Automated traffic management system is key to the Port of Helsinki’s plans for growth



Derwent Systems Ltd., Cramlington, UK


When the Port of Helsinki’s major new harbour at Vuosaari opens in 2008 it will benefit from one of the most advanced automated cargo traffic management systems to be found anywhere in the world.

Construction of this major new facility is already underway, and when completed it will include a cargo harbour, a logistics area, traffic channels (road and rail) and a  major business park. Work on the cargo vehicle control system is expected to take place during 2007 and 2008 over the course of several months.

The automated system that the Port of Helsinki has opted to use – the Visy Terminal Gate – will give managers the highest levels of control over the movement of vehicles and freight going through the port, both in real time and retrospectively for audit purposes. As such it forms an important part of the Port’s strategy of using the latest technology to meet the demands of the ISPS Code. The Code, framed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), is mandatory for all ports under European Union jurisdiction, and in most states worldwide.

Meeting the requirements of ISPS in a well-planned and efficient way is essential for any port wanting to maintain its position in the competitive global market, and so not surprisingly, it’s important to Helsinki as the second largest terminal in the Nordic region. Currently the port handles more than 10 million tonnes of cargo every year, and the new Vuosaari facility will increase that significantly, thus it is vital that cargo can be moved quickly and efficiently.

Complying with the ISPS code

The design and installation of the automated management system is a major undertaking which is costing the port more than 3.5 million Euros, so expectations are high. Esa Salonen, the IT Manager who is in charge of the project, says he is confident that it will run smoothly and produce the required results. His confidence is  based on the fact that the Port of Helsinki has already used the Visy system at its existing terminal, albeit on a smaller scale – a recent three gate project which serves as a useful model for the planned 20 gates at Vuosaari.

He was closely involved with that first installation and says lessons learned then will prove invaluable with the new, more ambitious works. Explaining the background, Mr Salonen recalls that in 2004, in the run-up to the ISPS Code coming into force, Helsinki managers knew that the only way to maintain operational efficiency would be to introduce some form of automation. The alternatives would have been costly extra manpower, major roadlayout changes, and unacceptable delays for port users.

“We knew that without some form of intelligent technology it would be very hard for us to comply with the regulations,” says Mr Salonen. “Up until then the needs were very different and there was no special requirement for us to recognise what was coming through the port, but with the ISPS Code all that changed.”

The ISPS Code was developed to raise standards of security in international sea transport and among the ports serving it, in particular against the very real threat of  terrorist acts. It requires that access to harbour areas, and to their core areas (the so-called  ISPS areas) in particular, be strictly controlled.

In practice, for Helsinki this meant that all vehicles and containers needed be identified at the point of arrival, and their movements traceable through to the point of departure. So having settled on the idea of automation as the best way forward, Mr Salonen’s team looked at a number of technology options.

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