GreenTech 2021: Optimisation key to delivering sustainability at ports

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IT and software upgrades must be considered alongside infrastructure projects, like replacing diesel equipment or implementing onshore power, in the battle to reduce CO2 emissions.

INFORM believes that it is now time to rethink the paradigm of infrastructure and IT as being separate projects.

INFORM spoke to PTI ahead of the GreenTech for Ports & Terminals event about how optimisation is key to achieving port’s sustainability goals.

 “Most terminals or ports are focused on infrastructure projects, such as replacing diesel equipment or implementing onshore power. These are both great examples of projects with strong sustainability outcomes. However, these traditional investments in concrete and steel are relatively slow projects to realise, especially when compared to investments in IT and software,” Alex Van Winckel, Senior Consultant, INFORM, told PTI.

“The reality is optimisation solutions can deliver immediate benefits in a comparatively short timeframe. Our deployment schedules are measured in months, with no costly retraining of staff typically required. They are also very easy to implement within an organisation’s culture. The result is a quick win as terminals and ports work towards their sustainability goals. Furthermore, the benefits actually enrich the types of infrastructure projects that they are already targeting,” he said.

Alex Van Winckel will be speaking at Port Technology’s GreenTech for Ports & Terminals on 22 and 23 September 2021. Register now!

He noted, “For example, if a terminal operator is looking to replace diesel-powered equipment with electric, there are two sustainability problems to still consider. First and foremost, just because the equipment isn’t burning diesel fuel in the terminal doesn’t mean that the overall CO2 reductions are realised.

“Most electricity around the globe still comes from burning fossil fuels. The problem has simply been shifted upstream while also creating a second issue of electrical grid sustainability.

“Building on the first is optimisation effort number two. Replacing a diesel fleet with an electric fleet isn’t likely to reduce the total CO2 emissions. In this example, our Vehicle Optimizer is proven to allow operators to reduce their fleet sizes by as much as 40% on a sustained level. Not only does this reduce a significant amount of CO2 production (both onsite and upstream), but it also significantly reduces the quantity of equipment needed and the invoice for said equipment. The ROI potential here is massive.”

Embracing sustainability

INFORM as a company has strongly embraced the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“This starts in how we operate as a company and carries through to the products and solutions we provide in the market,” Van Winckel said.

Independent assessment platform EcoVadis recently presented INFORM with the Silver Medal award, confirming the company’s growing sustainability initiatives.

“When it comes to our product, we’ve known for some time that our solutions help our maritime and intermodal terminal operators reduce their CO2 footprints,” Van Winckel explained.

“Over the past two years, we’ve been actively working to understand how. At the beginning of 2021, we published a paper with Port Technology titled ‘Sustainability in Maritime’, where we looked at the impacts of our optimisation software.”

“The results were pretty telling. For instance, by leveraging our Vehicle Optimizer or Yard Optimizer, terminal operators can reduce a terminal’s CO2 footprint by as much as 16,200 tons and 1,580 tons, respectively. Of course, these numbers will vary from terminal to terminal, depending on their specific operating characteristics.

“Are these the largest numbers? Perhaps not, but these are benefits in addition to the cost reductions that drive strong ROI when using optimisation solutions from INFORM. Our Vehicle Optimizer can save operators as much as €5.2 million ($6.15 million), and our Yard Optimizer can reduce operational costs by as much as €7.5 million ($8.87 million). The financial and green benefits of optimisation combined are clear and powerful incentives to improve one’s operations,” he said.

Applying technology

It is clear that solutions like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation can provide a clear route towards green, sustainability goals.

However, Van Winckel said what is often overlooked when discussing sustainability is emerging technologies’ impact on people.

“Our solutions are proven to assist in implementing automation projects more successfully, and these projects, when done well, reduce dispatcher and equipment-handler stress levels. Crane operators working with our Crane Optimization solution routinely report significantly decreased stress levels when working with the optimisation’s next-best-move recommendations, as an example. Data also shows that the Crane Optimizer will reduce CO2 by as much as 1,570 tons for RTG operations.”

Looking ahead

INFORM has already worked with a number of leading brands in the supply chain in order to optimise their business processes for over two decades.

“This includes HHLA. We first delivered our optimisation capabilities into the maritime industry and have been refining and enhancing them for the past two decades,” Van Winckel said.

“In the long-term, we are also increasingly active in monitoring the industry for ways in which we can positively impact it,” he added.

INFORM is set to continue to invest in initiatives and product solutions: from its promoting diversity through their Millennials in Maritime and Women in Maritime drives; to developing and launching new product solutions such as its TLO aerodynamic train load planning algorithm; or the company’s Machine Learning module that moves the industry forward.

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