Containerport of Bremerhaven, Germany.
Containerport at Bremerhaven, Germany.

North Sea Terminal Bremerhaven (NTB) is the latest operator to sign-up for Portchain’s AI-powered berth optimisation engine, as the industry looks to tech to solve deteriorating schedule reliability.

Portchain claims its software will help NTB plan vessel berthing more effectively and enable sharing of berthing information in real-time with customers.

Thor Thorup, the Copenhagen firm’s chief commercial officer, said: “Berth optimisation is an important step in NTB’s ambitious digitisation agenda, part of its continued focus on safe and efficient optimisation of operations.”

Founded in 2017, Portchain also provides shipping lines with schedule management and advanced fleet planning, and includes Hapag-Loyd as a customer.

Mr Thorup told The Loadstar this year’s peaks and troughs in container volumes had added to the challenges of carrier-terminal operations.

He added: “It has not been a normal year, and many terminals are finding it challenging to accurately forecast what will happen in the next few months.

“Given this volatility, berth optimisation and quayside strategy is becoming increasingly important, as terminal operators need to generate insight from the changes in order to make better decisions on how they deploy resources. With AI, you can plan multiple scenarios in parallel and rapidly test the cost and feasibility of each.”

Indeed, with the container supply chain currently running at full pelt amid a booming peak season, poor schedule reliability is again under the spotlight. For example, according to Sea-Intelligence, global schedule reliabilit plummeted last month, with only 56% of deepsea vessels arriving within a day of their scheduled arrival.

“And the 44% which were late had an average delay of 4.8 days,” noted Sea-Intelligence Consulting CEO Lars Jensen, adding that congestion at ports, triggered by unexpectedly high volumes, was the most likely culprit for the dire performance.

Meanwhile, renewed focus on just-in-time (JIT) shipping could save hundreds of days a year of wasted shipping time caused by berthing delays.

Last week, the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) published standard data definitions for the port call process, the first step in its JIT Port Call programme.

“We see it as an important step in the digitisation of shipping,” said Mr Thorup. “The hard part of realising JIT shipping is how to make it work in practice.

“We are helping terminals and carriers optimise the port call process. For example, a terminal can automatically receive requests from customers, use scenario planning and optimisation algorithms to evaluate the impact on its operations and KPIs and share the amended plan with its customers through a real-time interface.

“We are excited to see how we can improve this capability through further application of standards.”

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