On The Mos Way - Logo
03 April 17

Gates queues should be ‘consigned to history’ say OEMs. John Bensalhia investigates

Tag Cloud

“Does everyone show up at the doctor’s office when they find it convenient or does the doctor
spread out the appointments throughout the day to best utilise the asset?” John Nardi, president of
the New York Shipping Association, discusses an appropriate metaphor for the issue facing ports
with respect to gateway truck flow.
“Many times we see truckers queueing up for long distances in the morning and no trucks arriving
in the afternoon.”
To ensure smooth, regular traffic as opposed to a backlog of congestion, port operators must
ensure that truck flow is effectively managed. Mr Nardi says that truck flow at gateways is one link
in the supply chain linking port gateways and the customer’s door. “Fully utilising all hours of the
day for all links in the supply chain will improve truck flow though port gateways. Simply, this is a
supply chain equation.”
A recent report highlighted a way to ensure smooth, hassle-free truck flow. From January 2017,
truckers are now required to schedule appointments at the Port of New York and New Jersey’s
GCT USA LP-operated terminal. Prior to this new requirement, trucks would queue up for hours in
order to gain entry for loading and unloading. However, following an initial test of the new system,
the results were favourable with a 38% decrease in turn time with appointments. The ports of Los
Angeles, Oakland, Long Beach and Vancouver have also adopted truck appointment strategies.
Mr Nardi says that a truck appointment system is the way forward, ensuring advance warning for
ports. “The days of a trucker just showing up and expecting to be serviced ‘on demand’ are coming
to an end. Predictability is the most important aspect of the supply chain of the future and the only
way to ensure this is with an appointment system.”
Process and behaviours
Daniel Dagenais, vice-president, Operations, Montreal Port Authority, says that truck gate
improvements can be grouped into three key categories. “Ports and terminals can improve their
gate performance by either (or a mix of) adding infrastructure; changing the process; and altering
“As a mid-size port we simply cannot simply add infrastructure without exploring what we believe
are the most promising options: change behaviours and process reviews. Indeed, adding more
gates or larger parking lots to accommodate larger daytime truck flows, only to see the same
assets unused or underutilised in the evening or at night, is no longer acceptable.”

Mr Dagenais adds that terminal operators are also being encouraged to introduce paperless
processes, using optical character recognition and remote inspections through CCTV. “To that
effect, projects are on-going to reach higher productivity with the use of technology.”
Altering behaviours is, however, a bit trickier: “This entails communicating strategic information so
that decision makers (dispatch and planners) are made aware of where and when the best time
slot opportunities are located. It also informs them that in order to fill their commitments they may
have to mobilise extra assets because the terminal is currently ‘under attack’ and longer waiting
times are expected… less surprises. We can leverage factual data to demonstrate that costs
associated to daytime queuing are more expensive than extending operating hours and promoting
this model to beneficial cargo owners. Changing behaviours does make supply chains more
A notable innovation introduced by the Montreal Port Authority in October 2016 was Trucking
PORTal, a web application designed to improve goods fluidity and mobility in and around the port.
“It was created for truck drivers who frequent the Port of Montreal and their dispatchers,” explains
Mr Dagenais. “It posts, in real time, truck wait times on port property at each terminal so that
truckers can better plan and optimise decision-making, avoid congestion and save time.”
There are several collateral benefits derived from this project, he explains. “The most important
one is that we can better track improvements, and discriminate perception-based statements from
fact-based information. Sensors, card readers, OCR and all the necessary hardware installed to
support this system required the adoption of a single port access platform. This has greatly
improved data exchange between the port authority (sole port card emitter) and the terminal
operators, responsible for terminal access. The integration of all access points on a single common
system has made possible end-to-end visibility of every transaction.”
Another benefit of Trucking PORTal relates to the environment as the improved truck fluidity
means that trucks emit less greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while in and around the port. “An air
quality positive effect that ensures the port’s licence to operate and grow from neighbouring
communities. Real-time performance awareness by all users fosters an inter-terminal operator
healthy competition reflex to improve – no one wants to be last. Studies have shown that knowing
service delays has a calming effect on expectations: for example, as a computer user do you
prefer to know that 12 seconds are left to download a file or see a spinning hourglass?”
Hailfax tracking
Meanwhile, last year, the Halifax Port Authority launched an enhanced container tracking system
for importers and exporters. It allows them to track a container by setting automated alerts that are
sent back to them by email or SMS. Users can enter a single container number or upload a larger
list of files and identify the specific alerts they wish to receive.
“This was created as a result of feedback received by the market,” says Lane Farguson,
communications advisor, Halifax Port Authority. “Our goal was to take the original tool and make it
better; simplify and automate; and to provide a faster search option. It is an example of working
with industry to make it easier for shippers to do business through the Port of Halifax. Information
gathering and monitoring is invaluable to us and our customers.”
Shortly after the launch of the enhanced container tracking system, a major infrastructure project in
Halifax got under way. This was to replace the suspended deck structure of one of the two harbour
bridges in Halifax. Additionally, the bridge was to stay open to vehicular traffic and marine traffic
throughout the process. “The Halifax Port Authority IT department worked closely with the Halifax
Harbour Bridges project team and developed several innovative air gap monitoring systems to help
insure the safe and unencumbered transit of vessels under the bridge,” says Lane. “The air gap
monitoring program has since received an award from the American Association of Port

