Try to imagine the day-to-day life of a Terminal. Tens of thousands of containers have just arrived from the Far East, Africa and the most remote corners of the globe. It’s now time to sort them, load them onto trains and articulated lorries and send them on to their final destination. At the same time tens of thousands of containers arrive over land and are waiting to be loaded onto a new ship. As if that wasn’t enough, hundreds of these containers contain perishable or dangerous goods and must be managed adhering to strict protocols.
How is it possible to keep everything under control? To make sure that the right containers end up in the right place, respecting the relevant security protocols and deadlines?
It wouldn’t take a lot for the whole situation to descend into chaos. Fortunately order is kept by the staff of the Control Room.
The Control Room is divided into three main departments: Ship Planning, Yard Planning and Berth & Resource Allocation. Each department is responsible for a specific aspect of Terminal life.
The Ship Planning division is responsible for finding the balance between the productivity requirements of the Terminal and each ship’s loading plan, which is required to respect rigid norms of stability and safety.
The ship planner prepares the loading plan for each ship as well as the loading sequence. In reality, it specifies where each individual container is stored and in what order. This is carried out with the assistance of the shipping company and the senior official who gives the final approval. Furthermore the ship planner decides the manpower required as well as the cranes that will operate the ships.
The loading plan covers a very important function. Firstly it guarantees the safety of the ship through a balanced distribution of the onboard weight. Furthermore it has to be organised in such a way to allow an efficient unloading procedure when it reaches its next destination.
The addition of the four new quay cranes has revolutionised the work of our planners. In the past the height of the crane was a limitation and required the containers that arrived in VTE to be positioned within a certain level. Now these limits no longer exist, neither for export or import. The operating height of the cranes (53 metres above sea level) allows all the ships existing today to be loaded and unloaded without restrictions. Our partners are very grateful.
The secret of a good onboard return (that is to say the number of containers operated in an hour) is the shipping yard. This is where the Yard Planning department takes over. It is their responsibility to organise the containers in the yard that are due for loading.
Before the arrival of each ship, the Yard Planning department organises the area of the shipping yard where the containers ready for shipping are to be stored. Groups are created according to the destination port, weight class and container type (standard, reefer, oversize and dangerous goods). The main objective is to plan a rational loading sequence in order to optimise the timing. This allows the shipping yard vehicles (gantry cranes and terminal tractors) to load the containers one behind the other in the correct loading sequence in order to avoid “waste”, which is term used for the movement of a container carried out for the sole purpose of getting to the required container.
Once the loading plan is ready and the containers destined for shipping are arranged in the correct loading sequence, all that remains to be organised is the area of the quay where the ship will be berthed and assign the personal necessary to carry out the operation. This duty is taken care of by the third department in the Control Room, Berth & Resource Allocation.
The Berth & Resource Allocation establishes where to berth the ship based on the diverse parametres such as the dimension of the ship, the arrival time, the availability of the quay, etc. Finally the department liases with the crane operators, berthers, fire crew and the relevant terminal personnel as well as the bites that will be used for berthing.
Another important function of this department is to organise the shifts and engage the crane operators, reach stackers and all the yard personnel. When the workload of the port exceeds the capacity of the VTE staff, a trusted external partner of the port is called into action Compagnia Unica Lavoratori Merci Varie Paride Battini; an organisation that brings together temporary port staff, and dates back to medieval times.
This is just an overview of the main functions carried out by the Psa Voltri-Pra Control Room. There are many more activites that take place, which are equally as important for the Terminal, and in general to allow the commercial system that relies on containers to function correctly. It is safe to say that control and organisation are the key words for the global economy.