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Wärtsilä collaborates with Associated British Ports to enhance its maritime operations

Wärtsilä collaborates with Associated British Ports to enhance its maritime operations

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Technology solutions are critical for the maritime industry to address inefficiencies across the entire supply chain. Harm van Weezel, Chief Information Officer at Associated British Ports, delves into how the organisation is working with Wärtsilä Voyage to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to digitising its ports and optimising and modernising its operations.

Wärtsilä Voyage, part of the technology group; Wärtsilä, has signed a prestigious contract for a five-year framework agreement with Associated British Ports (ABP), the UK’s leading ports group, to digitalise operations at its 21 ports. The project aims to accelerate the Digital Transformation of port calls and operations, making them as efficient, sustainable and safe as possible.

The Wärtsilä Voyage technologies chosen for the project; Navi-Port, Navi-Harbour Vessel Traffic Services and Port Management Information System (PMIS), will help ABP employees meet their targets, complement the company’s safety culture during port operations and optimise vessel planning and movements, which can have a positive impact on local, national and global supply chains.

“ABP truly understands how impactful technology can be in the maritime industry and its innovative approach has cemented its position as the UK’s leading ports group,” said Sean Fernback, President, Wärtsilä Voyage. “This new agreement will help ABP maintain its competitive advantage now and into the future.

“Holistic and seamless technological solutions are critical to ensuring that ports and the maritime industry more broadly, are ahead of the curve in terms of supply chain modernisation, that operations are future-proofed and that data underpins decisions. The scope and scale of what we can achieve with ABP is very exciting and we’re pleased to be working together.”

After a thorough international procurement process where all major suppliers of port optimisation solutions were invited to tender, ABP chose to collaborate with Wärtsilä Voyage, a cutting-edge technology developer accelerating the Digital Transformation of the maritime industry. Wärtsilä Voyage displayed a clear vision of how to enable ABP to become an early adopter of state-of-the-art port management solutions, while also ensuring a strong return on investment aligned with the goals and ambitions of ABP.

The project, which began in June, will span multiple phases across all of ABP’s ports. Wärtsilä’s Vessel Traffic Services system and Port Management Information System are expected to be integrated into the Port of Southampton before April 2023, with other solutions subsequently being deployed across ABP’s 20 other ports. The agreement with ABP includes an ongoing human factor review to ensure the existing control room environment is optimised for people’s needs and is fully compliant with all national and international standards and guidelines.

The framework agreement, valid for at least the next five years, formalises a shared vision and commitment from both organisations to develop modern smart port applications through extensive and long-term collaboration.

“We are delighted to be working with Wärtsilä on a programme that really delivers towards our vision of a modern, digital port,” said Harm Van Weezel, Chief Information Officer at ABP. “Wärtsilä’s approach – forming a deep and long-term partnership that is mutually beneficial to both organisations – really stood out to everyone at ABP. We are looking forward to the vast benefits this programme will bring.”

Håkan Agnevall, President and CEO, Wärtsilä Corporation, added: “This is a landmark contract that will have a profound impact on the sustainability, resilience and efficiency of global supply chains. Digitalisation offers great potential for the maritime industry to reach its ambitious emissions reductions targets. That is why the expertise within Wärtsilä Voyage plays such an important role in the pathway to zero emissions and continues to be integral to Wärtsilä’s strategy to generate genuine and long-term change for our sector.”

We caught up with Harm van Weezel, Chief Information Officer at Associated British Ports, to glean further insight into the collaboration and its benefits.

Can you tell us about your role at the company and what this looks like day-to-day?

I was appointed as ABP’s inaugural Chief Information Officer at ABP in February 2019. The key function I carry out in my role is leading the company’s Digital Transformation. Day-to-day, I oversee our strategy to harness the latest technologies to improve ABP’s operational efficiency, increase productivity, accuracy and safety for our ports and our customers. This includes everything from drone trials to situational awareness tools, the Internet of Things and AI. We want to ensure our IT capabilities and solutions continue to support the business’ changing needs and deliver the best possible service to our customers.

How impactful is technology in the maritime industry and how does it accelerate operations?

Technology solutions are critical for maritime to address inefficiencies across the entire supply chain – from fuel consumption to port arrival times and cutting carbon emissions. From a ports-specific perspective, the growing demand for increased capacity and spike in freight traffic means ports must constantly be improving operations and innovating to keep up. Data and emerging tech such as AI, robotics and automation can help monitor vessels to keep port congestion down, conserve fuel and improve safety during port operations.

Can you tell us more about your goals and ambitions and what you set out to achieve prior to the commencement of your collaboration with Wärtsilä Voyage?

Our five-year digitalisation roadmap covers all 21 of the ABP ports and the goal is to digitise our ports, optimise our port calls and operations and improve the tracking of vessels. Our vision is to create modern, digital ports that are as efficient, sustainable and safe as possible and we identified that the partnership with Wärtsilä Voyage would enable us to meet these goals and ambitions.

How do Wärtsilä’s solutions ensure you are ahead of the curve in terms of supply chain modernisation?

ABP’s network of 21 ports are key gateways for international trade so it is critical that we are ahead of the curve to help drive UK prosperity and ensure the smooth running of the global supply chain. The partnership with Wärtsilä gives us access to high-quality data that can be used to inform and enhance decision-making in our ports. This data can also be shared with other stakeholders in the supply chain to ensure smoother operations and facilitate Just-in-Time arrivals, whereby vessels adjust their operating speed and route to coincide their arrival with the port’s handling operations.

How has Wärtsilä Voyage helped to accelerate your Digital Transformation journey – can you provide some specific examples?

With the real-time data from Wärtsilä’s port management information system, we can know if a vessel will be delayed for whatever reason – be that the weather or operations. We can tell them to slow down to ensure they arrive at the optimal time when the necessary port facilities and services are available and share that information with the many different stakeholders in the whole end-to-end supply chain. The vessel can conserve fuel and will arrive just in time to reduce waiting and the transportation companies picking up cargo are also kept well-informed of any delays and can adjust their arrival times accordingly. That’s a great example of how Wärtsilä’s solutions will help us modernise ports and make improvements from a customer satisfaction, sustainability and cost benefit standpoint.

How smooth and seamless has the project been so far and how do you expect this will continue?

The project began in June of this year and will span multiple phases across the five-year framework agreement. We started with the Port of Southampton, integrating Wärtsilä’s Vessel Traffic Services system and Port Management Information System first, which is expected to be completed before April 2023. We’re making great progress and will soon begin to deploy the other solutions across our other ports.

What advice would you give to an organisation within the maritime industry starting out on a journey like yours?

There can sometimes be resistance in the maritime industry to embrace new technologies – especially when it comes to data sharing, as many believe this puts competitors or counterparties at an advantage. Instead, my advice would be to see emerging technologies as a great enabler to streamline processes, achieve sustainability aims and ultimately provide better services throughout the industry.

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