Dockside report on port congestion: Open seas

24 October 2023

Jenny Eagle takes a look at how organisations are easing congestion in port settings.

Port congestion has become a pressing challenge in the modern supply chain, impacting the efficiency and reliability of global trade. The increasing volume of goods being transported, along with outdated manual processes, has led to delays, inefficiencies and a lack of visibility in port operations, according to Dennis Monts, chief operating officer, Advent eModal. However, with the inception of digitisation, there is an opportunity to tackle these issues head-on.

Monts reports by leveraging digital technologies, ports and logistics stakeholders can reduce congestion, enhance visibility and gain greater control over their operations. This paradigm shift towards digitisation across freight handling and payment processes, for example, improves efficiency, streamlines processes and ultimately enables smoother and more reliable trade.

“Many intermodal terminal operators have found success in implementing software systems that enable them to digitally track and monitor their operating systems. Take the Port of Oakland, for example. The busy port has been in operation since 1927. However, modern supply chain challenges made it more difficult for operators to manage incoming and outgoing traffic across the port’s four terminals,” he says.

“Like many other ports, the Port of Oakland was frustrated due to the lack of a single place for stakeholders (e.g. shippers, truckers and terminal operators) to view, analyse and track cargo data. Without visibility into this data, BCOs [beneficial cargo owners] and truckers had difficulty finding their cargo, which contributed to the growing issue of port congestion.”

To address the Port of Oakland’s issues, Advent eModal designed and engineered a software solution using its eModal platform to provide greater cargo data visibility and transparency for freight stakeholders. Advent worked with the port to customise eModal’s interface, enabling them to tackle difficult challenges that are unique to the Port of Oakland. Now, shippers, terminal operators and cargo owners and handlers can access the information they need online, in one location. This increased visibility allows for cargo to be more easily and consistently found, helping to alleviate port congestion.

Another example of digitisation that has helped to alleviate port congestion is Advent’s Trucker Appointment Capacity Dashboard created with the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA), a marine cargo operating partnership of the Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma.

The Trucker Appointment Capacity Dashboard is an interactive platform that continues to help the NWSA address ongoing congestion challenges. The dashboard provides trucking companies and port stakeholders with real-time access to aggregated capacity data at terminals in the NWSA Gateway.

By providing transparency to realtime data on a common platform, the dashboard allows terminals across Seattle and Tacoma to efficiently maintain throughput and move international trade throughout the region. The enhanced visibility and control improve the accuracy of appointment availability and scheduling accuracy, reducing truck idling and dwell times, which are leading contributors to congestion. A digitised dashboard like the one with NWSA also makes it easy to set up dual transaction appointments. A dual transaction is when a trucking company sets one appointment for a drop-off and a pick-up. Increasing dual appointments further streamlines the traffic flow in and out of the facility.

Congestion and ongoing supply chain challenges, including detention and demurrage, have highlighted difficulties for BCOs and logistic service providers (LSPs). These stakeholders need visibility and control over their end-to-end journey to ensure the fluid movement of goods and an efficient way to collect and pay fees.

Advent developed and launched Envio 360, a software solution for BCOs and LSPs. Envio 360 enhances appointment and fee collections and provides complete intermodal freight orchestration. The solution’s application programming interfaces (APIs) add a new level of automation across terminal interactions giving users more control and visibility over container status, appointment management and terminal fee settlements.

Envio 360 also integrates with existing transportation management and planning systems to increase collaboration and consistency across logistics. For example, BCOs and LSPs have the flexibility to expand their drayage provider pool and motor carriers can review and accept the requested pick-up and delivery windows. Having one location to manage a variety of processes and stakeholders reduces opportunities for error, confusion and resulting congestion.


In other news related to dealing with congestion, Sri Lanka’s Hambantota International Port (HIP) is investing $8m in the expansion of its roll-on/roll-off (roro) facilities.

HIP is adding 5,000 slots for the handling of vehicle transhipment, on top of a current capacity of around 28,000 slots.

Some $8m is being invested to build an additional 68,000m2 of parking space, which will be located 55m from the berth. The new parking space is expected to be completed in seven months.

The port group says that expected growth from nine large customers that currently use the ro-ro facilities at the port had made expansion “an urgent necessity”.

“As the global economy gradually improves, we expect to see a further increase of our volumes. In order to give confidence to its customers, HIP will continue to make investments in areas of strategic importance to [its long-term development]. This is a continuous process and is done in line with global trends to build capacity ahead of demand,” says Tissa Wickramasinghe, COO, HIP Group.

DP World, meanwhile, has signed a deal to double capacity at Indonesia’s Belawan New Container Terminal (BNCT).

It will more than double throughput capacity to 1.4 million TEUs.

The company is set to commence operations after finalising an agreement with the Indonesia Investment Authority (INA) and the Indonesian governmentowned port operator Pelindo to manage the terminal and begin a major expansion.

The strategic partnership will create Indonesia’s most direct link with the Malacca Strait, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.

