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Asia's seaport tech

Jimmy Yap | July 20, 2008
Former British colonies Singapore and Hong Kong, set up as strategic free seaports to service world trade through the region, rose to power largely on the economic activities of their harbours. The comparisons and competition continues today with IT streamlining port operations.

Since it was originally developed it has evolved considerably. In 1999, it moved to the Internet. Portnet has recently been redeveloped to support multiple party collaboration and integration, workflow automation and proactive exception management. Today, Portnet services 8,000 users and processes some 100 million transactions annually.

Enterprise Resource Planning

The other major system is CITOS, which stands for Computer Integrated Terminal Operations System. First developed in 1988, CITOS is an enterprise resource planning system that coordinates and integrates all assets, from prime movers, to yard cranes and quay cranes to containers and drivers.

CITOS also helps to plan the stacking of containers. When the information is keyed into the system through Portnet, CITOS automatically generates ship stowage plans and yard layout plans based on factors, such as ship stability (for stowage planning), weight of container, destination of container, size and special requirements.

This allows PSA to maximise land use and optimise retrieval, to track the location of each container and maximise resource productivity through planning ahead, says Chua Kee Thiam, the head of information technology at PSA Singapore Terminals.

HIT in Hong Kong has a similar system, which it first rolled out in 1996 as the productivity plus programme (3P). The programme decides how to route trucks in the yard, where to store containers, how many quay cranes, trucks and yard cranes to deploy and scheduling of trucks for container pickup.

Using 3P, HIT saved about US$100 million a year. HIT replaced 3P with a new system, the next generation terminal management system, or nGen, in 2005. This new system controls the entire terminal operations, from ship and yard planning to gate operations, vessel operations and interactions, yard configuration and performance and overall operations monitoring.

HIT and sister company Yantian International Container Terminals in Shenzhen, worked with HP to develop nGen. The terminal management system was launched in 2003 at Yantian before it was rolled out at HIT. The system will be use at other ports owned by Hutchinson.

Control tower systems

Apart from nGen, HIT relies on other systems to ensure efficiency. The control tower, for example, uses the Operations Monitoring System (OMS) and the Ship Planning System (Guider).

OMS is a tool used to help HIT staff visualise terminal operations and container stacking. Graphic representations of the terminals operations enable staff to easily understand the situation. The system has an overview that covers the entire container yard down to details of individual containers. The system can predict yard congestion so operators can take pre-emptive action.

The process of loading and unloading vessels has to be done carefully to ensure the stability of the ship is not compromised by speed. The Guider system has a library of every vessel berthed in the terminal and it is able to outline the optimal sequence for discharging and loading ships.


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