KING 3.0: a user-friendly online tool for reserving berths for sea-going vessels

11 September 2019
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The port of Rotterdam has once again stepped up efficiency with the introduction of KING 3.0, a new system for reserving buoys and dolphins. KING 3.0 makes it easy for agencies to book online, guaranteeing them of a berth for a specific sea-going vessel. Business manager and ‘buoy queen’ Amanda de Bruine discusses how she and her team developed the new system from scratch. ‘KING 3.0 is service-oriented, and more user-friendly for everyone involved.’

Amanda de Bruine
Amanda de Bruine

‘The port of Rotterdam has a total of 29 berths with buoys and dolphins out on the water, spread across multiple locations – from Maasvlakte to Dordrecht. They’re unique facilities: no other port offers a system like this. The buoys and dolphins provide safe and secure anchoring points for the ships. This reduces the risk of vessels losing cargo during heavy weather, for example. And they facilitate quick and efficient loading, unloading and bunkering,’ explains Amanda de Bruine. ‘Handling cargo, bunkering, making repairs and cleaning: a ship can execute all these activities out on the water, moored to a buoy or dolphin. Agencies can arrange a berth for one of these vessels on behalf of the shipping company or owner of the cargo.’

From ‘buoy board’ to flexible online system

As ship-to-ship operations business manager, Amanda has been involved since 2017 in the planning of incoming sea-going vessels seeking to book a buoy or dolphin where they can execute their activities. ‘In the beginning, I had next to no knowledge of buoys and dolphins, but I was fascinated by the project in its own right! In the past, agencies would call the Harbour Coordination Center (HCC) to reserve a spot. The HCC would make a card, which was put on a ‘buoy board’. If there was a change of plans, this led to further phone calls and the board would be manually adjusted to reflect the new situation.’

‘The first online reservation system, KING, was introduced just before I started in my new job. While it was a step in the right direction, we still had to make quite a few calls back and forth any time something changed. At which point the Port Authority’s planners would enter the changes in the system by hand. A laborious and time-consuming process. I felt this had to change: we needed a service-oriented system that was more user-friendly for everyone involved. We examined as a team which matters we would like to address. An intensive period of critical reflection, consultations with agencies and work building a new system. What’s the best way to provide flexibility, while simultaneously complying with strict regulations? Where do you need to place the button that lets you confirm your reservation? How can we allow users to effectively navigate the system? A complicated undertaking, but we did it!’

KING 3.0: greater certainty for agency

‘KING 3.0 is far more flexible and clearly arranged. Its key innovation is that the agency no longer has to wait until the reservation has been confirmed. You’re guaranteed of a spot as soon as you submit your booking. The agent simply has to enter the date of arrival, the duration of the stay, the name and length of the ship in the system, after which he or she is automatically provided with an overview of the available buoys and dolphins. You could basically compare it to picking a hotel on a booking site, and it’s just as accessible in terms of ease of use. After this, the agent still has some extra downtime on each of his or her reservations. This is extra time to ‘play around’: to put through changes without them affecting any of the other reservations. If the agent is interested in a specific location that has already been reserved, he or she will receive a notification should it become available later on.’

‘Another advantage of KING 3.0 is that it makes the planning process far more efficient. In the old set-up, agents couldn’t enter their own bookings – which occasionally resulted in ships having to queue up before they could be processed. The new system cuts waiting times for the vessels. This allows us to increase capacity and contribute to a smart port. Rotterdam’s system of buoys and dolphins, combined with the KING reservation system, is something that other ports around the world could also use to their advantage.’

Buoy queen

So where did the name KING come from? Amanda: ‘When the reservations were still scheduled on the ‘buoy board’, agents calling the HCC would say: “Put me through to the boeienkoning (‘escape artist’ – as well as a pun on ‘buoy king’)”. After taking over from my predecessor a couple of years ago, it wasn’t long before they started calling me the ‘buoy queen’. I’ve always been secretly proud of that title!’
‘As a team, we were really looking forward to the moment our system went live. Our role has changed: from now on we’ll be monitoring rather than planning. While I’ll miss our day-to-day interactions with the agents, I will remain the fixed contact for the agencies. We can continue to discuss how things are going, to better determine how we can optimise our service even further and raise the port of Rotterdam’s appeal as a place to do business.’

About Amanda de Bruine

Business manager Amanda de Bruine is involved in the development of KING and various operational issues. ‘I was already working in the port when I was studying Public Administration. As a radio operator, I would guide the crane operator, serving as his ‘eyes’ on shore. From there, I moved up to a different position, ultimately working in the port for close to ten years – the last few of which in an office. Whenever I passed the World Port Center, I used to think: some day, that’s where I’ll be working. I’ve always been very interested in working in and on behalf of the port. This feeling of dynamism; ruggedness; of rolling up your sleeves – I love it!’

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Amanda de Bruine
Port of Rotterdam