Baltic Container Terminals (BCT), in Riga, Latvia has defied the belief that the advanced software and hardware solutions are only options for large terminals. BCT has become the fastest growing terminal in the Baltic region and one of the most technologically advanced terminals in EMEA.
With an average TEU of 281,000, BCT is the largest terminal operation in Latvia. The port is vital to trade in the Baltic, and provides a gateway for ocean trade to the inland countries of Russia, Eastern Europe and Western Europe. Roughly 80 percent of the terminal’s throughput is sent to Russia. Owned by the Malta-based Mariner Company, BCT servers as a reference site not only for Mariner’s terminals in Venice, Poland and Albania, but also for smaller terminals across the globe.
In 2009, BCT leadership set a strategy to install the most advanced terminal technology available and decided to focus on process automation, which would require a higher standard of terminal operating system and associated technologies to optimize operations.
The first step in this journey was automation of the terminal’s gateway, which segued into an overhaul of the terminal’s pre-booking system, paving the way for faster turnover time on rail and trucking stations. Today, truckers need only enter the terminal with a five digit PIN code, as the terminal has gone completely paperless. Automated gate operations with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and License Plate Recognition (LRP) now run on a digital platform integrated with billboards.
As BCT continued to implement automation across the gate, rail and quay, operators found integration with the existing terminal operating system challenging. BCT was previously running on the Navis SPARCS terminal operating system, however the integration of SPARCS with other technologies was not seamless. SPARCS required intermediary software layers and lacked the customization capabilities that the operators needed to get terminal data into SPARCS.
BCT needed a solid foundation to expand automation functionality in terminal operations. They required SOLAS Verified Gross Mass (VGM) Compliance. BCT's customers needed real time access to cargo data.’
Navis N4 Terminal Operating System solved these challenges for BCT. “We chose to switch over to Navis N4 3.1 to alleviate flexibility issues and allow ourselves better data input,” said Dimitry Kiselyev, IT Manager and Board member of BCT. “While integrating SPARCS with our automation processes was complicated, N4 integration was very straight forward. The need for operators to use our gate automation interface was eliminated, as N4 automated our traffic flow and captured data from each cargo checkpoint, allowing for operators to pull detailed data directly from the TOS."
BCT also used N4 to completely incorporate the pre-booking system, and this integration has even allowed customers a window into their own cargo data. N4 allows for shippers to enter the system as well and view the transport data on their own cargo. Work orders can be placed online real time and cargo can be tracked. The linking of N4 to container weighing systems has also been helpful in BCT’s compliance with SOLAS regulations.
“We are very proud of our quay automation system, as there are not many in the world that are fully operational, and the complete integration of the system with N4 has allowed us to optimize our human resources and increase ground safety,” explained Kiselyev. “We are continuing to see the value of N4 as we move further into automation. Our gate-waiting time has gone down from ten minutes to two minutes and we are looking into further means of integrating N4 into each aspect of our operations, such as business intelligence. Our next priority is connecting our Full Truckload Freight systems.”
BCT’s installation of the latest terminal automation hardware and operating software should serve as an example to every small terminal that believes advanced systems are only suited for the large terminals with seven-figure TEUs. Kiselyev believes that this is not the case, and has proven so with the major investments BCT has made in terminal technology.