Cloud control

XVELA’s Christopher Mazza explains why carrier-terminal collaboration could find a home in the cloud

Port Strategy | May 29, 2015

During the past year, the global shipping industry has been buzzing over the need for ocean carriers and container terminals to better collaborate in order to combat operational challenges that exist on both sides of the table.

We saw presentations on this at top industry conferences such as TPM, JOC Port Productivity, and TOC Supply Chain, and recently, an entire session track at Navis World 2015 dedicated to this very issue. Why? Because both parties are reaching their breaking points with creating new efficiencies from existing technology and processes around vessel stowage planning and execution. Simply put, the old outdated processes and technology around vessel stowage planning and execution are holding up productivity.

The good news is that carriers and terminals recognise the potential of such collaboration, and are looking to make this a reality. The dialogue is there, and now, industry heavyweights have started to take action. Take for example the Hub Partnership between Maersk Line and APM Terminals, designed to change the way the carrier and terminals interact through shared goals and key performance indicators. Since the project launched in 2013, Maersk Line has reportedly saved millions of dollars in bunker costs, while APM Terminals has improved productivity at its Algeciras and Tangier facilities.

There’s also OOCL and DP World Southampton, who since directly collaborating on vessel planning for the G6 Asia-Europe string, can now ensure on-time and co-ordinated stowage activities for each and every vessel as a way to drive productivity.

The results of these partnerships speak for themselves, and as other organisations continue to seek ways to improve productivity, reduce wasteful spending and operate sustainably, it is only a matter of time before this degree of collaboration becomes a must.

As more and more carriers and terminals inevitably follow suit, this begs the question: “What is the best way to make collaboration possible?” Therein lies the both the answer and the current challenges.

Technology is certainly one important factor. In order for carriers and terminals to improve the way they collaborate and work together, we must improve the speed and accuracy of the data we consume and share with our trading partners. This means going beyond old systems and constrained manual processes for vessel stowage and planning in favor of more modern, effective and flexible tools.

In particular, cloud technology, which has transformed the way that other industries operate, holds similar potential for shipping. Among its many benefits, cloud-based tools can facilitate the level of near-real time information sharing needed to create greater visibility between carriers and terminals — anytime, anywhere.

However, the real challenge for putting this new model in action is not the technology itself, but rather, change management resistance — a well-known, and frustratingly slow problem in the industry.

As compelling industry drivers such as the operation of mega ships, profit loss among carriers and demands for higher productivity at the terminals threaten the familiar status quo, the reality is that organisations will have no choice — either work together and evolve, or risk elimination all together. And the cloud might just be the tool needed to chart a clear course for prosperity and success for the future.

Christopher Mazza is chief customer officer of XVELA, a Navis company and cloud-based vessel stowage collaboration platform for ocean carriers and terminal operators.

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