Authorities. The deck replacement project is now out of the main navigational channel, and I am
happy to report there were no significant impacts on shipping schedules throughout the entire work
schedule, which is pretty remarkable when you think about it.”
Lane adds that the Halifax Port Authority is still gathering data and using that information: “The
next step now is to bring it all together. Our IT and Innovation team will launch a full operational
dashboard in the coming months which will provide global visibility through our website covering all
aspects of our container terminal operations, terminal performance KPIs, harbour traffic, security,
port conditions and dangerous cargo processes.”
Montreal’s Mr Dagenais concludes that appointment technologies are promising technology
applications, representing what is considered current industry best practice. He adds that the future
is “most likely more exciting.
“Declining computing costs, the internet of things, wayside sensors, tracking and dematerialisation
of transactions should enable ports and terminals to transition from current appointment systems to
a dynamic predictive mode that would combine the advantages of an appointment system and the
promises of technology.”
Dr Julian Stephens, technical development manager of MJC2, adds that technology is the future
when it comes to managing port truck flow: “Internet-of-Things and the connected container,
coupled with advanced machine intelligent logistics optimisation algorithms, will allow real-time
synchromodal optimisation.”
“Queuing at terminals should be consigned to history.”

To help manage truck flow at ports, software technology is a notable boon. MJC2, for example, has
developed a number of software solutions.
“Integrated synchromodal planning of the port and terminal operations is a very effective and low
cost solution,” says Dr Julian Stephens. “In many cases, currently each part of the operation (ship,
berth allocation, terminal handling, truck, train) is planned using independent systems which
optimise “locally”. This leads to mismatches along the supply chain, queuing being one of the
negative consequences. Initiatives like SYNCHRO-NET are addressing this.”
SYNCHRO-NET combines advanced synchromodal logistics optimisation tools with smart
steaming supply chain planning systems. Benefits include reduced congestion (a result of a more
intelligent use of multimodal options) and optimised berth allocation (resulting in faster turnaround
for ships).
MJC2’s freight planning and logistics management software aims to provide strategic, real-time
optimisation functionality for container transport operations – including trucks. Port operations,
haulier assignment and depot/terminal operations can be managed far more effectively as a result,
MJC2 claim.
It’s possible to keep an eye on the progress of truck movements with the MJC2 Freight Dispatch
and Shipping Software. This software allows for complete visibility for the entire operation. It can
automatically reschedule truck routes if necessary and can integrate with port software systems to
both deliver and receive information in real time.