| Written by Mark Buzinkay

It’s no secret that container handling and port automation are vital to ensuring the smooth running of shipping operations in today’s economy. As a container terminal manager, you know just how complex managing these processes can be, especially with constantly evolving technology and transportation networks. That being said, it doesn't have to be an overwhelming process! With proper planning and implementation strategies in place, you can ensure efficient container handling at your port while staying on top of any potential risks. In this blog post, Julian Galvis will go over technologies that will make tasks easier for you when it comes to automating necessary procedures.
Container Handling

So, you know what are some of the challenges that the terminals face? What I wanted to get into today is kind of tell you how IDENTECS SOLUTIONS ties challenges and technologies all in and in particular focus on one aspect of the solution that can meet some of the challenges, some of the operational challenges which what we call twist lock control.


So first of all, for any of you that may be unfamiliar with IDENTEC SOLUTIONS - we're a service provider that offers a solution called Terminal Tracker and Terminal Tracker has many, many features and Terminal Tracker leverages positioning technology, such as GNSS, RTLS along with RFID technology and in combination with what we call PLC interfaces and software to deliver many functions for our customers. You can call it a modular system that starts at the gate whereby we provide RF tags to the trucks that are then leveraged at the gate to help speed up the transaction to identify the truck driver details and information which make those transactions go smoother, faster.

That same tag then is used when the truck arrives in the yard and starts communicating with the tags of an RTG, with the tags of the reachstacker or whatever container handling equipment you may have at your terminal to identify that job, to identify what container is laden on that truck and what transaction is there in turn.

What we achieve by doing that is we eliminate the need for the operator to be looking at screens, looking for what job has just shown up to be serviced. We use something called job promotion where we verify that information and we send that job to the top of the list so the guess work is eliminated.

So immediately our customers are seeing benefit because their operations people are not spending time looking to see what container is there, what job it is, they need to select. Once that job is selected, once that container is locked into, and once that container is put in the stack, we leverage the positioning technology along with the PLC interface to identify what position that container has been put in, in the stack, and we update and automatically inform the TOS system of that position. It happens in milliseconds. Thanks to partners like Septentrio. You know who's a trusted partner in the hardware that provides some of the Geo positioning to identify the yard block.

We get the XY coordinates through an interface with the PLC, and we send that information automatically. So, in that case terminals are eliminating manual errors where they're keying in positions incorrectly, avoiding possibly containers being put in the wrong spots in the system and many times eliminating the need for location clerks that need to go back in correct positions. Our customers are getting 100% inventory accuracy.

Along those same lines, we have what we call twist lock control and what twist lock control does is we detect if the operator is not in the correct position in the position that we have planned in that TOS for that container move. We will not allow the twist locks to disengage from the container. In turn, what that does is prevent what are known as illegal moves.

When I first started in this space and offering this solution, I thought it was all about inventory accuracy faster through-put, but as it comes to turn out and that's what I want to talk about today is that this twist lock control is extremely important and I'm going to get into why, which is basically has to do with drug trafficking. In the recent 24 months it has been a very violent period in history, in parts of South America, for example, the Mexican Cartel, Colombian cartel and even Albanian cartel from Europe, from the Balkan region have infiltrated ports and putting container terminal safety in jeopardy.

There's evidence of this activity in in Santos, Brazil, there's evidence of this in Ecuador. Ports are put in the forefront of this war on drugs, if you will. Sometimes the goods make their way into containers before they arrive the terminal. Sometimes the containers are compromised once they're inside of the terminal gated facility. So, it's no secret that, you know, drugs are a big business, $230 billion annually in retail value and that ports are at the forefront of this.

It is on ports to make put forth their best effort to comply with authorities to show entities such as the US government and US customs, that they are complying with regulations, that they are compliant with a partnership called the CPTAP, for instance whereby they must show authorities in the US that they take the necessary measures to take drug trafficking seriously and take security and safety very important, they must comply with certain regulations.

So, for example, in Ecuador I have been approached in the recent years and looking at twist lock control as a possible tool to be used in the fight against this. What ends up is that operators are compromised, they're asked to move empty containers or sometimes loaded containers, put them in what they call dark corners of the yard, have the containers loaded with drugs, and then those containers end up in the streets in the US and in Europe, and in other markets. It's very important for these smugglers to maintain kind of the stealth, not be seen not be heard, but sometimes workers are caught in the crossfires of this (learn more about the role of a CHE operator).

So, the first thing is they may approach an operator and ask them for a favour, ask them to move a box, and the system without any control, without any positioning technology, without any twist lock control will allow that. And then it's very difficult to for the terminal container handling facility to have an audit trail, if those containers are later discovered to have some sort of contraband. So, the use of twist lock control kind of engineers that problem out of existence, and the goal there for the customers using this technology in Ecuador is that they may not be approached in the 1st place basically that the system has a control in place that wouldn't allow them to perform these illegal moves (learn more about container handling terminal operations here...).

As I mentioned before, it has been a very violent 24 months for some of these terminals. I have one customer that has experienced 14, directly or indirectly, homicides, murders where people are caught in the crosshairs of this activity. So, for the industry, there are basically two options you may have heard from other seminars from other press releases: The invention or the creation of kind of the smart container that can be equipped with sensors that can detect movements, that can detect the doors opening, that can detect the digital seals, that's one option. But it's very, very expensive because every single unit requires a big investment from the lines.

And the second option is what I described is a positioning that can prevent those illegal moves that can with the use of twist lock control. It won't allow a box to be placed or dropped in an area where it's not planned. Every single physical move that happens in the yard has to match what the virtual plan is in the toss system.

So, it is very critical that's what I wanted to raise awareness of today that it really goes beyond just positioning. Positioning is very important and crucial, of course, but as terminal operators, you have to take a holistic approach and look at the entire ecosystem and determine where is the pain point for such a thing you know. Where is it that you were terminal is having issues and this is certainly one that has been brought to light in recent time in South America and parts of Asia. Very important and very critical as they're in the crosshairs.

Safety of your workforce is another aspect of positioning technology. Next time you think you're having a difficult day as an operations manager, remember that some of your colleagues in South America, the safety manager, the operations manager, are walking the yard in bulletproof vests because of the situation, because they are seen as the enemy as the person trying to hinder some of these cartels doing what they want to do. November of last year, they have one customer that found 7 kilos inside of a reefer container that was reported to the authorities the next day someone on a motorcycle came and dropped off a bag at the front gate of the facility. It was later discovered that it was a human head, a severed head from a person. So, it’s certainly not going to cure everything. They will find other ways, they always do. Unfortunately, the intelligence and you know the use of submarines, you name it. If you watch the news right, but this is certainly one aspect where they can make it more difficult and force these smugglers an alternative route and potentially make the port less of a target and to leave the port alone and find other ways. So, that's what I wanted to kind of mention today bring to your attention when addressing smart port technology

If you want to listen to the interview with Julian Galvis, go to our YouTube channel.
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