Optimising complex terminal operations through advanced software applications



Robin Vega, Managing Director, Cirrus Logistics, Farnham, UK


Increasing complexities

The challenges facing port authorities and the companies responsible for shipping are increasing. The sheer growth in movements, driven by globalisation, is dictating new supply chain flows around the world leading to dramatic expansion in port traffic. New shipping technologies for energy transportation, such as that developed for LNG, and the impact of new security measures also need to be factored in.

All this clearly means that to maintain service levels, reduce ship waiting times, and importantly control port demurrage costs, terminal managers have to forward plan more than ever, not just to mitigate the effects of temporary change but to develop a strategic plan that they can action effectively in order to optimise future operations.
Somehow, managers have to push back their planning horizons to understand both longer term and immediate day-to-day scheduling activities, frequently at  terminals where operations have become more complex as a result of evolving infrastructures.

Need for new tools

Such challenges suggest that managers would benefit from some new tools. Sophisticated, intelligent solutions are required that can relieve them of the bulk of the day-to-day berth scheduling, whilst allowing them to assess ad hoc changes to the berthing plan and helping them make the best decisions for the long term. Since most ports, and the operations within them, involve a number of shareholders and other interested parties, the information delivered by the system must be readily
available, in real time, to various teams potentially located in disparate global time zones. The way in which the plan or proposal is presented has to be easy to understand and the system itself has to be relatively simple to use. Finally, where existing port administration systems exist, the new technology must enable automated communication and integration so as to avoid double entry of information. It was with these objectives in mind that Cir r us Log istics developed


Scheduling & Simulation, a unique, fully integrated suite of tools designed specifically to meet the needs of the port and marine terminal community.

SEABERTH Scheduling & Simulation

The new system combines three modules that, between them, support on-going berthing operations, tactical planning and longer-term strategic decision-making. The power of automated scheduling algorithms is overlaid with a planning board, facilitating user intervention but, despite the sophisticated underlying technology, users find the system accessible and visually transparent. 

The ‘Operational Module’ facilitates optimum day-to-day berth scheduling by producing a business focused, forecast berthing plan. It is a multi-user system that  includes a number of selectable displays. Information may be fed into the system either directly or from another management system. When the berthing plan view has been selected, the Module highlights potential schedule weaknesses and allows authorised users to make manual interventions. The ‘Experimental Plan
Module’ enables a ‘time-out’ approach to evaluating potential impacts on the operational plan of alter native ter minal maintenance schedules, or the impact of a spot cargo, without interfering with on-going activities.

Also part of the system’s multi-user environment, the module can maintain multiple ‘frozen in time’ plans which are available for debate and approval by the  management team, before changes are committed to the operational plan. The ‘Simulation Module’ allows multiple ‘what if?’ analyses for comparison and  longer-term decision-making. Also an off-line modelling tool, the module can utilise current data from the Operational Module to enable historical ‘actuals’ analysis and the establishment of an operational ‘base case’ against which future options can be compared. The module will then allow, through a morphing process, the synthesis of completely new scenarios of port infrastructure and future shipping activity – the user’s imagination is the only limit.

Focusing on real issues

Chevron is a long time user of SEABERTH at its Pembroke terminal. The company’s objectives in applying SEABERTH to its operations were clear – to reduce demurrage costs and optimise operations – and, indeed, Chevron’s experience was that the system was easy to learn, readily integrated with its existing oil accounting system and was quick to deliver results. Julian Brown, Shipping & Lifting Coordinator at Chevron, says: “In just a few months, the major benefits that SEABERTH brought us were a focus on the reduction of demurrage costs and a consistent, common approach to ‘business aware’ scheduling.” Following
its initial focus on day-to-day operations, Chevron went on to employ the Simulation Module to review the financial and operational impacts of its plans for the future of the terminal and proposed harbour developments and to develop a strategy that met business priorities, optimised vessel and cargo sizes and helped manage costs.

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