Since 1986, the worldwide volume of container freight has increased by eight to ten percent annually. The globalization of the world economy, together with manufacturers’ tendency to transfer their production facilities to the Asian and Pacific countries, have been the main factors for the growth of the sea freight industry for the last ten to 15 years. A number of new terminals emerged in Russia and CIS countries, as well as in Eastern Europe. In fact, over the last ten years container terminals in these countries have been developing extensively. For example, in 1999, the First Container Terminal of Saint Petersburg Sea Port, the largest Russian terminal located in the Baltic Sea region, had a handling capacity of 150,000 TEUs per year. Nowadays, the terminal handles more than 1 million TEUs per year, and its capacity is expected to increase to 1.6 million TEUs per year by 2012.
During the period of the industry’s extensive growth, most investments were made in infrastructure and reloading equipment. However, when terminals reached freight volumes of about 200,000 to 300,000 TEUs per year, they generally encountered significant difficulties related to the inability to manage customer documentation, let alone to properly organize technological processes at the terminal. As a result, it took longer for the terminals to handle vessels, and there appeared long lines of trailers stretching out for many kilometers, waiting their turn before the terminal gates.
It was obvious that by simply investing in equipment only, it was impossible to really improve terminals’ operational efficiency. Instead, comprehensive management systems or terminal operation systems (TOS) were needed, along with the industry’s most advanced information technologies, to resolve the inefficiency problem.
In Russia, the First Container Terminal (Saint Petersburg) has been known as the leader in employing new information technologies in its work. In 1999, FCT’s information department started to develop a proprietary management system to support its business processes at the container terminal. However, they decided to hire a third-party company to provide and deploy a terminal operation control system.
After they analyzed the world market for similar systems, FCT decided to contact Russian company SOLVO, who had built up extensive expertise in developing real-time management systems for warehouse terminals and in working with radio equipment. What is more, the company also had experience the products of LXE, a US-based designer of container terminal automation equipment and the world leader in rugged wireless computers and data collection solutions.
The first commercial release of the Solvo.CTMS information system produced significant efficiency improvements when introduced at the First Container Terminal (FCT), in February 2001. In the first six months of the year, the terminal’s freight turnover increased by 90 percent compared to the same period in 2000.
In general, the system can optimize how containers are distributed and arranged within the terminal operation site, automate the process of container registration by tallymen during the vessel and vehicle unloading stage, and control the loading equipment operations. SOLVO developed the system in association with FCT specialists. According to Alexei Yermolin, FCT Deputy Director for Information Technologies, the system fully paid for itself within six months of its launch, due to the significant enhancement of the terminal’s handling capacity. Since its first release, Solvo.CTMS was positioned on the market as a comprehensive real-time management solution for container terminals, capable of increasing the performance of reloading equipment, optimizing technology operations, and providing the reliable and transparent data handling tools to ensure accurate planning and quick responsiveness to process changes.
Planning operations efficiently
Solvo.CTMS is an automated system designed to control technology processes at container terminals and to cut down the costs and time involved in container handling. The system provides accurate and comprehensive information on the terminal operation situation, and allows efficient planning of terminal operations.
The system comprises a number of system modules dedicated to a range of tasks, including container site management; vessel, railroad and motor vehicle loading and unloading operations, container positioning, editing terminal topology, and so on. Radio equipment manufactured by leading industry vendors, such as LXE and Cisco, can be smoothly integrated with Solvo.CTMS to collect and transmit operation data.
Tracking containers geographically
In 2002, the DGPS navigation module was added to Solvo. CTMS, to automatically track the geographical coordinates of individual containers within the terminal site and to eliminate any loss of containers. In addition, the system was integrated with several onboard positioning systems, such as Konecranes C-Pics, Kalmar Smartrail and Kalmar Smartpath, and is mountable on reloading equipment. The positioning integration module performs the conversion of containers’ geographical coordinates into logical addresses for their storage cells. Before containers can be moved to anywhere, the module checks their addresses with Solvo.CTMS’s database to eliminate any errors in placing the containers at the terminal operation site.