quickly move forward without having to make complicated data analyses.’

Share this case

About the case

Lack of timely updates between terminal and agent resulted in high idle time on departure. On average, vessels waited 47 minutes before leaving the quay after cargo handling at the terminal has been rounded off.


PortXchange Synchronizer gives terminals and port authorities the right information to order vessels on departure more accurately.
Idle time on departure was reduced by 15%. This means less waiting time for nautical service providers, lower costs for the shipping line, and the terminal could get other ships in earlier.

Join our newsletter

Discover how digital solutions can make a difference in the maritime industry