Just in Time Arrivals; what role does data play?

As the maritime sector comes to terms with the need to decarbonise its operations, stakeholders across the industry are focused on overcoming inefficiencies. One huge inefficiency is the time wasted by ships waiting to enter ports. Last autumn, for example, saw a record numbers of ships waiting to enter Californian ports, with 100 container vessels lined up to enter the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach alone. It has been reported that on average, container ships spend 6% of their time at anchor awaiting port entry. In April of this year, largely because of the lockdown in Shanghai, 477 bulk cargo ships were moored awaiting berth places in Chinese ports.

Time spent waiting amounts to a considerable waste of time and fuel, and causes significant environmental impact due to engine emissions being exhausted into the atmosphere. For although the ship is sitting for days on end doing essentially nothing, it still has to maintain basic power needs.

One answer to this dilemma is the concept of Just-in-Time (JiT) arrivals, meaning that the ship’s sailing speed and route are adjusted in such a way that its arrival time coincides with the port’s handling operations, so that waiting time is minimized.

Connectivity is central to everything

If JiT is to become standard practice, all stakeholders need to be inter-connected; the vessels, the shoreside teams, and of course, the port authorities. Scheduling the most efficient arrival time to eliminate unnecessary waiting time requires a coordinated effort from all the parties involved.

This is far easier said than done, but the benefits can make the effort worthwhile. The key to making it possible is an efficient flow of real-time data between all relevant stakeholders. For instance, there needs to be communication between the ship providing an estimated time of arrival, and the port authority providing a requested time of arrival. Rather than sailing at full speed ahead to get in line early, which the conventional first-come-first-served system requires, the port would give an optimal arrival time so that the ship could adjust its speed and arrive when the port is ready to receive it.

For the operator, slow steaming saves fuel, which in turn translates into lower operating costs and reduced levels of emissions. At the same time, navigational safety is increased since there will be far fewer ships jockeying for position around the port. For the port authority, JiT arrivals would create the needed visibility for operations, thus allowing for greater efficiencies in the planning of terminal and port operations.

Potential Vulnerabilities

Before JiT fully establishes itself as a working model, possible conflicts of interest in voyage charter contracts between the ship owner and the charterer will have to be overcome. As things stand, extended laytime with the vessel at anchor awaiting a berth can deliver demurrage benefits to the owner, while a JiT arrival would minimize the laytime and thus benefit the charterer.

Supply chain disruptions can also impact the smooth functioning of the JiT concept. The availability of the cargo to be loaded and the planned arrival of the vessel to load that cargo need to be synchronized if the system is to work effectively. Here again, data flow and communication will be essential. The closing of Shanghai’s port because of the corona pandemic shutdown, and the resultant, traffic jam of ships awaiting port entry, is a prime example of what can happen when events preclude effective planning.

Supply chain disruptions were rife in 2021, with ports being severely affected. Delays at port can have a knock on effect causing disruptions to vessel schedules, longer transit times and an increase in blank sailing.

Bringing the moving parts together

If JiT is to work as it should, a lot of moving parts need to come together in a wholly coordinated way. This is where digital, dynamic, and integrated data will provide the key. OneOcean’s portfolio of state-of-the-art digital solutions can play a valuable role in joining all these dots.

The company’s Passage Manager effectively simplifies the complex task of berth-to-berth voyage planning by gathering and allowing users to analyse all the data needed to determine the viability of sea routes. It incorporates data on the vessel equipment, routing parametres, laden levels and safety management systems, while taking into consideration the weather and sea conditions, as well as environmental zones relevant to the planned route. This detailed capability will likely be an important enabler for the connectivity required with JiT arrivals

OneOcean’s FleetManager is another digital solution that can support successful JiT arrivals. This platform provides full situational awareness to shoreside stakeholders on the whereabouts and status of their entire fleet. This data could prove to be an important link in the JiT value chain.

And then there is OneOcean’s Guide to Port Entry publication, and its digital equivalent, Being notified that a berth is available and that the ship can enter port is one thing, but knowing the port’s exact layout, its applicable rules and regulations, procedures, and requirements are things altogether different. All the benefits of arriving just-in-time can be wasted if the port entry itself becomes strewn with challenges. Comprehensive port data can play a powerful role in providing a planned approach that is efficient and minimizes unnecessary manoeuvering.

JiT has notable advantages in terms of environmental sustainability, cost savings, and overall efficiency gains. However, it also has its challenges which can best be met by utilizing the latest digital technologies. Contact OneOcean today to discuss with our product experts on how we can assist in providing real-time support as port arrival procedures move from the old ‘first-come-first-served’ to a new ‘welcome your berth awaits you’.

18 May 2022