Navis LLC has been providing terminals with operating systems for almost three decades. But the Oakland, California-based company faces a brave new world these days, with new, fully automated terminals standing sometimes side-by-side with those that remain manually driven.
“It’s challenging. It’s complex,” said Raj Gupta, the company’s chief technology officer and senior vice president of engineering, in an interview.
Navis supplies hundreds of non-automated terminals with their operating systems, attempting to insure various processes move as smoothly as possible.
Gupta cited a recent survey Navis conducted with its customers. About 60% said that Navis’s latest terminal operating system, N4, reduced costs in yard planning, yard operations and vessels operations. Almost three-fourths of respondents said the system had improved gate productivity by 10-24%.
With fully automated terminals, the company’s task is more complicated.
Take its role in the recently inaugurated Qingdao New Qianwan Container Terminal Co. Ltd., or QQCTN (see Matt Miller story on page 2). Navis provided Asia’s fully automated terminal with a terminal operating system, or TOS. In addition to each automated function – the quay cranes, the stacking cranes, and the driverless vehicles that shuttle containers back and forth – there’s the need to coordinate all into one massive, efficient organism.
“We essentially are insuring that the container is able to go from the vessel to the automated guided vehicle to the yard and then from the yard to the automated guided vehicle back to the vessel,” Gupta explained.
While Navis tweaks and fine-tunes its TOS, the company is embarking on a longer-term project to bring terminal constituents even closer to together.
“For the last couple of years, we have transformed [ourselves] significantly to look at the shipping supply chain much more holistically,” said Gupta.
Navis’s parent company, the Helsinki-based Cargotec Corp., aided this effort through the 2016 acquisition of INTERSCHALT maritime systems AG for an undisclosed amount. INTERSCHALT is a specialist maritime software developer that provides software solutions for cargo and fleet management. It is now part of Navis.
In addition, Navis has produced its own collaboration software for terminals and carriers it calls XVELA. The company hopes to expand this to include other parties, including port authorities, shippers and intermodal companies.
The idea, Gupta explained, is to integrate a terminal operating system with carrier solutions and online collaboration. This would give various parties in this maritime supply chain better, more accurate and more up-to-date information. Having access to real time information about the state of the terminal, for example, allows a shipping line to know what the best time to land would be, what quay cranes are available, if the terminal is backed up. The terminal would conversely have a much better idea of when a vessel is coming, and have a more accurate assessment of what containers are stored where on a vessel than with a static manifest.
This effort attempts to counter both a tendency within the industry to segment software systems in silos and a reluctance among various players within the supply chain to share information. Traditionally, shipping lines and terminals have treated data like closely held cards in a game of poker.
Like others in the industry, Gupta believes these barriers are breaking down as the shipping industry consolidates and major lines work much closer with allied terminals to iron out scheduling and manifest issues. These are sometimes owned by the same holding company, for example, Maersk and APM. Or, they’re in alliances, such as DP World and the global shipping consortium, THE Alliance, which includes Hapag-Lloyd, K-Line, MOL, NYK Line and Yang Ming.
“We are hoping that we can take that one step further by providing a platform that is agnostic from any one terminal or carrier and allow the parties to share information to the extent that they want to,” Gupta said. “We store a lot of information about a terminal, but we don’t have to expose that to a carrier, only to the extent a terminal feels comfortable with.”