If you want to be successful, you have to have really good partners, and in this instance, Esri has been really exceptional in helping us achieve all of our objectives.
Seamless Solution for Maritime Operations in South Australia
Flinders Ports creates a class-leading, comprehensive view of data for land and sea operations using GIS solutions from Esri and port management solutions from SAAB.
Flinders Ports owns 7 of the 10 ports in South Australia and manages maritime operations for the entire state. Port Adelaide, the center of its operations, is South Australia's main maritime gateway and handles a wide variety of inbound and outbound cargo. Flinders Ports supports the movements of minerals, ore, and bulk grain, as well as fishing and leisure or tourism activities.
In total, Flinders Ports handles 26 million tons of cargo through its 41 shipping berths. This translates to around 4,000 commercial movements annually across facilities spread up to 900 km apart through challenging environmental conditions.
Flinders Ports is a fully integrated operation that leverages all port assets, operations, and people. The company handles the entire logistics value chain—from marine control to intermodal land transport solutions to management of the tugs.
A little over a decade ago, Carl Kavina, now the general manager of Flinders Ports, was seeking to improve efficiency and processes across all 10 ports. He needed a new way for Flinders Ports to improve productivity while maintaining and improving operational safety.
The resultant solution, a common operation picture (COP), is based on a geographic information system (GIS) from Esri. It gives all port operators a single, easily accessible map-based view of real-time operations. Crucially, the solution is seamless in the sense that it includes no artificial boundaries.
Kavina said an Esri demonstration of the GIS-based security system for the Port of Long Beach inspired the Flinders Ports vision. He was impressed by the Long Beach solution and saw additional opportunities.
"Long Beach still had a dividing line, the shoreline, but through talking with Esri, I realized that we didn't need the land and the sea to be separate," Kavina said. "It could all just be one system. That results in a lot of productivity and efficiency gains."
Flinders Ports implemented the core components of its solution by first installing Esri software. Then the team t brought in the shipborne automatic identification system (AIS) that provides positional data. Finally, they integrated the preexisting port management system and synchronized major components with Flinders Ports' nautical chart information dynamically displayed in Esri's Maritime Chart Server.
Before the COP, port operations and management already benefited from a powerful database solution that featured a substantial amount of automation and functionality. What it lacked was the ability to visualize the information on a map. The COP's new visualization capability, supported in the background by the integration of various preexisting systems, brings together information from individual systems but greatly simplifies activities at the front-end.
"With our previous port management system, it was possible to look at charts but not interact with them," Kavina said. "The Esri solution makes that possible."
The company also acts as a property manager, with a number of berths and sheds, an asset management team, and other factors that interface with ships.
"The Esri system is the glue," he said. "If my staff know that a ship's coming into a particular berth. and they need to know which shed space is available for its cargo, all they have to do is point and click. All the information is there. Everything interfaces to one screen."
"One integration that is very important to us is that of tidal information," Kavina said. "We suffer a lot within the state with enhanced and reduced tides. We have two large gulfs, the Spencer and St. Vincent, and depending on atmospheric pressure and wind direction, we can have either a lot more or a lot less water than predicted. When you take a ship in and out of a port with sometimes a meter or less under the keel, that becomes really important."
The accuracy of the bathymetric data displayed by the Maritime Chart Server is kept current by a subsidiary business the port operates, HydroSurvey Australia. It provides survey information used by both the vessel traffic service (VTS) and the pilots via their portable pilot units (PPUs).
The COP also hosts radar information. Integrating that with AIS information means that a complete picture of movements of all vessels can be obtained. If, for instance, a smaller, non-AIS-equipped craft is passing in the way of a larger vessel, and the pilot has not seen it, the VTS can provide a timely alert.
The COP, in essence, is the consolidation of many different systems into a single view. It brings together the port's security systems, CCTV cameras, VHF radio systems, tide and weather information, AIS and radar for vessel and craft tracking, berthing and anchorage systems, traffic management, zonal management systems, and financial information systems. The COP puts all these into the hands of everyone who needs access (and has authorization) throughout the port.
The latest additions to the COP include TripSafe and a new physical berthing application. Because harbor pilots must often travel by car between ports, TripSafe is designed to provide them with safe and on-time arrival assurance. The application uses Esri charts and land layers synced with the pilots' smartphones and integrated with the database.
Another capability, the berthing application, is designed to enable the best use of wharf space by helping the mooring teams accurately position the vessel on the berth given the location of bollards and other quayside assets. Traditionally, this has been a paper exercise that involves measuring distances between bollards. Now, with all relevant information in the GIS database, mooring teams can be directed digitally to which bollards to use. This feature provides efficiencies in planning, productivity, and safety. Mooring teams no longer need to pace out spaces when more than one ship is coming alongside in the same berth, and they immediately know which bollards to include or exclude.
The biggest single change has come about with the setting up of a VTS, which, according to Kavina, has brought about major efficiency gains.
"Previously, we were dispersed," he said. "We had a communications center, someone scheduling from an office that was 10 km away. Pilots were in and out, the mooring gangs were at the harbor, pilot boat crews were elsewhere. Now, we have a single nerve center where everything happens."
This nerve center is staffed all day, every day , by at least two people. Kavina explains: "For example, we've got someone tracking ships sitting side-by-side with the person who's planning for the next day across all our 10 ports. Next door to the vessel operations center is the security center, which monitors all gate cameras and so on. Everyone knows what's happening. "
"With so much close communication," Kavina said, "it's difficult to explain the sheer magnitude of the difference until you can compare with a dispersed situation. Along with closer working, there are efficiencies inherent within the combination of systems."
"For each of those 4,000 commercial movements, there used to be four or five waypoints and times that needed to be logged," Kavina said. "Now, as a result of combining nautical charts, AIS, and Esri GIS, when a ship crosses a geographical boundary, that all happens automatically. Without that, I'd need additional staff resources. And when we want to analyze the data, it's all there and ready. Fully automating our billing system is a next step."
Setting the pace
Though there are many operations and safety solutions on the market, Kavina maintains that none are bringing land and sea together in the same way as Flinders Ports. Peer review has also been highly favorable.
Asset management is the only area where Kavina thinks the organization is playing slight catch-up, but staff are already working on changes and improvements.
One area where Kavina said the company is definitely leading is in the use of specialized applications and PPUs. He cites pilot information exchanges as a good example.
"These were once a paper exercise, with a triplicate book used to sign for handover. Now, work logs and timings are taken care of by a phone-based app. Portability of this kind is something that we've had for several years already, that includes, via their PPUs, providing pilots with the same view and functionalities as the VTS."
With Kavina's creativity and vision, the future of Flinders Ports is certainly a rising tide. And Kavina is quick to share credit for the success of the COP with his technology partners.