Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Container and General Cargo Ports Invest to Suit Shipping Lines and Maintain Freight Levels

Progress or Dwindle and Die is the Message as Throughput Holds the Keys to Survival Worldwide for Terminal Operators
Shipping News Feature

COLOMBIA – US – UK – WORLDWIDE - Recently, despite squeaks of anguish from much of the cargo and general logistics sector about falling tonnages and economic austerity, we have seen many more forward thinking shipping industry stakeholders pushing through with investments despite the uncertainties. This has applied particularly to the port sector where schemes which might appear ambitious to some actually carry the weight of logic behind them. We have given much coverage to the spectacular plans of DP World and the birth of its London Gateway container development but many well established ports across the world are realising that stagnation may result in slow death and the necessity of installing modern technology to maintain and improve cargo throughput is not just a priority but an imperative despite the cost.

In South America the fight for pre-eminence is as fierce as anywhere and now the Buenaventura Container Terminal (TCBuen) in Colombia, part of Grup Maritim TCB, has become the first terminal in Latin America to implement new optical character recognition (OCR) systems. The software installation was completed in December 2012 and allows traceability of all containers entering and leaving the terminal, the system also captures vehicle registration and weight.

TCBuen has now also implemented OCR systems on its quay cranes enabling the port to recognise the alphanumeric container number every time the crane performs a movement and checks with the internal terminal operating system (TOS) whether a container is scheduled and authorised for that operation. Additionally ‘Match Maker’ technology simultaneously identifies the vehicles during loading or unloading of a container identified by the OCR, so that at all times the system checks all the loading cycles. It also controls the movements of trucks passing through the gate, ensuring maximum reliability in delivery and/or receipt of the container.

Finally a differential global positioning system (DGPS) confirms, via satellite, that movements of containers correspond with movements that have been assigned by T.O.S. to ensure greater security, absolute reliability and efficiency of inventory in the entire operation, thus minimising transit times of the terminal and operating costs.

The next pilot project for Grup TCB, the largest terminal operator in Spain and which currently operates eleven maritime terminals from South America to Turkey, is SURESTOW an innovative programme designed to verify the stowage positions of every container aboard a vessel via satellite. The company says it proposes to implement the system this month.

Another port forging ahead with improvements, although one which tends toward a multiplicity of cargoes, is Brownsville, Texas. Backing up the infrastructure work to the lone star state’s highways a TIGER grant of some $12 million has helped fund an extension to the Port of Brownsville’s quayside on the south side of the ship channel there.

The money has been used to build a 180 metre heavy-load capacity cargo dock with full rail access, the second dock was considered essential by the Port Authority management to ensure that the facility remained competitive in the battle for handling cargo in the Gulf of Mexico region. The docks at Brownsville provide work for over 11,000 people according to a local report and inject around $2 billion into the Texan economy. The port’s status can be judged by a comment on a statewide study of the sixteen public ports there commissioned by the Texas Ports Authority in which Brownsville’s Port Director, Eduardo A. Campirano referred to his facility as ‘an 800 pound Gorilla’ compared to its local competitors.

Photo: Quayside in Brownsville, Texas.