Improving throughput at marine ports

April 15, 2005
Improving throughput at marine ports

California-based WhereNet Corp., a provider of wireless asset tracking and managing solutions, recently introduced a new RFID-based system tailored to the 24/7 world of marine terminals. Called Marine Terminal Solution (MTS), the new system is designed to improve throughput and reduce costs at busy port facilities by providing constant visibility and status information about the containers being moved into and out of the terminal area.

One of the features that sets WhereNet apart is that it relies on what the company calls “virtual tagging.” Rather than utilizing tracking devices attached to each shipping container, the WhereNet system depends upon active RFID tags mounted on all the equipment, mobile and fixed, which moves the containers into and through the port.

“The concept is like a relay race where each piece of equipment is a relay ‘runner’ and the container is the ‘baton’,” explains John Rosen, director of product marketing for WhereNet. “When a terminal receives a container, our local infrastructure of wireless WhereLAN locating access points begins following it by keeping track of which piece of equipment has the container at any given moment. When a container is ‘handed off’ from one machine to another we keep track of that transfer. We watch the runners, not the baton. It is a much more practical, affordable solution than trying to tag every container.”

Information about those transfers is passed to the terminal’s management system, enabling the terminal and its designees, such as the shipper, the carrier and the customer, to keep track of the container at all times. “With MTS, the terminal has access to more accurate, consistent inventory information, and that helps everyone involved,” Rosen says, “including carriers. For example, drivers picking up containers do not have to search for them and carriers can provide better information and better service to their customers. Fleets can also do better planning and better asset management themselves.”

According to the company, SSA Marine, a large, privately held container terminal operator and cargo-handling company, is deploying the WhereNet wireless Marine Terminal Solution at four West coast ports this year. “The goal is to help ports handle as many containers as possible,” observes Rosen. “Right now, the typical ROI for MTS is between six months and one year.”

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