In comparison to their global counterparts, Indian ports are still at a nascent stage of technology adoption. Factors such as shortage of trained and skilled manpower for operating advanced equipment, a general reluctance to adopt new technologies, strict labour laws, presence of old and obsolete equipment, and server issues are impacting the pace of technology uptake at Indian ports. In the past few years though, domestic ports have witnessed increased application of new technologies and equipment. The adoption of new technologies is being driven by the need to improve operational efficiency and customer service, as well as to increase utilisation of the existing infrastructure. With the port sector growing steadily, it is an opportune time to adopt new technologies and products for enhancing operational efficiency.
Indian Infrastructure takes a look at some of the technological solutions on offer for the port sector…
Seaport OPX, a specialist global business unit of technology provider DHI, was set up to specifically provide state-of-the-art digital operational services for ports. The company made use of its NCOS online platform to help Brisbane port in determining the extent of capital dredging required for accommodating larger vessels and the costs associated with it. The platform prepares a digital model of the port in accordance with strategic and operational needs of the client.
NCOS online is a modular physics-based decision support framework consisting of three primary components. The first is environment modelling which takes into consideration hydrodynamics, wave and wind movement, and sediment transport. The second component deals with the forecasting of vessel response through underkeel clearance, manoeuvrability, mooring analysis and swinging. The company makes use of state-of-the-art physics-based models to forecast vessel response. The mooring loads and motions at the berth are forecasted seven days in advance. External data from automatic identification systems, vessel traffic services, wave buoys, tide gauges, regional forecasts and the vessel database forms the third component of the digital port system. This cloud-based solution provides end-to-end decision support through a single, easy-to-use interface in order to enable a better understanding of the environment, improve planning and optimise actions.
With the deployment of the solutions offered through the NCOS online platform, the port tripled the number of deep draught container vessels and increased the maximum vessel draught by 0.5 metres in just one year of commencing operations.
Anvil Attachments provides a wide range of grabs for port operations. One of the most important products offered by the company is the radio remote single-line grab. It is an efficient and cost-effective grab for handling bulk material on ships gear. It is completely self-contained and does not require an external power source. However, slow cycle times and inefficiency in handling heavier materials are some of the limitations of the product.
The diesel hydraulic grab, available in either a grapple or clamshell style, is another important product offered by the company. With a powerful engine, it is capable of handling any material with ease. It is one of the best options available for handling scrap with ships gear and heavy ores and has customisable time and bowl options for specific materials. The high upfront cost and regular maintenance requirement are some of the shortcomings of this product.
The four-rope grab is another attractive product available for use at ports. These grabs can be optimised as per the requirements of the cranes and materials in use. Being very large as compared to other grabs, they offer greater efficiency. However, the high upfront cost and the requirement of an expensive four-rope crane are some of the disadvantages of this product. In addition to the above-mentioned products, Anvil also offers hydraulic and electrohydraulic clamshell grabs.
Royal IHC is one of the major suppliers of innovative and efficient equipment, vessels and services for the dredging and wet-mining markets. The port dredging equipment supplied by the company includes cutter section dredgers (CSDs), trailer suction hopper dredgers (TSHDs), water injection dredgers (WIDs), backhoe dredgers and grab dredgers.
The CSD is a stationary dredger which is capable of dredging harder soils. Soil is transported to the reclamation/dumping area through a pipeline. However, the product has some limitations. The floating pipeline and anchor wires can prove to be a hindrance for traffic. Also, the CSD is unsuitable for use in areas that have high waves.
The second category of dredgers, TSDs, are self-propelled, have an unlimited sailing distance and can dredge up to a depth of 150 metres. In addition, they do not hinder traffic and can cope better with waves. However, the cost per cubic metre of dredging is higher. WIDs are an efficient tool for dredging, provided that the soil is very fine and the current is strong enough to carry the suspended soil towards the sea. However, it is suitable only for maintenance dredging.
Backhoe and grab dredgers are mechanical dredgers which offer a relatively low production rate and higher cost per cubic metre. Backhoe dredgers can dredge harder soils and are highly suitable for dredging of debris, sticky clay, boulders, etc.
Logistics forms the backbone of a country’s economy. An efficient mechanism needs to be in place to ensure smooth and timely flow of goods across suppliers and manufacturers (both domestic and international), distribution centres and the demand markets. To achieve this goal, big data analytics has a huge role to play. At the port level, container movement data, crane performance data, automated surveys, gate automation, document digitalisation and yard planning based on big data and artificial intelligence (AI) have a big role. Further, the movement from the port to the container yard can be facilitated through mobile application-based tracking and document digitalisation. In addition, movement from container yards to warehouses can also be made more efficient by optimising load share in transportation through big data and AI. At the warehouse, racking systems as well as space optimisation and planning based on big data can improve the storage experience.
Gandhi Automations Limited is one of the leading manufacturers of entrance automation and loading bay equipment. It offers a range of products such as shipyard doors, hangar doors, sliding doors, rolling shutters, fire-rated rolling shutters, high speed flexible doors, sectional overhead doors, swing gates, dock levellers, dock shelters, etc.
The shipyard/aircraft hangar doors offered by the company are designed for use in tough environmental conditions. These are available in two forms – fabric hoist-up doors and sliding doors. Fabric hoist-up doors are electrically operated, specially designed doors for sites that do not have space on the side of the door opening for it to slide. This type of door obviates the need for a heavy foundation under the door for bottom tracks. The door moves up and down an aluminium guide with brush seals. It is operated by lifting the bottom section upwards and stacking the intermediate sections one on top of the other. The fabric is folded on both sides of the door into pleats. These doors also boast of several unique safety features. They are equipped with load arresters, instantly locking in position to avoid belt or rope breaking, as well as a wind-lock system to withstand extreme weather conditions. The doors can be equipped with a safety edge to sense if anything is obstructing them from closing. In such cases, the door returns to the open position.
The sliding doors have a height ranging from 6 to 40 metres and there are no limitations on the width. They offer an unlimited choice of cladding, glazing, colours and configurations. Other useful features include full weather sealing with user-friendly controls and ease of operation from the ground level during power failure.
The way forward
Going forward, technology is expected to play a key role in improving efficiency in port operations. Therefore, the sector will offer ample opportunities to technology and equipment suppliers. To capitalise on this opportunity, Indian ports need to take new initiatives to improve the ease of doing business in a time-bound and efficient manner.
Based on presentations by Jon Craft, President, Anvil Attachments; Kees Derks, Area Director, Royal IHC; Matthew Prumm, Global Business Development Executive, Seaport OPX, DHI; Rajesh Kumar, Chief Executive Officer, C&B Electronics; and Reema Trivedi, Manager, Marketing, Gandhi Automation, at a recent India Infrastructure conference