Pilot with Pronto: bunker delays for container ships significantly reduced

22 February 2019
How can we help you?

The number of Maersk vessels experiencing delay at APM Terminals at Maasvlakte II as a consequence of bunker activities reduced significantly during a Pronto pilot. The involved parties explain how real-time insight into each other’s scheduling helps prevent bottlenecks.

Visual Pronto Reduce Bunker Delay

The online communication platform Pronto enables optimisation of port calls in the Port of Rotterdam by visualising the scheduling of all involved parties real-time in one environment. Countless activities take place within the tight windows for loading and unloading of container ships at the terminals, including bunkering. “Rotterdam is an important port as it’s often the first or last port of call for Europe,” stated Marcel Jumelet, Marine Business Process Owner at Maersk. “However, our vessels have a tight sailing schedule: there’s hardly any buffer between the ports they call into. If a Triple E vessel (18,000 TEUs) is delayed for a few hours in the Port of Rotterdam, this can result in delays of over a week later on in the schedule. That’s why timely handling of bunker activities is important for both the terminal and the shipping company.” Some 19% of large Maersk vessels experienced delay at APMT MVII as a consequence of bunkering not taking place at the agreed time. This also presented problems for the terminal, stated Ad van Strien, Planning Manager at APMT MVII. “If a vessel remains berthed for longer than envisaged, we have an idle capacity situation: this means we can no longer optimise our crane capacity. Don’t forget that the biggest container ships take up around half our quays.”

Complex planning

Michiel Zeevaart, Operations Manager at shipping agent Inchcape Shipping Services (ISS) knows that bunkering is a complex process. “It’s nothing like filling up the car. A large bunkering operation needs to be ordered days in advance. After blending, tests are needed to check whether specifications have been met. If so, delivery can take place. Bunker vessels supply multiple sea-going vessels per day. Delays in one bunkering impact the bunkering deliveries to subsequent vessels. As well as bunkering, countless other activities take place in handling container ships in a global port such as Rotterdam, including registering waste and stocking vessels. As shipping agent we try to coordinate schedules as tightly as possible, with the planned vessel departure time being the leading factor. Our planners rely on up-to-date information on terminal times and nautical service provider delivery times. This generally runs smoothly on the terminal side, but on the supplier side, many improvements could be made.”

Anticipating delay

“This is actually where the added value of Pronto lies,” stated Port Call Optimisation Specialist Rob Koggel. “Within this virtual environment, all links in the chain can compare their schedules real time with other parties’ schedules. This enables them to respond much better to unexpected deviations from previously made agreements.” The Port Authority, APMT MVII, Maersk and ISS jointly ran a pilot with Pronto in 2018 concerning the bunkering of Maersk vessels at the APMT MVII. The aim: reduce delays as a consequence of bunkering activities from 19% to 10% over a period of six weeks. The result - 0% delay - exceeded expectations. Eddo Idzinga, Port Captain Rotterdam at Maersk: “As shipping company, we used to have no insight into bunker schedules. But we do now, thanks to Pronto. This enables us to help devise solutions if we see that a bunker delay looks likely. For instance, in some cases it can be an option to continue sailing to the next port and bunker there.” Michiel Zeevaart: “The notifications in Pronto are an extra trigger for us as shipping agent. For instance, if the terminal makes changes to the planned departure time a few hours in advance, we know we need to take action.”

One reality

Michiel Zeevaart is also delighted with TimeToBunker, a system that the Port Authority has now developed. This enables bunker vessels to forward real time their anticipated arrival time at a seagoing vessel. “This increases the reliability of the information that we as shipping agent make available to the terminals and shipping companies. It doesn’t immediately resolve all bottlenecks, but you can take joint action to address any deviations from the planning.” Jumelet agrees: “Thanks to Pronto, we can prevent unexpected developments from becoming a problem. We’re currently often just resolving problems as they occur. If you can anticipate problems in advance, you have space to make adjustments. You need real-time information from the right source for this. Sharing data enables you to create one reality. This increases quality and reliability throughout the chain. A great side effect is the environmental benefits that this can deliver. If we know in time that there are delays at a terminal, we can adjust the sailing speed of our vessels that are en route for that terminal. If we reduce the speed of a Triple E vessel a few hours in advance, the savings are tremendous, as it uses less fuel and emissions are lower.”

More understanding

Michiel Zeevaart: “This pilot has given us an opportunity to take a look behind the scenes at each other’s processes and, in our opinion, has increased our respect for each other’s challenges. Sharing information in an open and honest way is much more useful than just watching over the fence. Previously, people used to blame us if bunkers weren’t on time, but we don’t have full control of bunker vessels.”

Ad van Strien: “We’d like it if even more service providers and other terminals in our environment would start to share information via this platform and update their data frequently. Pronto widens our joint horizons. If we only hear 12 to 16 hours in advance that a large vessel will be arriving in 6 hours’ time, we don’t have the flexibility to deploy our cranes efficiently. Pronto can also really support the handling of short sea vessels that call at multiple terminals within the port.”

Eddo Idzinga: “The bunker pilot with Pronto was well organised. We had daily evaluation calls with all stakeholders. It’s also great that Pronto was developed using agile methodology. This means you can make quick switches and changes. During the pilot we discovered some bugs in the system that we resolved immediately. We resolved everything. As Port Captain at Maersk, it’s my responsibility to ensure that our vessels can leave the terminal again as quickly as possible. As well as the bunker supplies, I can envisage using this for other focus areas, including the exchange of vessels. That’s why we’d be delighted to work on further Pronto pilots.”

National and international pilots

Further pilots are being organised, because optimising port calls offers competitive advantages for the Port of Rotterdam. Koggel: “This enables the port to handle more vessels at the same time. We’ve also identified various improvement points, including the just-in-time arrival of vessels and berth exchange.” Dita Bruijn, Port Call Optimisation Project Manager at the Port Authority: “We’re running pilots with Pronto both in container shipping and in wet and dry bulk and we recognise that each process presents other challenges within the Port of Rotterdam. Pronto was developed with input from many parties in the port, which means that it offers opportunities to optimise port calls from start to finish and for all cargo types. The Port of Rotterdam community’s challenges are challenges that are also faced by other ports. We’ll be examining how Pronto can support them too.”