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How just in time shipping was effortlessly accomplished in 4 steps

On the first day of the Smart Ports Summit attendees were treated to a proof of concept and panel discussion on just in time sailing. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of just in time sailing, it is a lean strategy based on coordinating ports, terminals and vessel operations through a real-time data exchange.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of just in time sailing, it is a lean strategy based on coordinating ports, terminals and vessel operations through a real-time data exchange.

The goal is to enable better logistics planning so there is less congestion and smoother operations, while reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

To be successful it requires transparency and collaboration between the carrier’s fleet operating centres, the vessel bridge and operational coordination centres.

On the first day of the Smart Ports Summit attendees were treated to a proof of concept and panel discussion on just in time sailing by Wärtsilä, Hamburg Vessel Coordination Center (HVCC), Carnival Maritime, and Bureau Veritas - who implemented this new process at the Port of Hamburg.

The companies detailed how they successfully implemented and tested a new solution for just-in-time sailing through seamless exchange of data between ship and shore under real-life conditions to achieve optimal port arrival. The solution had received approval in principle from Bureau Veritas for meeting the classification society’s cyber security requirements.


Prior to the proof of concept, Gerald Hirt (Managing Director at HVCC) detailed where ports and terminals had come from, and how they would be gearing up to the next phase of collaboration.

While ports started with local port community systems, since then they have evolved to connectivity first industry platforms with cooperation being key to seamless collaboration with partners.

Over a decade ago, the Port of Hamburg realised the need for collaboration and the HVCC was formed as a joint venture between two competing container terminal operators - the Port of Hamburg, Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) and EUROGATE Container Terminal Hamburg GmbH (CTH).

“It was more than about HHLA and CTH, it’s about the whole port community and about directly and indirectly connecting competitors,” noted Hirt. “At the beginning of this journey, there was an idea to achieve a thing, just in time arrival, with a link between the port and the vessel, and we wanted to find out how we could close this link.”

In the last year, the HVCC coordinated more than 3 000 large vessels headed into Hamburg, about 3 000 - 4 000 feeder vessels and more than 400 organizations are connected to their platform.

“How did we manage to achieve this in the Port of Hamburg? We did it the other way around,” Hirt exclaims.

HVCC didn’t build the platform first, to then build the operational process. Over the last decade they had this process finely tuned, so the platform followed.

As the platform developed, they realise they had a unique and coordinated role, and over the last few years they worked to convince stakeholders to share data and operational view with their system.

“So, we are receiving all this data, combining it with 50 000 vessel positions and every minute we have 800 geo-referencing positions in our system. With that, you have a perfect picture of what is going on in Northern Europe,” continued Hirt, “We then coordinate the vessels which are heading towards the port of Hamburg, and while this is happening, we are sharing this information with all stakeholders who are working together - allowing for a singular view operational picture at the Port of Hamburg.”

It was at this point the HVCC imagined the ecosystem going beyond a pure port view.

The shipping industry has been optimising vessels for the past decade, and benefits are to be found beyond the vessel and to the ecosystem these vessels are operating.

The biggest opportunity rests between ports and vessels. An uncoordinated vessel between two ports can lead to waiting time, which can lead to high speeds. This can then lead to an increase in fuel consumption, which increases the amount of emissions.

In order to achieve these goals, all parties need to be involved. You need the port, the carrier, and you need the technology provider to make this happen. This is no easy feat.

This journey is about efficacy and digitalisation, another way to look at it is that it is a collaboration and the belief that the maritime industry has a common goal to achieve.

Just in time, never late

“Since 2015 we’ve had a very strong relationship with our fleet operations centre which manages out from Hamburg,” notes Michael Salzmann, Senior Nautical Superintendent for Carnival Maritime.

There is a large amount of coordination required to achieve just in time arrival.

“Too late for us is a big problem,” continues Salzmann, “We have approximately 7 000 port calls with 37 ships per year. In the course of a year we have 1 500 turnarounds and if just one of those turnarounds is delayed it can result in a financial loss of 1.5 million Euros.”

