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Hamburg, Rotterdam Ports Launch Digital Cooperation

The Hamburg Vessel Coordination Center (HVCC) and the Rotterdam Port Authority have entered into a digital cooperation to improve operational processes. 

From now on, both ports will exchange relevant data through a digital interface so that shipping companies can steer their ships more efficiently and terminals can optimize their resource planning.

The joint project was launched at the beginning of 2018 and, as of recently, the HVCC and the Rotterdam Port Authority exchange data directly via IT systems. The information pertains to planned and actual arrival and departure times for ships coming from or heading to either Hamburg or Rotterdam.

According to HHLA, this direct line of communication improves the basis for planning for both ports as well as for the shipping companies that use these ports, thus ensuring the ability to react quickly in the case of schedule changes. For instance, whenever shipping companies can allow their ships to travel slower – which may be due to, for example, dispatching issues at the arrival port – the ensuing bunker consumption is reduced, which in turn leads to cost savings and decreases the environmental impact.

“Airport Collaborative Decision Making’ is a concept that we know from aviation and refers to the joint decision-making and data usage established in that industry, from which shipping can also benefit,” Gerald Hirt, Managing Director of HVCC, said.

“The direct exchange of data between Hamburg and Rotterdam is the logical first step towards building a network of ports all over Europe, particularly in order to increase the ability to react to delays – and thus provide both shipping companies and terminals with improved and reliable support for the arrival and dispatching of ships. We would like to invite other European ports to connect with us and to benefit from these advantages,” Hirt continued.

The digital cooperation is achieved through an interface, which links the HVCC software with the PRONTO platform used in Rotterdam. This allows for the real-time exchange of data along the lines of the Port Call Standard of the International Harbour Masters’ Association (IHMA).

As explained, this is particularly useful considering the ships’ relatively short travel time of approximately 24 hours between Hamburg and Rotterdam. Without central management, communication takes place via emails, which makes it more time-consuming — the information regarding delays at a terminal in the departure port is often first given to the shipping company or its local agents and is then transferred to the central planner of the shipping company, who then informs all upcoming arrival ports.

The following example illustrates a further advantage of the cooperation — should a large ship with a capacity of 18,000 standard containers be informed directly before departure in Rotterdam that it can travel at only 14 knots instead of, as originally planned, 18 knots in order to reach the terminal on schedule, the bunker consumption would be reduced by approximately 22 tons. This is equivalent to a reduction in CO2 emissions by approximately 66 tons. At present, the ports of Hamburg and Rotterdam are the direct points of departure or arrival for approximately 80 containerships per month, which will therefore benefit from the new cooperation. In addition, the data exchange should extend to other types of ships and terminals, HHLA added.