By Lori Musser
Once in a while, every seaport faces a fresh problem, or has a wrench thrown into the works creating a situation that just can’t be solved conventionally. While in-house talent typically tackles the tough issues, sometimes an outside perspective is needed to bring about the best solution. This appears to be especially true of digital and technology solutions.
Stepping Up Smart Port Status
Non-digital processes result in data being recorded on multiple occasions in different formats, leading to inefficiency, error and sometimes insufficient operating information for key stakeholders. According to the port, this can unnecessarily complicate communications, build stakeholder uncertainty, and even delay a call or alienate an agency or carrier. Digitization of vessel-call management streamlines operations and takes advantage of the benefits of single data entry and a shared port-call database.
At Montrose, the aim was to create an integrated system: to digitize the Port Control whiteboards in order to streamline processes and reduce errors; to digitize the back-office functions and reduce the time taken to prepare accounts for clients; and to open up the port’s processes to the wider port community and create greater efficiency among their stakeholders.
ION, introduced to Montrose by economic development agency Scottish Enterprise, has since implemented a modular cloud-based solution called Marlin SmartPort. Vessel calls are set up online, removing the need for paper or whiteboard-based systems. Key components of the port call are timestamped and recorded digitally, giving a single source of data for all administrative personnel, decreasing the time to process a port call booking, significantly reducing errors, and enabling the port to share data with the port community via any internet-enabled device.
Marlin SmartPort digital whiteboard went live in the Montrose Port Control Room in March 2020. Within 24 hours, the team had moved seamlessly to full digital vessel-call management. Coinciding with the COVID-19 lockdown, the port was able to move to remote working without any major challenges.
Following implementation of the system, processing time for a vessel call has decreased more than 60%. “The exciting move to Marlin SmartPort is a major leap forward for Montrose Port Authority replacing manual port operation procedures with an efficient, integrated digital system. The port is renowned for its ability to adapt easily to vessel requirements. The new software really propels us to the forefront of the market and is ideally aligned with our recent quayside redevelopment, and the new landmark contract with SSE Renewables. The project also supports our ambitions to become Scotland’s greenest port,” said Hutchison.
ION said the growing need for the acceleration of digitalization in the port industry requires smart solutions. It said successful, reliable solutions stem from a consultative approach, and from proactively acting as a systems integrator with other platforms to ultimately drive higher value. ION recommends modular, scalable solutions that can grow with ports as their needs develop.