Thursday, October 4, 2012

Monitoring Road Haulage and Shipping via RFID Systems Widely Adopted at Global Freight Ports

Rapid Take Up of New Technology Means Increased Safety and Security and Decreased Emissions
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – The actions of a group of freight terminal operators at the ports of New Jersey and New York typify the way the global body of those handing container and bulk cargoes are investing to improve the safety, security and environmental imprint crucial to the daily business of ensuring shipping times and costs are minimised whilst maintaining the highest of standards. The consortium, known as Sustainable Terminal Services Inc., were recently joined by the Ports’ Authority Board of Commissioners to introduce full Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for the identification of all road haulage operators’ trucks working in the area.

The RFID system will supplement security programs already in place that allow the Port Authority and its terminal operators to know the content of containers coming to and from the port and the identities and backgrounds of the people transporting and handling the cargo. The RFID will require each truck serving the port to be identified through its VIN number and other characteristics to allow port officials to know if it may pose any risk.

The implementation of RFID ticks all the required boxes by addressing both security and environmental matters and the agency expects the system to be in place by the second quarter of 2013. Once the system is online all trucks seeking access to the port will be required to have an RFID tag installed. The Port Authority and Sustainable Terminal Services are each investing $808,875 to implement the RFID system with the remainder of the funds provided through a federal grant.

The RFID system will also allow the agency to ensure 100% compliance with its Truck Replacement Program, which removes older, dirtier trucks from the road. Currently, the program is monitored by random Port Authority Police Department checks as trucks exit terminal facilities. While this method has identified approximately 400 violations since March 2011, the RFID system will reduce delays and cut costs, while stopping violators prior to their gaining access to the port.

Similar aggressive action on the West Coast has meant that green technology used to assist in the reduction of pollution produced by ports has recently won industry awards for the likes of the Port of Los Angeles which has reduced emissions by up to 75% in the past seven years by way of participation in the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) and annual funding of the Technology Advancement Programme (TAP).

These advanced measures are the latest development in the evolution of technology essential to ensure the streamlining of container and general cargo throughput as the battle to be the fastest and best handler in all geographical regions intensifies. The first priority for any large freight handling facility is the manner in which movements are processed and one of the leaders in the field, Navis, has announced that Khalifa Port, Abu Dhabi Ports Company’s (ADPC) new flagship facility, has successfully launched the company’s terminal operating system, SPARCS N4.

The port, which is operated by Abu Dhabi Terminals (ADT), claims to be the region’s only semi-automated terminal currently open for commercial operations and the system ensures Khalifa’s terminal operators (ADPC were already familiar with Navis systems used at the Mina Zayed facility) can use automated functions to reduce variability in port management and traffic, as well as control container flow.

The Navis system has met with the approval of numerous port operators in the past year or so including installations at Israel’s Haifa Port Company’s four container terminals and SPARCS N4 passed a total of fifty installations in April after approval with terminals in Australia, Africa, Asia, India, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas adopting the system following the products launch in New Zealand’s Lyttelton Port of Christchurch some six years previously.

Elsewhere Korean CyberLogitec, based in Seoul, has won approval for its OPUS Terminal Operating System from DP World for installation at the prestigious Terminal 3 at the Jebel Ali development which is intended to handle around four million TEU when completed.

Whilst freight carriers may be disinclined to confidently forecast burgeoning tonnage levels at this time, all are keen to stay ahead of the pack and whilst technological investments to modernise handling techniques are undoubtedly expensive they offer the advantages of easy expansion and long term savings whilst providing smoother and enhanced operations.

The downside is of course to be found in a groundswell of opposition from unions who feel that lower workforces are a natural product of such advances and give port managers the means to pay for the improved throughput via a smaller workforce, as we see in Port Botany at the moment.

Photo: Australian Intermodal dockside operations have moved on since the 1930’s. Note the steam train in the foreground in this study of Port Townsville, Queensland from 1932.