Port of Liverpool IT investment cuts truck turnround time

The Port of Liverpool is achieving the fastest vehicle turnaround times of any UK port, thanks to a £1.1 million investment in IT systems.

Since the new technology was brought into use, 95 per cent of truck drivers are being processed though the port within an hour, and 65 per cent within 30 minutes – a 30 per cent improvement on previous performance.

The customised system, developed for and by Peel Ports Mersey's in-house IT team, has been introduced over recent weeks, and includes a major upgrade of the port's terminal operating system (TOS), a new Wi-Fi network with greater capacity, renewal of the Global Positioning System (GPS) for the port's straddle carriers and the roll-out of a unique SMART Vehicle Booking System (SMART VBS).

The developments are seen as a strategic milestone in the development of Liverpool's new IT platform for container terminal operations, and the latest stage in a series of growth strategy investments at the Port.

Jeff Marriott, the Road Haulage Association's area manager for Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria, said: "Time is money for hauliers and our customers, and it is vital that we are able to make our drops as promptly as possible and move on to the next job. Our members are delighted that the Port of Liverpool has invested so heavily and achieved such positive results in addressing the issues of vehicle turnaround times."

David Huck, head of port operations for Peel Ports Mersey, said the new systems were implemented without even a temporary dip in performance. Landside and shipside operations will be integrated in the coming months.

"The next steps will be to scale our TOS and integrate the Manchester Ship Canal container hubs, SMART VBS, resource management systems and Liverpool's proposed post-Panamax River Terminal into one common platform.

"The coming months will see the port implementing the second phase of the vehicle booking system, which focuses on the voice of the customer from booking to arrival, and all the way through to departure from the terminal.

Huck said that with a growing customer base, the Port had been anxious to avoid capping slots to stabilise demand, as other terminals have done. "We designed the system to flex capacity with demand. The more timely the booking information the smarter we can align the yard and resources to that demand, in essence giving our customers a more predictable, repeatable and stable level of service. We have spent considerable time talking to both shipping lines and the wider haulage community in order to achieve a system that offers something unique within the industry."

The system deployed is the latest version of Zebra's SPARCS 3.7 and incorporates advanced software modules that will assist in providing more available space on the terminal through dynamic allocation of container slots and automated workload allocation to the straddle carriers.

The Wi-Fi network has been upgraded to Spread Spectrum to accommodate the additional messaging between the TOS and the straddle carriers. The GPS has also been renewed with added functionality such as RFID logon and twist-lock interlock, which prevents containers being incorrectly handled.

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