For a company carrying 12 million passengers each year, logistical problems can be a headache. Chartering new flights, rerouting of containers, buses and trains, logistical containers with frozen goods – everything needs to be aligned and on site when the ship arrives. If the ship is not there, then this could create larger issues.

Salzmann notes that Hirt had reach out to him and asked if they could look to improve their relationship, and how could they make both of their operations more efficient – from one system to another.

At this time, they set about a large administrative process to see how they could improve just in time sailing.

“We tried it together with Wärtsilä. We did it from the ECDIS device, which was directly connected to the satellite system - via middleware - to the port system. The system provided real-time information of when the Captain expected to arrive, and when the port wanted to have the ship arrive,” notes Salzmann.

Given that cruise ships are organisationally already efficient, it might be difficult to understand the benefit, or reason, to be part of this digitalised project of the RTA exchange. However, Salzmann notes that Carnival wanted to reduce their administrative workload, emissions and never wanted to arrive late to a port.

He goes on to say the company had been fortunate to have a few firsts in the industry and are keen to explore opportunities which would be beneficial to Carnival.

Speaking of the value of a singular ports system to manage just in time arrival at ports worldwide, Salzmann said, “Most of our voyages are taking place in the night – normally a cruise ship sails in the evening and calls at the next port the following morning.”

“So, if we were to realise that at 21:00 that a vessel has been delayed due to bad weather or any issue, and we know this vessel will be late to the next vessel, traditionally the next in the line will need to be informed.

“This person may be sleeping or indisposed. This individual then needs to send an email to the port officials or to the operations centre. This communication may not be seen immediately and needs to be combined with a telephone call. Again, the next person in the line may not receive this communication or be contactable,” continues Salzmann.

“This can have a domino effect on the berthing – inconvenienced by administrative and manual workload. If this information and communication can exist in a digital manner, then it would help greatly and simplify this process,” adds Salzmann.

Optimising onshore

From a port’s perspective, Hirt pointed out the delayed arrival of a vessel can cause havoc, annually in the port of Hamburg.

“Around 8 000 - 9 000 vessel calls, around 9 000 barges, 60 000 trucks and last year we had around 1.9 million trucks which were delivering or picking up goods from the terminals in the port area. The sheer volume of these numbers at ports like Hamburg - which are landlocked - means they must be very innovative and think ahead,” stated Hirt.

The Port of Hamburg is a tidal port and needs to take into consideration the rules and regulations as well as some nautical factors which add an extra layer of complexity - tides, wind, and traffic on the river Elbe.

“This is the problem we wanted to solve in the creation of the vessel coordination center, and we start with this process long before the vessel is headed to the Port of Hamburg,” continued Hirt. “About four years ago, a carrier had requested when we were to write down the exact time their vessel would be at the doorstep to the Port of Hamburg,” he added.

This request lead to the HVCC creating passage plans which contained detailed nautical information with the recommended departure time in the port before Hamburg. With a transit suite they were suggesting to the carrier and a time and arrival draft at the Elbe approach. This innovation would be used by all the container carriers in the Port of Hamburg and evolve into a slightly different format to cover the broader maritime sector in more recent years.

“We thought to ourselves, we could still do better and we can find more effective ways to communicate between all the different stakeholders,” Hirt continues, “The question we raised was, what if we had a direct link to the carrier and a direct link to the ECDIS facility onboard the vessel so that we would have real-time, accurate data that allows for a seamless communication to a shore organisation (like the HVCC), the port authority, and the carrier? This would allow us to realise the true just in time arrival.”

Hirt believes this is to be one of advantages they had foreseen in a system like Navi-Port, as they would have an even higher level of visibility.

“We knew already where their vessels were, but we didn’t have any direct connectivity with the vessels. This was very important for us as a subsidiary of the terminals as we wanted to optimise the terminal resource planning,” Hirt observes.

“In the Port of Hamburg, we are quite limited in terms of infrastructure and we need to make the most effective use of every square meter and the water which we have in the port,” Hirt points out. “At the same time, by producing the passage plans we have a tremendous reduction in the amount of greenhouse gas emissions,” he added.