In the longer term, the agreement aims to increase BNCT’s capacity up from 600,000 TEUs currently. BNCT will also aim to attract more direct calls, reducing North Sumatra’s reliance on regional hub ports to access regional and global markets.

The BNCT currently serves as a local hub for the neighbouring provinces in Sumatra. The expansion and modernisation programme will strengthen its position as a major trade and logistics gateway in the Malacca Strait.

Alongside modernising maritime infrastructure, DP World will also work with its partners to connect other terminals and small ports on the Island of Sumatra to further realise the BNCT’s role in reducing container logistics costs within Northern Sumatra.

Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, group chairman and CEO of DP World, says: “We are proud to help Indonesia expand the Belawan New Container Terminal and support its ambitions to develop the economy of Sumatra through infrastructure. By investing in cuttingedge sustainable technologies, worldclass training and the highest standards of health and safety, we aim to eliminate inefficiency and enable the flow of trade between Indonesia and the world.”

Ridha Wirakusumah, CEO of INA, added: “INA’s investment in Belawan New Container Terminal serves as a crucial step towards positioning Indonesia as a prominent maritime axis, and key player in the global logistics industry. This transformational project supports Indonesia’s economic growth and advances its maritime sector, becoming an important role in driving economic growth in Indonesia.”

The minister of state-owned enterprises, Erick Thohir, concludes: “As directed by President Joko Widodo, there is always strategic value for equity and acceleration of economic growth in the regions and nationally through port development, including this new container terminal at the Port of Belawan. This is in accordance with the objectives of the terminal port development, which will strengthen the national port industry ecosystem, as well as the competitiveness of Indonesian ports as strategic trade routes in Southeast Asia and internationally.”

Finally, the ports of Aktau and Kuryk have been incorporated into the Seaport Aktau Special Economic Zone (SEZ) following a presidential decree to increase Kazakhstan’s transport and logistics potential. The Bautino cargo area is also now part of the SEZ.

With four docks, Kuryk port exports oil, metals and chemicals to the Azerbaijan capital Baku, says port director Serik Akhmetov.

“Some cargoes are shipped to Europe, further along the Black Sea. The products made in Belarus, Italy and Russia are transported to other regions of our country,” he adds.

Due to the geopolitical situation, cargo transportation through the Kuryk port this year doubled to over 550,000 tons.

With six oil docks with an annual capacity of 12 million tons, the Aktau port transports dry cargo, oil and crude from east to west and north to south, to Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Turkmenistan.

The inclusion in the SEZ will boost investment in the Mangystau Region and create one of the largest international transport corridors.

The benefits offered within the Seaport Aktau SEZ will impel investment projects, including the construction of a container hub at the Aktau port by the end of 2025 and the full equipment of ports with modern transhipment units.

Kazakhstan has become an international transport corridor hub through the Aktau port, which accounts for 40% of the total transportation traffic on the Caspian Sea.

Saudi Ports Authority

The Saudi Ports Authority, in a move that suggests it would perhaps welcome a little shipping congestion, has signed a deal to establish an integrated centre worth over $533m, as part of a pilot project to supply ships with fuel at Yanbu Industrial Port.

The total holding capacity of the project is likely to reach 2.5 million metric tons.

The authority signed the agreement with International and Trafalgar Co. in June in collaboration with the Ministry of Energy and it aligns well with efforts made by the Saudi Ministry of Energy to increase the kingdom’s share of fuel supply for ships transiting to 10 million tons.

It also aligns with the authority’s goals to increase the number of logistic zones to 30 by 2030, contributing to consolidating the kingdom’s position as a global logistics hub.

Mazen Al-Bunyan, CEO of the bank Standard Chartered in Saudi Arabia, says the kingdom’s logistics initiatives are helping to drive the Middle East “into a new era of trade and economic prosperity”.

“The kingdom aspires to become the next global logistics hub and has pledged to make its economy more sustainable and innovative.”  

With an area of 393,000m2, the centre aims to establish tanks for storing, trading and mixing petroleum materials in two stages. In each phase, 1.2 million tonne capacity facilities will be built, spanning over 196,000m2.

At each stage, 144 storage units — including diesel tanks, benzene tanks and heavy fuel oil tanks — will be built.

These facilities, each with a storage capacity of 8,650t, are intended to provide the national petroleum industry with high-quality, cost-effective service while meeting local and international market demands.

The deal was signed by Abdullah Al-Munif, the Saudi Ports Authority’s vice president for commercial business, and Trafalgar CEO Khalid Al-Qahtani.

The Yanbu-based King Fahad Industrial Port is the largest trading port for crude oil, refined petroleum, and petrochemicals in the kingdom and the Red Sea.

The port is ideally situated to serve the East-West global trade routes with a throughput capacity of 500,000 tons and infrastructure that spans 34 berths and ten terminals.

DP World has signed a deal to double capacity at Indonesia’s Belawan New Container Terminal.
Cargo transportation through Kuryk port this year doubled to over 550,000 tons.
Dennis Monts, Advent eModal.
By leveraging digital technologies, ports and logistics stakeholders can reduce congestion, says Advent eModal.