Past years have seen a massive enhancement of port container facilities, propelled by a real or anticipated demand to handle growing container volumes. As the container shipping fleet grows and ship sizes increase, the pressure is on for terminals to guarantee swift vessel turn-around at the quayside. Container vessels are high value assets, and vessels moored at the quay or waiting outside the harbour do not earn any money for their investors.
Ports and operators have invested massively in container terminals to expand ship-to-shore capacities by developing new facilities, expanding existing terminals or upgrading equipment and TOS software. Container terminal contracts also regulate the service level; for example, in terms of hourly moves, number of cranes deployed or departure times. Consequently, today the significance of efficiency equals, in many cases, a container terminal’s handling costs.
In this way, the service level has become one of the key factors of a container terminal’s competitiveness with other facilities. Therefore, the close monitoring of performance indicators becomes more and more important for container terminal operators. Liner operators keep a close eye on operations reports, which are included in information exchanged between ter-minal and vessel before sailing.
When technological innovations increase yard density and speed up handling time, the orches-tration and management of operations is crucial. A handful of planners and dispatchers plan, prepare and control the operations of the terminal. They work on the basis of stowplans, prestows from central planners, bookings and sailing lists.
However, what looks feasible in the broad picture gains overwhelming complexity on the infinitesimal level of the individual container – with thousands of moves each influencing each other and, consequently, affecting the terminal’s productivity. Mastering this complexity is only possible with a TOS – but this is only half the battle. The TOS is only an interface between the terminal and the planner. An efficient management of the terminal depends on the planner’s understanding of the terminal and of the shipping industry.