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Embracing predictive visibility in Long Beach

Shippers and motor carriers have embraced new technology at the ITS terminal in Long Beach that gives better visibility into import container availability.

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 ITS is leveraging integration to improve its gate process
ITS is leveraging integration to improve its gate process

Advent Intermodal Solutions, LLC. recently announced an expansion to its eModal community portal to enable predictive visibility into when import cargo becomes available for pickup at a marine terminal. After a pilot project International Transportation Service, Inc leveraged this to begin offering its gate customers the ability to indicate their desire to either request an appointment slot or complete a pre-arrival notification automatically.

Speaking with WorldCargo News this week, Sean Lindsay Chief Operating Officer at ITS discussed the initiative in more detail. It began two years ago when ITS was participating in a meeting between terminal operators and BCOs to discuss supply chain planning. The BCOs identified that existing availability data gave them very little time to plan gate moves, which reduced opportunities to try and schedule appointments to better match the flow available containers.

ITS saw an opportunity and working with Advent embarked on developing a data exchange system that would give shippers, BCOs and motor carriers the ability to see and predict when their cargo will be discharged five days prior to a vessel arrival.

At the moment a lot of shippers monitor vessel ETA data, but this has limited value. Lindsay explained that a container could be discharged in any one of six shifts working a vessel, and terminals in LA Long Beach commonly work two shifts per day. Vessels are not unloaded randomly, however. ITS has the vessel bay plan and knows the crane discharge sequence, how many cranes will be deployed and their average productivity. Based on this data ITS can forecast when a specific container will be unloaded “with reasonable certainty” said Lindsay.

Through eModal it is now sharing that data with gate customers to inform their requests for appointments. This required some development work around the TOS, which at ITS is an in-house system that Advent has worked on previously, as well as extensions to eModal.

Lindsay said the results have been very encouraging. The system is very intuitive and easy to set up for gate customers, and ITS has also been running outreach sessions at the terminal for those that want to come in and have it explained first hand. In the first week the system was opened to all customers ITS took 150 requests for appointments, and that number had jumped to over 600 in four weeks.

Automation at the systems level has also reduced work for ITS. It is taking fewer calls from trucking companies trying to establish when containers will be available, which staff previously tried to answer by looking at the bay plan. Manual work has been replaced by data exchange that gets system talking to each other, Lindsay stressed.

ITS is excited about the possibilities the initiative is opening up to improve its yard planning so yard stacks better match the flow of trucks coming to collect imports. It plans to leverage the system and its new data to support three goals:

  • Reduce dwell time to improve total terminal capacity.
  • Improve customer service. With a much larger planing window and data on previous behaviour shippers, truckers and ITS are starting to identify “peel pile opportunities” where import containers are placed in a stack and truckers take the first available container according to a pre arranged agreement. The peel piles can be handled with a top handler (instead of an RTG) and the truck turn time can be cut to 20-30 minutes.
  • Improve RTG efficiency. The RTGs handling import boxes are currently shuffling six out every ten boxes they handle as they dig for a specific import container. As a result they handle 7-10 trucks an hour, when the machines are capable of 25 moves an hour. ITS believes it can use data to improve planning and reduce the number of unproductive moves.
Ultimately the initiative also has benefit to K-Line, which owns ITS. “Shippers enjoy this opportunity, and will try and place their freight on vessels that call at the terminal” concluded Lindsay.
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