Developing the port of the future

Developing the port of the future

As global trade continues to grow, ports and marine pilots are facing a number of major challenges. Through a recent acquisition, Trelleborg can now offer its SafePilot system for safer and more efficient piloting and port management.

To increase profitability, shipping vessels are getting larger. At the same time, it is very difficult to expand ports in many locations, which in turn results in serious safety issues as well as a lack of berth space. Bottleneck effects are worsened by the fact that vessels’ estimation of arrival times is generally very poor.

“Some 45 percent of all container vessels are delayed by more than eight hours,” says Tommy Mikkelsen, Chief Technology Officer within Trelleborg Offshore & Construction in Denmark. “The potential for increased efficiency is huge.”

Mikkelsen has worked for more than 20 years for Marimatech, a Danish company that Trelleborg acquired in January 2016. Since it was founded in 1988, the company has provided the port and marine industry with a wide range of products and systems. 

“In 2011, we switched focus to the development of a new kind of software solution specifically for marine pilots,” he says. “To get it right, we continuously engage pilots in our development cycle, building on their input and feedback.”  

The resulting SafePilot Portable Pilot Unit (PPU) provides pilots with a toolbox supporting all tasks from navigation to administrative duties. The PPU consist of a lightweight and very accurate GPS antenna unit with a precision of up to one centimeter (in the most advanced model), and a tablet (iPad) with piloting software. It’s extremely easy to use. With the touch of a finger the pilot has access to all relevant data via a 3G link, up to date and in real time.

For example, the pilot can overlay the latest survey data onto a sea chart, thereby seeing exactly where to steer the vessel. There is also a prediction system for guiding the vessel’s movements with great precision, cutting the number of adjustments necessary. The pilot gets a traffic overview of all the ships in the port’s vicinity as well as weather station information in real time, and can access a database with information on vessels that have been serviced before.

“Our system makes it easier to do a good job, faster and safer,” Mikkelsen explains. “A very experienced British pilot has told us that SafePilot cuts the maneuvering time for large vessels by 25 percent. Danish pilots using the system estimate that it makes it possible to handle one more vessel per pilot daily.”

Furthermore, the module-based SafePilot system can be expanded into a full-blown pilot and port management system with all port and pilot functions, data and schedules integrated, enabling full transparency, information sharing and live access to relevant information in real time. The system can also be customized to meet the needs of a specific port. 

“We are helping to build the smart port of the future and are unique in being the only manufacturer offering a comprehensive solution,” Mikkelsen says.

The SafePilot Port Concept
The module-based SafePilot Port Concept ranges from a basic Portable Pilot Unit (GPS, tablet and server), which provides the pilot with all necessary real-time information for improved safety and efficiency, to a comprehensive piloting and port management solution putting pilots, ports and ship owners on the same page. The latter links functions, data and schedules together, enabling full transparency, information sharing and simple, live access for everyone to all relevant information in real time.   

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