Commenting on how a solution of this nature would change a situation, Hirt exclaimed that, “In the last 10 days in Northern Europe there have been very severe weather conditions. All ports in Northern Europe were affected in some way. We had everything from delays to termination of operations. If all systems in the liner shipping industry, for example, came to a standstill and we had to re-plan all the vessels rotating through Northern Europe.

“Our team could not count the thousands of phone calls which we made and received during this time, I cannot tell you how many emails were received and sent, how many versions passage plans had to be recreated because things were changing so quickly. If one could imagine all these 60-80 vessels sailing towards the port of Hamburg over this time were connected to this system, I think it becomes clear the impact.”

He added that one of the greatest benefits of this system was that it would not require the push of a button.

“All stakeholders are connected to the system and all carriers know exactly at what time they should sail from the port before Hamburg and how these vessels are orchestrated through Northern Europe,” Hirt concluded.

Technology enablement

While Wärtsilä’s solutions tend to look from the seaside, they are installed across 50 000 vessels give or take. With that, they believe it has a strong responsivity to leading the industry towards sustainability within their sphere of influence.

The IMO targets for the average reduction, average emissions per vessel by 40% by 2030, with total greenhouse gas emissions reduction of the world fleet by 50% by 2050 – which will be by about 70% at the rate of growth in the industry by this time.

Many believe there is no silver bullet to reach this target, and it will not happen by a better engine or fuel alone, but it will be achieved by a combination of different things. Technology, alternative fuels and the optimisation of operations believed to be the areas of focus to achieving these goals

“We have focussed optimising operations by connecting all the stakeholders into a smart ecosystem with this project,” states Matteo Natali, Wärtsilä’s General Manager of Port Business Development.

In November of 2019, Wärtsilä launched their Fleet Operations Solutions (FOS) - a suite of connected modules that are based on a connected ECDIS.

“With Wärtsilä ECDIS devices being installed on 35% of the world fleet, and we can connect this ECDIS to the FOS cloud solution. Within the cloud we have a suite of services which can be used to optimise the route from bridge of the vessel or the fleet operating center onshore. And they all work on same system, so they can easily exchange data and communicate,” notes Natali.

He continues, “One of the products we have is called Advance Intelligent Routing and this system allows the captain to automatically define a route for a certain voyage and continually optimise the route based on weather, currents, traffic etc. We believe this brings a lot of value to the ship operators as it allows them to sail safely and efficiently.

However, there was one factor missing, the port.

“One can optimise a route as much as they want, but when arriving at a port if the terminal is not ready to receive the vessel it could have to anchor and wait – which ultimately means that time is wasted.

“We decided to add an additional element to this solution, which Wärtsilä are officially launching today at Smart Ports Summit and it is called Wärtsilä Navi-port,” notes Matteo.

Navi-port is a middleware to connect a vessel to a port and allow the exchange of the recommended time of arrival and estimate the time of arrival. The terminal sends the recommended time of arrival (RTA), directly into the ships navigation system. The Captain sees the message popping up, from this point the Captain can accept the timing, and the route and speed are then automatically adjusted for just in time arrival.

Wärtsilä CorporationWartsila Corporation navi-port.jpg

“The information goes both ways and the terminal will always see the estimated time of arrival (ETA) of the vessel directly from the ECDIS,” Matteo continues, “From the ports side there is a higher level of visibility of all incoming traffic and there is a very easy communication of the requested time of arrival of a particular vessel.”

The key here is flexibility and interoperability, and these are essential to make this system work. The wider the network of connected ports and vessels, the greater the benefits to all stakeholders’ states Matteo.

“This is the solution we used in Hamburg, in this case we connected two vessels from Carnival, the ‘AidaSol’ and the ‘AidaPerla’, were connected directly to HVCC. Now, instead of sending PDF documents, the information went directly to the ECDIS devices of these two vessels. From here the Captain could view and accept the information and their journeys were optimised accordingly,” says Natali.

