Painting the supply chain green

"A collaborative effort to improve access to terminal traffic and scheduling information” is key to a greener future

As the battle for a sustainable supply chain continues, new and emerging ‘green’ technology and initiatives are being employed worldwide, but more strategic industry collaboration is needed too, writes Rachael Doyle, news reporter.

Electric equipment, shore-side power and ‘green’ warehouse planning is leading the way when it comes to meeting strict emissions targets, but Ben Hodgson, senior research scientist at BMT Group Ltd, told GreenPort it’s just as important to “break down barriers between organisations."

“Supply chains are often managed using multiple, often disparate applications with limited or no means to optimise and control centrally. You have to communicate with one partner using one system, another with a separate system and yet another by telephone,” he explained.

BMT Group is part of a 29-strong European consortium working as part of the ‘Intelligence Cargo in Efficient and Sustainable Global Logistics Operations’ (iCargo) project that aims to develop an ‘open architecture’ to enable more cost effective logistics and lower CO2 through improved synchronisation and load factors across all transport modes. So far, three pilot projects have been developed which focus on promoting the efficiency and optimisation of the booking, planning and execution phases of city logistics.

But the idea of making cargo logistic links more efficient is a world wide focus.

Sustainable logistics

The Luxembourg Institute for Science and Technology (LIST) has developed a ‘Smart City Logistics’ tool that uses Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to gather and map a range of useful data on transportation networks, access restrictions, traffic measures, delivery and transport facilities, land use and carbon emissions. City planners can explore options for suitable locations for logistics facilities and different scenarios can be modelled and compared to current operations to quantify potential savings in terms of road miles, congestion and air pollution.

In the US, the west coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are working together to find new ways to prevent congestion and cargo delays, improve the transportation network and enhance air quality in and around the San Pedro Bay. This follows their experience of some of the worst congestion in history caused by the deployment of larger ships and a new level of vessel-sharing dynamics created by carrier alliances and labour stoppages.

POLB is currently testing hybrid electric and all-electric trucks and has added a ‘Vessels at a Glance’ page to its website that provides a daily update showing all vessels at berth and anchor and their arrival and departure dates. It is also advancing its new Middle Harbor Terminal, set to open by early 2016, which is to be near all-electric and nearly zero emissions. The port has also appointed industry veterans Michael Christensen and Glenn Farren to find new ways to increase communication and cooperation in its supply chain to help enhance cargo flow and service.

Mr Christensen said to GP: “Wasted motions such as extra equipment moves, unnecessary truck trips and empty truck/train movements create added environmental impacts. When we eliminate these wasted motions we enhance both supply chain efficiency and the environment.”

Peeling off cargo

At POLA, a ‘Peel Off’ Programme has been launched to clear the backlog and improve flow going forward. Stevedoring company The Pasha Group, harbour trucking firm Total Transportation Services Inc. (TTSI) and a group of major retailers worked with the port and its terminal operators to create the programme, which involves “peeling off” containers from high-volume customers to a near-dock yard where they are sorted for destination to inland distribution centres.

Chris Cannon, director of environmental management at POLA told GP: “By helping our partners get cargo to market faster and more efficiently, we reduce the amount of activity associated with those movements, which reduces environmental impact in the air, on roads and even in the harbour. We are encouraging the use of lower emissions equipment and vehicles with the goal of reaching zero emissions where it is feasible.”

Whatever technology and tools are used, it appears that the consensus is that a collaborative effort to improve access to terminal traffic and the better scheduling of information is the key to greener port logistics.

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