‘Just-in-time shipping is the smart thing to do’

At the first meeting three years ago of the Global Industry Alliance (GIA), a partnership of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and 14 companies dedicated to decarbonizing shipping, shipowners complained about their vessels waiting days to weeks at anchorage before being able to call at port.

So said Astrid Dispert, the technical manager of GreenVoyage2050, a joint project of the IMO and the Norwegian government to steer the shipping industry toward a lower-carbon future, during a Tuesday webinar, “Improving Efficiency in the Ship-port Interface.”

Argyris Stasinakis, an executive partner with MarineTraffic, which put on the webinar, backed up Dispert’s anecdote with the results of a study his company had conducted that showed cargo vessels on average spend nearly 30 days a year just waiting to enter port.

Ben van Scherpenzeel chairs the Port Call Optimization Task Force. (Photo: LinkedIn/Ben van Scherpenzeel)

A Global Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnerships (GloMEEP) video shown during the webinar said the maritime industry emits about 1 billion tons of CO2 each year and that “just-in-time sailing could be part of the solution to significantly reduce [carbon emissions]. Eliminating unnecessary early arrivals at the port would enable ships to sail slower and consume less fuel,” the narrator said. 

“Not knowing when the previous ship will leave is a major obstacle,” he continued. “Currently the terminal and other service providers share very few updates about completion times. Because of this uncertainty, the departing ship cannot inform the port authority of its departure time until these services are near completion.”

According to the video, ships today receive berthing information about two hours before arrival, when the ship is in radio range. 

“Sharing updates earlier and more frequently would allow an incoming ship to adjust its sailing speed much earlier and sail a lot more efficiently. Even a modest speed reduction of 10% can result in a 30% reduction of CO2 emissions. Just-in-time sailing is the smart thing to do. It is the sustainable thing to do,” the narrator said. 

Barriers to just-in-time sailing

Ben van Scherpenzeel, chairman of the Port Call Optimization Task Force, said a typical trip was mapped from Bremerhaven, Germany, to the Netherlands’ Port of Rotterdam, where he directs nautical developments, policy and plans.

Typical notifications of 90 minutes to two hours away from port were used. Then the task force simulated a scenario in which the vessel was notified of its berthing time by satellite eight hours before arrival. Notification six hours earlier than usual resulted in an average 23% fuel savings, van Scherpenzeel said. 

“Just in time makes [perfect] sense. Why isn’t it happening?” he asked.

Van Scherpenzeel answered his own question, explaining there are both contractual and operational barriers. He said 70% of bulk carriers and tankers are contractually obligated to maintain a minimum speed. Operational barriers include the number of stakeholders and lack of communication among service providers, ships and port authorities as well as a lack of standards. 

Andreas van der Wurff, the port optimization manager for A.P. Møller – Maersk, said standardized data is needed.

Andreas van der Wurff is Maersk’s port optimization manager. (Photo: LinkedIn/Andreas van der Wurff)

“This is the only sustainable way forward,” he said. “We have to realize that ocean transport is only one mode in the end-to-end supply chain and visibility in the ocean segment is lacking. 

“Data sharing requires collaboration with all the actors in the port industry. To ensure that we have industrywide … adoption of standards, we need to have standardized master and event data in order to connect machine to machine and human to human,” van der Wurff said. 

Guide to just-in-time shipping

Dispert said the GIA expects in the next few weeks to publish a just-in-time arrival guide to help change course from the “hurry-up-and-wait situation.”

“Ships go at a … higher speed than needed to the port area [only to find] berths and services are unavailable and [that they have] to wait or maneuver,” she said. “Obviously what we want is to help the sector move to just-in-time arrivals whereby the ship receives information and data in a more frequent manner, a more standardized manner, to be able to … optimize the speed on the voyage to arrive into the port just in time when berths and other services are available.”

Dispert granted that a guide alone cannot institute change.

“This obviously requires very large collaboration between shipping, between port authorities, between terminals that also play a key role here and other service providers in the port,” she said. 

Van der Wurff said data sharing is “a huge issue.”

“The maritime domain is very conservative. It takes really a mindset change to see people adapting to the wish to share data to improve the whole port optimization realm. Everybody still believes ‘I own the data and if I stick to it, then it will be best for me,’” he said. 

“Our beneficial cargo owners demand from the container shipping lines that they really do something about their environmental footprint. So from that angle, there’s a huge demand for action,” van der Wurff said. “We need to embrace the whole port community as one entity in order to improve and collaborate with all actors … to make it a success.”

Dispert agreed. “Data sharing needs to be a win-win for everyone,” she said.

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Click for more FreightWaves/American Shipper articles by Kim Link-Wills.