With connected solutions, cyber security becomes an important part of the conversation. Speaking on how this link and communication does not increase the risk for all parties Natali stated that, “Whatever is done at Wärtsilä is done to the highest standards to ensure we are up to date in terms of compliance and requirements the industry has. For this project, we took extra steps and involved a third-party, Bureau Veritas, to have a dedicated audit and dedicated assessment.

Smart, safe vessels

“One of the fascinating parts of this project was that we had Carnival, Wärtsilä and HVCC working with us on this. This is the first time I have seen something like this in the last 5 years since I have joined the maritime sector,” shares Najmeh Masoudi-Dionne, Global Technology Leader- Smart Ships at Bureau Veritas.

Class societies are very much involved in the port certification and activities and in 2015, Bureau Veritas started a new programme called the Smart Ship Programme. The programme was initiated by their clients, specifically shipowners, as they were implementing inhouse optimisation. They were asked how connecting to the shore could impact the safety of the ship – as a classification society would in a convention way cover issues regarding vessel safety.

“We were specifically asked about the risk the shipowners would be taking by implementing these new technologies, states Masoudi-Dionne. “While cyber security is not part of the core business of a classification society, the programme was started with the help of their clients by initially identifying different blocks which they wanted to implement new technology.”

Masoudi-Dionne recounts that some of their clients were looking at smart navigation by implementing semi-autonomous systems for anti-collision, some were looking to implement performance optimisation for just in time arrival, and some clients were looking to enhance safety onboard through automation.

“Through these conversations, connectivity was identified as the core of each of these solutions. Traditionally, unconnected or isolated systems hold little risk but the moment this is connected to onboard, cloud or onshore systems, the amount of risk increases drastically,” Masoudi-Dionne stated.

“As a classification society, our first role is to ensure the safety of the ship. To do so, we need to be sure the cyber security requirements are implemented on the new technology that will be connected to the cloud, onshore or offshore because they are all connected - from a smart ship, we are moving towards a smart ecosystem with smart ports,” she adds.

In 2017, Bureau Veritas also started a technical committee with some of their clients - technology providers, shipowners, managers and operators, in order to find requirements for the best cyber security for the shipping industry. At this time, the IMO didn’t have any cyber security requirements, the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) didn’t have any requirements.  The company decided to aide their clients by building a set of requirements.

“While studying many existing cyber security documents the classification society found that some were valid in the maritime industry, but many were not. We created a tailor-made solution for our industry which we published in a guideline called NR 659. Initially this was a recommendation to the industry, but it has since become a requirement,” adds Masoudi-Dionne.

As Bureau Veritas can now certify a ship, manufacturer, or cyber security solution provider, Masoudi-Dionne states it was this experience which brought the classification society to the project.

“We went through the technical specifications and design of Navi-port, and after a couple of weeks of assessment and implementation of requirements from all parties in order to make sure that all security measures were in place to mitigate lots of risks,” she remarks.

Next on the horizon

From a port’s perspective, HVCC’s Gerald Hirt noted they would be speaking container carriers and they had an idea to include bulk carriers headed towards the Port of Hamburg to use the same technology.

Wärtsilä’s Matteo Natali stated they would be approaching ports worldwide through partnerships which we have signed with different providers of terminals operating or port management systems, “We are connecting to them and the idea is to scale as fast as possible with the greatest flexibility.”

From the operational perspective, Carnival Maritime’s Michael Salzmann noted they would like to roll a solution of this nature across their fleet. He believed that if there was a standard available it would be easier for their vessels, and ports, if they were all using one common system.

Bureau Veritas’ Masoudi-Dionne was hopeful that Carnival, and other shipowners, would want to implement these types of systems. “As a class society we are expecting a fallback plan. Is it similar to failure mode analysis?”

She added that this would be part of the assessments they do from a marine safety aspect, and the company would be looking at the next step. “This could be looking at the implementation of this system in further than shipping,” she added.

In closing, the debate on evolution for ports and terminals has been lively, however this achievement in just in time shipping shows this evolution will be underpinned by four key factors; trustful collaboration, the application of standards, setting rules for data exchange, and the adoption of enabling technologies.

TAGS: Technology