The case where less optimal operations lead to better efficiency
DEMAND for greater efficiency in the global logistics chain is increasing, putting pressure on different links in that chain to share information and seek incremental benefits. But with the commercial logistics chain dominated by private actors, each with focused internal efficiency and profit motives, finding what is best for the whole logistics chain is difficult. New thinking also suggests that individual optimisation could lead to less optimal overall performance.
One fundamental part of this global chain is the port. Its operations are a hub where shipping and other actors in the logistics chain interact with internal port operations. While each port is different, making the task of finding common ground for collaboration even more challenging, there is some key guidance that is helping shape this.
In an article submitted to Fathom-News.com Mikael Lind and others argue that an optimal port visit needs two practices to fall in place and become more integrated than they are today. They are sea operations and port operations, which may at first glance appear similar in objectives, but have different actors involved with different ideas of optimisation. These two environments interact when it comes to trying to optimise a vessel’s port call.
In most ports, the principle of first come – first served is standard practice, causing unnecessary inefficiencies, and also leading to potential increases in emissions and pollution as vessels idle. The “first come first served” business model has led to or been the product of a general lack of integration between contractual issues, legal constraints, and local practices resulting from decades of legacy customs and culture. This is what needs to change.
Three distinct aspects stand out, port call coordination (of all organisations involved in a port call, from harbour master, pilot, terminal and tugs, to customs and vessel agent), port call synchronisation (the coordination of the ship to the berth and involves organisations outside of the port operation base) and then, optimisation (which involves sharing of data to enable analysis and decision making to create optimisation).
This is where Lind and the others see the port collaborative decision making process playing a substantial role, but say it remains crucial in the evolution of Port CDM that the two distinct elements of port optimisation and port call synchronisation are recognised. Port CDM is a set of principles that will enhance that, the authors say, and companies are already developing software solutions to create that efficiency.
In the article, whose authors are involved in the EU funded Sea Traffic Management programme, Lind and the others say the maritime transport sector is a “self-organizing eco-system of many players, it lacks the overall ability to optimise its operations.”
This is due to the commercial and therefore competitive nature of the industries that form the larger shipping and maritime sectors. So, with the development of any system to improve the logistics chain efficiency, there has to be agreement that some actors might have less than optimal operations in order to ensure that the port eco system as an entity is operating optimally.
The difficulty may well be in getting those entities agreeing to operate less optimally for the benefit of the greater port good.