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 (formerly known as Pronto). A pilot project at the ECT Delta Terminal, operated by Hutchison Ports ECT Rotterdam (ECT), revealed that this ‘single point of truth’ can lead to significant improvements – thanks in part to smoother communications between the parties involved.
Container shipping company MSC has been working with PortXchange for some time and encourages its partners to do this too. “For us, this is the future”, stated Bob den Ouden, Special Projects Manager at MSC and Erwin de Jong, Operations Manager. “PortXchange is a diorama in which data from various links in the chain converge real-time.
”PortXchange is a diorama in which data from various links in the chain converge real-time.”
If everyone sees the same data at the same time, there is one truth and you no longer need to have discussions about data. This means that everyone can make quicker decisions and take necessary actions. PortXchange uses the functional definitions of the Port Call Optimisation Taskforce.
This increases the quality of the information input. Data owners can deliver their information directly, which removes links in 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. That is the strength of this central, digital platform, which is why we think that everyone should participate in it. Coordination can take place earlier in the process and is of higher quality. This makes the process more efficient and high-quality.
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. 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 terminal, 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 fills that gap.”
More effective use of the quay
PortXchange was recently used for the first time at the Delta Terminal for a six-week period. Operational staff at ECT noticed significant improvements. De Jong: “Two colleague day and night service staff worked with PortXchange and were very enthusiastic.
When we schedule vessels for a certain time window it is important that these are also handled entirely within this window. Working with PortXchange has resulted in significant improvements in this area. We now receive more timely updates from shipping companies and we can better utilise our quay. We receive faster and clearer information, which enables us to make better decisions and optimise our processes.”
Correctly at the quay
During the trial period with PortXchange, not once did a vessel berth incorrectly at the terminal. PortXchange issues an alert if mooring information from the terminal deviates from those issued by the harbour master or shipping agent.
Den Ouden explained: “When berthing vessels, port authorities ask the agent, in this case us, how the vessel will arrive at the quay. However, the terminal is the lead in determining this. In a subsequent step, it would be able to share this information directly with the port authority via PortXchange, which can use this to instruct the pilot. This would be positive for all involved. Say a vessel arrives at the quay incorrectly. If another vessel needs to come alongside a few hours later, we would then have to ask the harbour master to move the vessel a few meters further. This costs time and money.”
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.
“We’re convinced things will run even more smoothly if more parties were to share their schedule and information with PortXchange.”
Berth visit efficiency
The shorter idle time on departure also results in other positive side effects for MSC. “80% of our vessels exchange at this terminal. If a vessel can depart more quickly, the next vessel’s arrival runs more smoothly. We’ve seen significant improvements here too. Berth visit efficiency has increased from 91% to 95%. In other words, we 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.”
Nora van Breugel, Coordinator Captains Room at MSC, thinks PortXchange is a really user-friendly tool. “I have a quick overview of all my tasks and can see clearly the things I need to focus on. This enables me to keep the captains well-informed. When information is shared real-time, Port Xchangeis an optimal tool for the Port of Rotterdam.
Den Ouden: “When everyone participates, we can really reap all the benefits of PortXchange. Those who share data receive relevant information in return.”
Den Ouden is looking further ahead: “We are not aiming for sub-optimisation but for total optimisation. 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.”
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 quality of this increases.” Dita Bruijn, Project Lead Port Call Optimisation at the Port of Rotterdam pointed out: “We are really proud of the fantastic pilot results at the Delta Terminal and will be continuing with optimising processes through the implementation of PortXchange. In the Port of Rotterdam and elsewhere.”